Postpartum Support: Beyond Depression

Historically, there has been a lack of attention to the full range of women’s emotions.  The typical woman is presented as having a limited response to stressors or negative experiences: she is sad, helpless, and inwardly focused.  Anger, in contrast, may be seen as unusual and/or inappropriate for a woman.  This may be especially true for women during the postpartum period, as the emotion of anger suggests there is something to be angry about, which starkly challenges stereotypes of new motherhood.

There are a number of reasons why it is important to protest those stereotypes and recognize women’s experiences of anger during the postpartum period.  For one, normalizing the response is important in helping women to recognize their own emotions and feel less isolated.  Unless it represents a chronic and debilitating pattern, anger in and of itself is not pathological, and may be an entirely appropriate response to a negative occurrence.  Expression of the emotion can be constructive and help to remedy aspects of a new mother’s life that may be working against her.

The reasons for feelings of anger postpartum are numerous and surely varied for each woman.  They range from societal (insurance company frustration, hospital bureaucracy, poor maternity leave policies at work) to relational (not enough support from friends or family, waking up constantly while your husband sleeps through the night, having your instincts questioned by the pediatrician) to the personal (poor birth experience, negative feelings about body/appearance, sleep deprivation, lack of time for self).  The list could go on and on.  I once had a client who denied her own angry feelings for months after her child was born.  One day she was in the library, and found that her stroller could not fit down an aisle.  It was the last straw for her, and she began to feel overcome by an incredible amount of rage and frustration that she could no longer ignore.  She realized then that she needed an outlet.

Be it therapy, mom’s groups, or talking with our own mothers or sisters, being able to express the frustrations, injustices, and indignities of motherhood can be crucial for our mental health.  It also can be the first step to creating societal change, helping us organize and question why we and our babies are not better supported.  It can validate other women’s experiences, sending the message “It’s not you, it really is just that tough sometimes.”  Finally, it can serve to help us enjoy all the amazing aspects of parenting because we are not carrying suppressed negative emotions.

One of my main goals for the therapy room is make it a taboo-free zone.  Women are so often shocked when I tell them that their feelings or experiences, be it anger or whatever else, are not uncommon.  Because we are so trained to keep a smile on our faces, make it all look easy, and not make others uncomfortable, we may have the illusion that we’re the only ones faking it.  The struggle is real, mamas.  As real as the love and joy and delicious chubby thighs.  By moving toward authenticity and the acknowledgement of our full range of emotions we can achieve greater fulfillment as well as push for changes that can improve our experiences as mothers.  Maybe a campaign for wider library aisles?

Dr. Erika Yamin is a clinical psychologist with a long-term focus on women’s reproductive mental health (issues relating to pregnancy, motherhood, postpartum, infertility, adoption).  She has extensive clinical, academic, and advocacy-based experience in this area, and previously worked as a birth doula.  Erika completed her doctoral coursework at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and her master’s degree at the University of Chicago.  She sees her work as a tremendous privilege and is continually awed by her clients.    

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Tips to Help Stop Stress Eating

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Imagine this scene. You worked late to finish a project at work. You ordered in some takeout while you were working, and now it’s finally time to go home. You’re exhausted and stressed. When you get home, you start raiding the fridge and cabinets for things to eat. You really aren’t hungry at all since you ate dinner at work, but you’re looking for comfort in the cupboards.

I think most people can relate to this, and I would venture to guess that most of us have been in this or a similar situation before. In times of stress, we tend to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Food is readily available and processed high sugar, high fat foods tend to give us a quick, but very short-lived, boost that often leaves us feeling worse or just simply that we haven’t acted in a way that is consistent with our long-term goals. No matter how good our intentions are, stress from a variety of sources can tend to deplete our resolve and decision-making capability. In addition to the daily stresses of work, family, and finances, struggling to conceive adds significant stress. People have varying degrees of stress or emotional eating, and these habits can take significant effort and time to change. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1) Check-in with yourself to determine whether you’re feeling physical “stomach” hunger or “head” hunger. Sometimes our head is telling us to eat even though our stomach isn’t hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually and is felt in the stomach, and can be satisfied by most foods. In contrast “head hunger,” tends to come on quickly with very specific cravings. In addition with “head hunger,” it may not be very long since you last ate, and your stomach isn’t giving you any hunger cues.

