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Can I use herbs during labor? Yes!

products_birthWe’re pleased to share the following information on herbs for labor and postpartum care, written by Motherlove founder Kathryn Higgins:

Can I use herbs during labor?

Yes, herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The following herbs have been used by midwives and birthing women.  See our section on plants for photos and more detailed information on several of these herbs.  Many products using these herbs are available through Motherlove.

  • Blue and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor (but do not use before the 39th week of pregnancy).  During labor they can make contractions more efficient in a long, stalled labor, and help the uterus clamp down after birth.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor.  Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta.  Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Take crampbark for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Motherwort is one of the best herbs to give immediate emotional balance during the ups and downs of labor, but it may increase uterine bleeding.
  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor.  It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain.  Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomile, rose, and lavender.  Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.
  • Essential oils in a massage oil or mister can give clarity and focus.  Clary sage gives a sense of well being and combats mental fatigue.  During birth it helps focus breathing and calm anxiety.  Geranium essential oil balances emotions  and works well for perineal massage, as it stimulates circulation.  Lavender is calming and strengthening, relieving depression and irritability, and ideal in any blend for all skin types. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not directly on the skin.
  • After the birth, use a sitz bath to soak the perineum, heal any tears, shrink swelling, and slow bleeding.  It helps the perineum to heal quickly, makes walking more comfortable, and feels so good!  Herbs to use include comfrey, yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, shepherds purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong comfrey tea (or add calendula) to squirt on your perineum as you urinate to lessen any burning and heal tears.
  • Homeopathic arnica pills, taken every few hours for several days after the birth, help reduce bruising and swelling of the perineal tissue.  Be sure you are taking arnica internally only in homeopathic form, as arnica tincture prevents clotting and should not be taken internally.

Preventing and treating hemorrhoids during pregnancy

Baby_bellyIncreased risk of hemorrhoids is a common but very unwelcome part of pregnancy.  So you may be wondering what can you do to prevent them, and what can you do to treat them.

What are hemorrhoids, and why are we more likely to get them during pregnancy?

Hemorrhoids are a result of increased blood flow in pregnancy, particularly to those below your uterus.  These veins can become dilated and swollen, and itch, burn, and bleed.

How can you prevent hemorrhoids in pregnancy?

The key to preventing hemorrhoids is avoiding constipation, which puts extra pressure on your rectum during bowel movements.  To prevent or reduce constipation, you can:

  • Push fluids.  Increase your water take to at least 8-10 glasses a day.
  • Increase fiber.  Eat whole fruits and vegetables, and add other forms of fiber (flax seeds, chia seeds, oat or wheat bran, or other high fiber powder) to smoothies and drinks.  How about a high fiber blueberry pomegranate flax seed smoothie?
  • Eat anti-constipation foods.  Some recommendations are prunes, apricots, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, and figs.
  • Keep moving.  Exercise (as your provider recommends) will keep things moving internally.
  • Do Kegels.  According to About.com, kegels are beneficial because they increase circulation to the area and because they strengthen vaginal and perineal muscles, which will help healing after delivery.

If you have hemorrhoids, what can you do to treat them?

  • Avoid further constipation (see suggestions above)
  • Take it easy – Avoid strenuous lifting, and lie down when you can to take the pressure off
  • Keep the area clean – Using wipes instead of toilet paper will keep the area clean may be more comfortable
  • Use a hemmorhoid balm – Use our Rhoid Balm during pregnancy and after for immediate relief for inflamed tissues.  It’s an all-natural herbal balm with zero toxins and is made with 100% certified organic ingredients.
  • Try a sitz bath – Try our Sitz Bath, Sitz Bath Spray, or Sitz Bath Concentrate to relieve discomfort - and save some for after your baby arrives to soothe sore perineal muscles, too!  Sit in the bath with enough water to soak the area, or on the toilet using a special sitz bath basin. Or use our Sitz Bath Spray directly on the area.
  • Ice the area:  Sitting on an carefully covered ice pack may provide some relief.
  • And finally, don’t despair!   Your hemorrhoids should start to go away once your baby arrives.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

