Sara is a happy mother with a new baby. She was able to have a natural childbirth, at home with a midwife assisting. With no anesthesia dulling her experience she was able to fully bond with her little girl right away. She recovered quickly from her birth, and was able to delight in her precious addition to the family. Her first childbirth was a vastly different story, however. She had been induced into labor with drugs by her physician. The labor had been long and arduous and she had lost a lot of blood.
She was tired for a long time. But the worst aspect was that she was not happy with being a mother. It took a year before she could really say she loved her new baby. She never told anyone how she felt, however, she just felt like a bad mother. It wasnot until she had a healthy delivery that she realized that you could love your baby instantly. Then she could talk about her experience with her first child.
Many mothers feel inexplicably “down” after birth. This feeling can manifest as lethargy, moderate depression, or even the feeling that their life is ruined – or worse. Post partum depression (PPD) affects many mothers to varying degrees, but is greatly under-reported by many physicians as it is poorly understood in allopathic medicine. Too often, it is “treated” with a “pep talk.” But to a mother who is suffering from PPD it is very real: symptoms can range from nagging guilt over not feeling strong enough to be the mother they want to be in mild cases to severe depression including suicidal thoughts, disturbing dreams, and even thoughts of harming or killing their newborn babies in the most severe cases.
My training and experience in acupuncture and osteopathic medicine has led me to understand that PPD has understandable and treatable causes. In most cases, PPD is strongly linked to a stressful childbirth. To fully address PPD, you should start with proper prenatal care designed to prepare the mother for a healthy, quick labor. And then follow up with therapy that can effectively help the mother recover from the labor and birthing process.
One of the differences between Saras first childbirth experience and subsequent PPD and her recent uplifting childbirth is that she came to see me while she was pregnant. Her first visit was at about seven months. She was experiencing back pain, tidal fevers, night sweats and was showing some signs of gestational diabetes. After one session using the The BodyTalk System(tm) her all of her symptoms disappeared and she was sleeping restfully at night.
A follow up BodyTalk session two weeks before her delivery addressed mobility of the pelvic joints as well as synchronization and balancing of blood and nerve supply to the muscles of the uterus. Sara reported that her experience of her contractions was very different from her first birth. She described them as very productive, efficiently moving the baby into position for final stage labor and effecting cervical dilation. The entire labor was about three hours from start to finish.
Saras most recent birth is of course exemplifies the best goal in addressing PPD: take steps to maximize the chances for a healthy birth process, and hence avoiding the need for postnatal therapy for PPD. But even in the best of circumstances and preparation, complications can develop resulting in an inability of the mother to recover quickly from the birth. Fortunately, effective in post-natal care is available to address PPD in these cases.
I have found in my practice that the best way to address prenatal and postnatal care is by using The BodyTalk System(tm). BodyTalk is a system of health care founded on the observation that the body is complex system of interacting parts and functions that must work together to produce health. In order to work together, all the various parts of the body must be in communication with each other. BodyTalk focuses on restoring communication in the bodymind using light hand contacts and a gentle tapping technique.
It is gentle, non-invasive, safe and yet extraordinarily effective. The communication “links” that are necessary to restore health in a particular client are discovered by following the innate wisdom of the clients body by using a comprehensive protocol of questions and neuromuscular biofeedback in the form of light muscle testing. In my practice, I have virtually stopped using acupuncture and manipulative therapies, and yet my results are faster and longer lasting in all types of cases, from musculo-skeletal disorders to internal medicine issues to disorders that are considered more psychological in nature.
Before I can discuss how BodyTalk applies to PPD, I need to briefly present some of the major causes of PPD. Although there can be many causes, I will focus on just two major factors that account for a great deal of PPD as away to illustrate that help is possible and how BodyTalk can apply. The two main causes of PPD that I see in my practice are blood deficiency and distortions or fixations in the cranial-sacral system. Blood deficiency is a major cause of depression in traditional Chinese medicine. This term is broader in scope than the western concept of anemia. It includes anemia, but it also covers deficiencies of other blood constituents and nutrients as well as deficient blood volume. Osteopathic research has traced an extremely strong correlation between compression and fixation/or of several key joints in the axial spine and depression.
Some blood deficiency is to be expected even after a healthy childbirth, but a difficult or prolonged labor will often result in severe depletion. Symptoms of blood deficiency include weakness, fatigue, lethargy, low immune function, general debility, lack of motivation and/or depression, visual disturbances including hallucinations, poor sleep and very often disturbing dreams of a violent nature.