2) Find alternative coping mechanisms to manage stress and find comfort other than eating. It’s helpful to make a list of things you can do when you want to eat when you’re stressed, but not actually hungry. There are a wide variety of options including ways to simply distract yourself or ways to actually help you unwind and manage your stress. Examples include: go for a walk, take deep breaths, meditate, do a few yoga poses, take a bath, call a friend, read a book or magazine, go outside and get some fresh air, etc. It’s helpful to make your own list of 5 things that you can do when you find yourself turning to food for comfort.

3) Be kind to yourself. In those moments when you eat something that you wish you hadn’t or feel uncomfortable because you ate too much, practice being kind to yourself instead of berating or beating yourself up or feeling guilty. As much as we think our guilt about our eating habits helps us do better next time, it actually holds us back and keeps up trapped in the cycle of stress eating. Instead, practice being kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member. Then move on, and return to your healthy eating instead of letting it spiral out of control or deciding to restrict at the next meal. Restricting at the next meal only causes the cycle to repeat, as becoming overly hungry combined with stress makes it much more likely that we have a harder time making healthy choices moving forward.

Reducing stress and emotional eating takes time, so be patient with yourself. Know that progress often comes in fits and starts, and we often take 2 steps forward and 1 step back along the way.

Need to take a break? Try a four week nutrition, yoga, and coaching dextox program! Learn more about “Spring Cleaning: Using Nutrition and Yoga to Cleanse” and all our community events here .

Supporting Milk Supply

Have you recently given birth and noticed that you are having issues with your supply of milk? Did you know acupuncture can help with insufficient lactation?

Image result for milk supply

Breast milk is the main food source for infants and breastfeeding has been shown to provide many benefits to both the mother and baby. Breastfeeding benefits the baby by increasing the baby’s immunity while decreasing the risk of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea, lowering the risk of asthma, food allergies, type 1 diabetes, and leukemia. Breastfeeding may also help with cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother in a number of ways including better uterus shrinkage and less postpartum depression. Long term benefits that have been seen for mother’s that breastfeed are a decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

While breastfeeding has many benefits to both mother and baby, there are many women that suffer from a lack of sufficient milk supply. Insufficient lactation usually occurs 2-6 weeks after birth. A decreased amount of milk supply can be caused for a number of reasons. Some examples are a difficult birth, excessive bleeding after birth, history of miscarriage, IVF treatments, multiple children, high levels of stress and tension, and age. The great news is that acupuncture can help increase milk supply. Acupuncture restores the normal breast milk production by nourishing and regenerating the body’s blood supply and fluids that are lost during the birthing process. Research conducted at the Hanzhong Shanxi Hospital demonstrates that specific acupuncture points significantly boosts lactation quantities. This study showed that women who had acupuncture successfully increased breast milk secretion from an average of 49.63 ml to 115.21 ml. In addition to the increased milk quantity, the lactating mothers receiving acupuncture had improvement in levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates milk production).

If you have any questions regarding how acupuncture can help with your breast milk supply or to schedule an appointment feel free to contact the office at 312.321.0004 or you can contact me directly at christina@pullingdownthemoon.com .

Christina is available in Chicago Wednesday mornings, Buffalo Grove Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, then starting on May 22nd, she will be available in Highland Park on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Christina Livas L.Ac.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325417/

** http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1773-acupuncture-boosts-breast-milk-production

** https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627208600382

Acupuncture & Herbs for Prenatal Care

by Anna Pyne, L.Ac., MSOM, FABORM

Acupuncture and herbs can help mitigate or completely resolve many signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy during all trimesters. I have treated numerous patients for nausea, vomiting, headaches, any type of pain, skin problems, lung issues, depression, anxiety, miscarriage prevention, placenta previa, swelling, labor preparation, hemorrhoids, and constipation. The frequency and duration of acupuncture treatments will vary depending upon which ailment we are focused on and its severity. Another wonderful attribute to acupuncture therapy is you know that it is a safe and natural treatment. It can be used alone or in combination with a medication to help reduce the frequency and intensity of the problem. Current research supports acupuncture’s efficacy with helping treat depression*, nausea and vomiting**, and labor preparation*** to name a few. I do recommend herbs as needed, in conjunction with acupuncture when necessary. Both acupuncture and herbs can be used together or separately, as each is its own stand alone therapy.