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Herbs to ease labor, birth, and recovery

iStock_000015072388XSmall(2)Herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The herbs described below have been use for years by midwives and birthing women.*

  • Blue cohosh and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor, but do not use them prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor. Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta. Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.  It can also be taken in pregnancy to prepare uterine muscles for pregnancy.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Crampbark tincture can be used for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor. It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain. Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomile, rose, and lavender. Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.
  • Essential oils in a mister can give clarity and focus. Clary Sage gives a sense of well being and combats mental fatigue. During birth it helps focus breathing and calm anxiety. Geranium essential oil balances emotions and works well for perineal massage, as it stimulates circulation. Lavender is calming and strengthening, relieving depression and irritability. Citrus essential oils are clean, refreshing and uplifting. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not applied directly to or on the skin.
  • Shepherd’s Purse tincture is the best herb to quickly stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Every midwife should have it with her in case an emergency situation arises.  (You can read about how Motherlove founder Kathryn Higgins used this herb after her daughter’s birth here.)
  • After the birth, use a sitz bath to soak the perineum, heal any tears, shrink swelling, and slow bleeding. It helps the perineum to heal quickly, and makes walking more comfortable. Herbs to use include yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, Shepherd’s Purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong herbal tea of these herbs – or use our sitz bath spray – to squirt on your perineum as you urinate to lessen any burning and heal tears.
  • Homeopathic arnica pills, taken every few hours for several days after the birth, help reduce bruising and swelling of the perineal tissue. Be sure you are taking arnica internally only in homeopathic form, as arnica tincture prevents clotting and should not be taken internally.

See our Plants page for photos and more detailed information on several of these herbs.

* This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.  Please consult with your health care provider for medical advice related to any of these products. 

Tender tush? Some tips for taking care of your perineum after birth

If you’ve had a vaginal birth, taking care of your (likely sore) bottom can be a bit of a job in the early days after your baby’s birth.  Here are some simple things you can do to relieve pain and bounce back quicker:*

Cold compresses.  Many moms use ice packs to reduce swelling and soothe pain in the early hours after birth.  Be sure to wrap cold packs in a soft cloth or other soft material so that the cold pack doesn’t directly touch your tissues. Some moms wet and freeze their pads to create convenient cold compresses.

Sitz baths.  Warm water, especially when infused with healing herbs, can do wonders for tender tissues.  You can make a sitz bath in a bathtub or with a basin that fits over your toilet seat (in the hospital, ask your nurse for help with this).  Added to your bath, our Sitz Bath and Sitz Bath Concentrate soothe sore perineal muscles, reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and help ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids.  Our Sitz Bath Spray can be sprayed directly on your perineum an offers the same relief.  All of our sitz bath products have a zero rating (zero toxins) on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and are made with 100% certified organic ingredients.

Witch hazel.  Witch hazel is an herb which is soothing to sore, swollen tissue, and especially helpful with hemorrhoids.  You can buy witch hazel soaked pads.  You’ll also find witch hazel in our organic Rhoid Balm, which relieves swelling and itching during pregnancy and after birth, and in our sitz bath products.

Peri bottle.  Many moms who have had tears, stitches, or episiotomies find it soothing to spray their perineum (front to back) with warm water after or during urination.  Peri bottles make this easy.  It can be especially helpful to use a peri bottle while urinating if you have stinging pain when using the toilet.

Medications.  Your health care providers can discuss over the counter and prescription medication options that are safe for breastfeeding.  If you have additional questions about pain medications and breastfeeding, you can call the Infant Risk Center for free information from a knowledgeable and breastfeeding-friendly pharmacist.

* This post is not intended as medical advice.  For medical advice, seek the recommendations of your health care provider.

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