Obviously, if a mother is suffering from even just a few of the above symptoms caring for a newborn is going to seem more overwhelming and burdensome than joyful. Factors that contribute to blood deficiency are poor balance of electrolytes and other blood factors that control how much of the water in the body is held in the blood vessels rather than in the tissues. The ability of the digestive system to work effectively to digest food and assimilate nutrients is obviously a major factor in the ability to rebuild the blood and hence strength. And inability of the endocrine system to properly adjust to the new needs of a nursing mother after the extreme hormone swing during pregnancy is another major factor.
All of these causes of blood deficiency are the kinds of issues that BodyTalk works very well with: helping to restore communication within the body to restore adaptability and recovery. And the best thing is that a BodyTalk practitioner does not have to be able to diagnose which of the synchronization issues are relevant in order to offer help: they can just ask the innate wisdom of the body using the BodyTalk protocol. For example, the first day of BodyTalk training covers a procedure that addresses balancing water distribution in the body by combining a series of hand contacts over various areas of the brain with gentle tapping to stimulate the nervous system to address all of the many aspects of the this complex and delicate balance.
In birth, a womans pelvis goes through quite a dramatic distortion to allow for the passage of the baby through the birth canal. During pregnancy a hormone is produced to relax the ligaments that connect the pubic bones in the front as well as the joints between the sacrum and the hip bones in the back. This allows the pubic bones to spread apart and also allows the sacrum to tilt back and away. This allows a significant widening of the space available for the babys passage.
Ideally, the bones return to their natural position within a few days after birth. When this doesnot happen, the resulting distortion of the pelvis causes compression of the lumbo-sacral joint and produces too much curvature in the low back, producing back pain. The stress of living with back pain (that was supposed to go away once the baby was born!) is hard enough. Osteopathic research has also shown that compression of the lumbosacral joint often leads to depression.
Unfortunately, the effects of pelvic distortion are not limited to low back pain. There is a complex mirroring of movement between the pelvic bones and certain bones in the cranium. This correspondence is part of both the natural movements of respiration as well as the symphony of coordinated upper body and lower body movements that happen when we walk. So when the ability of the pelvic bones to maintain proper alignment and flexibility is compromised, this will produce restrictions in the cranial bones.
Symptoms of the resulting cranial restrictions include restricted breathing, low vitality, headache, sinus infections, visual disturbances, TMJ, poor digestion, poor ability of the hypothalamus to moderate acidity in the digestive tract, poor endocrine regulation, mental fogginess, and depression. So lets imagine what that would mean: your back still hurts so it hurts to pick and carry your baby. Your digestion isnot very good, you get headaches, you feel hormonal swings all the time, you are tired all the time, and you canot think straight. And your baby still needs you 24/7. I am depressed just thinking about it.
The good news is that BodyTalk is superb at addressing just these kinds of musculo-skeletal distortions. The understanding of the importance of these reciprocal relationships between the various parts of the body that need to coordinate to allow smooth breathing and balance of the postural muscles in standing and walking is very strongly integrated into the BodyTalk system. As a case in point, just last week I had a woman referred to me who was 7 weeks pregnant.
This was to be her second child. It turned on that her sacrum had been stuck back ever since the first birth six years ago. She had low back pain all the time, her breathing was restricted, she had lots of sinus trouble, and she had stomach ulcers. While she was lying face up on my treatment table I could slide my hand completely under her low back due to the exaggerated arch in her lumbar spine. During her session, BodyTalk addressed restrictions in the sacrum, restrictions in a key joint the cranium, and balancing the relationships between key pelvic and cranial bones.
By the end of the session, her back was flat on the table, the back pain was gone, her breathing had freed up tremendously, and her stomach pain was almost gone. Needless to say, she was pretty excited about the changes after six years of living with these issues. Ideally, these problems could have been addressed right after he first birth, but better late than never and she is certainly in a better place for a healthy pregnancy with her second child.
There are other factors that can affect PPD, of course. But I hope this brief article has presented that case that the causes are understandable and treatable. And that this help can be fast and gentle when the therapy of choice is BodyTalk. Having a baby should be a magical experience. I deal with a broad range of health issues in my practice, and yet it is hard to think of any branch of my practice that is as rewarding as my work with mothers in prenatal and postnatal care. Except of course, working with babies.