The month of May was mental Mental Awareness Month, but how often do we talk about it? How often do we talk about postpartum depression? Yet, alarmingly 1 in 7 women will suffer from the postpartum depression!
The postpartum period is a time of very high vata (the ether and air elements bringing about cold, mobile, dry, light, subtle, and clear qualities). This is no surprise if you think about it. The body has just gone through serious changes—a belly largely occupied by the gravid uterus now has more space with a uterus less than a four of that size), there are some major fluid shifts in the body and the mother may have lost quite a bit of blood during delivery, there is the new role of being a mother, the sleep cycle is completely different, and there is a lot of uncertainty of what to expect of the new member of the family.
Change, uncertainty, exhaustion, depletion, fear, anxiety, loneliness. These all are all very real and very honest words that come out of many new mothers. It is no wonder that so many women go through periods of downs as they embark on the new journey of motherhood.
Ayurveda’s approach is to counter vata (here are some general vata-pacifying recommendations) in the postpartum period. It is a huge emphasis. Ayurveda tells us that the first 42 days after delivery can impact the health of the mother for the next 42 years of her life! So take care of yourself during this period by being proactive and taking care of vata.
Some of these tips require pre-planning. Start planning early (even in the preconception period) so that there is less uncertainty and anxiety when the time comes.
1. Tend to your digestion. Vata makes your digestive fire quite unstable. (Get gassy, constipated, bloated after traveling on a plane or staying up all night? That’s vata!). Make a mixture of ginger, pippali, and chitrak (equal parts), store it in a bottle, and take pinch with ghee before every meal. An easy alternative are Vata Digest tablets.
2. Start slow. Eat just broths, then add in root vegetables, followed by leafy green, then dairy and meats. If you start to get gassy, notice a white coating on your tongue, or get more sleepy after meals, these are signs that you need to be more gentle with your diet.
3. Massage daily. If you can get someone to massage you a few days after delivery (especially an Ayurvedic massage), that is the ideal. Otherwise, pamper yourself with a self-massage daily and perhaps get your partner to massage your head and feet afterwards. This is heavily emphasized in Ayurveda! Use ample amounts of warm oil.
4. Wrap your belly. After your massage, wrap your abdomen with a long piece of cotton or an abdominal binder. This will contain the space and you should feel noticeably more grounded and stable.
5. Seek help when needed. If you have any feelings of depression (especially if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your child) seek help. Many mothers write off their fatigue, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, or insomnia as a normal part of the postpartum period. And it normally is! But when in doubt, ask. Counselors have a wealth of tools and ideas that can be immensely helpful (even if you think you are doing just fine). Plus, having a neutral, third party listen to you can give you insights that you or your family may have been overlooking. I would highly recommend reaching out for help particularly if you find yourself unable to sleep even when your baby is sleeping, having fatigue to the point where you cannot get out of bed for hours, or experiencing overwhelming and crippling feelings of anxiety or shame.
Working with an Ayurvedic practitioner throughout your postpartum period can be immensely helpful. There are many tools that Ayurveda has to offer you so that you can be the thriving, joyful, loving, and charismatic mother that you want to be!