For current patients, please feel free to contact Anna or your practitioner via email with any questions you may have regarding treatment during pregnancy.

For new patients, to make an appointment for acupuncture please call the office at (312)321-0004 or click this link to book now with Mind Body Online at your convenience. Please make sure to complete your intake form online prior to your appointment here .

Acupuncture for Depression: * https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20177281

Acupuncture for Nausea and Vomiting: ** https://www.uptodate.com/contents/nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy-beyond-the-basics/abstract/2?utdPopup=true

Acupuncture for Labor Preparation: *** https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9692336

Anna’s News: Traditional Chinese Medicine Increases Breast Milk Supply

by Anna Pyne, LAc, MSOM, FABORM

Acupuncture and herbs are the main treatment modalities in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). I have helped treat a myriad of postpartum women struggling with insufficient breast milk using both therapies. It is important to establish a good supply at the very beginning so that it is easier to maintain it. That is not to say however that TCM is not an effective treatment at a later date.

There is one particular acupuncture point that has the single function of enhancing breast milk. This is quite unusual as typically each point is useful for treating a multitude of different issues. Needling this point is the most potent way of stimulating it. The location is on the outer corner of the nailbed on the pinky finger. It is typically tolerated by most patients quite easily, however for those few that are a bit needle sensitive I have placed a small gold pellet that sticks to the point which does not penetrate the skin. Doing this makes it portable as well, meaning the patient can walk out of the office and continue the treatment outside of the acupuncture session every time the patient presses the gold pellet. Of course there are many other points that help enhance breast milk supply and when a number of these appropriate points are used together with this especially specific one, it greatly impacts breast milk supplementation. Patients have reported starting to feel engorged while lying on the table with the needles placed during treatment. I have also heard feedback (and personally experienced) that more milk is produced at the next pumping session.

There are a number of wonderful single herbs as well as formulas that benefit the breast and support breast milk supply. I typically use herbs with acupuncture when treating this problem for optimal treatment results, but have seen great benefits with using herbs alone without acupuncture, and vice versa. I also teach a class at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) on traditional Chinese herbs for postpartum care, which includes the topic of breast milk insufficiency.

If you have any questions or to learn more please email me at anna@pullingdownthemoon.com or any of our other acupuncturists.

Call our office to schedule an appointment (312)321-0004.

Anna Pyne LAc MSOM FABORM

anna@pullingdownthemoon.com

Anna’s News: New Research Supports Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression

Anna’s News: New Research Supports Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression

Now that your miracle baby has arrived you might surprisingly find yourself feeling less than thrilled. The postpartum period is typically its own emotional roller-coaster ride, as there are great hormonal changes that come with the readjustment of your pregnant self to your newly non-pregnant self. It is normal to feel the baby blues directly after however some women have a harder time. Postpartum depression is an overwhelming condition that includes feelings of extreme fluctuations in mood, loss of appetite, intense irritability and anger, lack of joy, difficulty bonding with your baby, exhaustion, loss of interest in sex, feelings of shame guilt or inadequacy, and withdrawal from family and friends. Thankfully acupuncture is a safe way to treat postpartum depression.

Typically only a few acupuncture sessions are required for rebuilding the body and mind postpartum assuming there are no complications from labor and delivery, however when dealing with postpartum depression treatment will need to be extended. Acupuncture frequency will directly relate to the intensity of the presenting symptoms. I have helped many patients with postpartum depression using acupuncture in conjunction with a psychologist. Current research supports acupuncture used simultaneously with psychological intervention has the same high success rates as taking an oral medication alone, with the benefit of not experiencing any of the drug’s negative side effects such as nausea, dizziness, and lack of appetite.* For more information feel free to email me or call us to schedule an acupuncture appointment!

Anna Pyne LAc MSOM FABORM

*http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11726-014-0805-7

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