– Bethany Bechtel © 2007
Kudos to Bethany for this clear and succinct discussion of how Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are used as support for lactating women.
The needs of the breastfeeding mother
Pregnancy and childbirth require hard work from a woman’s body. In Chinese medical terms, much qi (energy) and blood is taken from the mother to support her baby. During the post-partum period a breast feeding mother must restore enough qi and blood to recover from her pregnancy and support lactation. Sufficient rest, proper hydration and nutrition are crucial during the months that follow delivery. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can provide additional support in the mother’s recovery process.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas for insufficient or absent lactation
From the point of view of the practitioner of Chinese medicine there are two major reasons for insufficient milk supply. One reason is deficient qi and blood, where the milk may be watery and the breasts not full. In such a case, acupuncture treatment can be given using points that tonify qi and blood. Moxibustion, a heat treatment, can be applied to these points in order to enhance the tonifying effect. The practitioner may also dispense formulas containing Chinese herbs known to tonify the qi and blood.
The second major reason for difficulty in lactation is qi stagnation, or obstructed flow of energy, in meridians which flow through the chest. In Western medical terms, such a blockage could be diagnosed as overactivity in the sympathetic nervous system, or what is commonly known as stress and anxiety. New motherhood, as joyful as it can be, can also produce considerable anxiousness for the mother as she adjusts to her new situation. When stressed, a woman may not produce enough prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. Consequently, her milk supply will drop. Acupuncture can correct the situation through the treatment of points that release qi in the chest and relax the mother.
It is possible that insufficient lactation may be caused by a combination of qi and blood deficiency as well as qi stagnation. Thus, it may be necessary to use a combination of acupuncture points and herbs in order to address both causes.
Even after lactation is successfully established on-going acupuncture and herbal formulas can be quite beneficial to support the health of the mother as she continues to feed her baby.
Mexico was terrific! Even so, I’m pleased to be back at work in Toronto. This is a very important time for acupuncture in Ontario. Our profession is in the process of becoming regulated. This will protect the public and bring more credibility to the profession.
I am honoured to focus my work with pregnant and post-partum women in Toronto. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine offer helpful options to women. As part of my commitment to offer the best service I can, I have continued to study women’s health consistently for the past 18 years. This year I am thrilled to be working and studying with Dr. Yuxiang Wang at the Canadian Gynecology Institute of Chinese Medicine (www.cgicm.ca). My commitment to lifelong learning is a celebration of life. I hope to meet you in Toronto, and who knows, maybe Mexico?
Dawn will be leading wellness retreats in Melaque, Mexico from February 3-28th, 2013. For more information about her retreats, please visit www.melaqueretreats.com
Dawn can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
She will check email regularly and can be available for telephone consults via Skype. She will not be receiving phone calls or texts while she is away.
If you are looking for acupuncture support, Dawn recommends the following colleagues:
For non-pregnancy related concerns: Noel Wright (Danforth and Chester) at 416-883-0571;
For pregnancy related concerns: Dr. Wang or any of the practitioners at the Canadian Gynaecology Institute of Chinese Medicine (Bathurst and Eglinton) at 416-644-1937 or Jasmine Li (Runnymede and Bloor) at 647-786-1231
Dawn would love to hear from you and would be pleased to see you in March.
Maybe you would like to join her in Mexico next year?
I still remember the smile on my friend’s face when she learned that I was studying Chinese medicine with Dr. Lam. “I love that man”, she said. “He helped me to stay pregnant with both my sons after I had suffered a series of miscarriages in a row”.
Chinese Medicine has proved to be very effective in helping women – both with habitual miscarriage (this term is used when a woman has had 3 or more miscarriages in a row) and with a specific threatened miscarriage.
“Sadly, early miscarriages are very common. Often, a woman miscarries before she even realizes she’s pregnant. Perhaps as many as three-quarters of all fertilised eggs are lost in the very earliest days of pregnancy. After a positive pregnancy test, there’s about a one in five chance of having an early miscarriage. This is when most miscarriages happen.
Late miscarriage is much less common. It happens in about one in 100 pregnancies.
If a woman has three or more miscarriages in a row, the term “habitual miscarriage” is applied. This happens to about one woman in 100.”
Chinese Medicine applies a number of modalities to support a woman to be healthy and maintain a pregnancy, including but not limited to, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and moxibustion. Dietary therapy is also extremely important.
Perilla (Zi Su Geng) is commonly used in combination with other herbs in the treatment of habitual and threatened miscarriage.
In Chinese Medicine speak, it is crucial to support “the Blood”. Possible underlying imbalances include Kidney Yang Deficiency (this woman would tend to feel cold, backache and have frequent-pale urination), Kidney Yin Deficiency (dizziness, night-sweating, tinnitus),Blood-Heat (hot, thirsty, restless, rashes), or Spleen-Qi Deficiency (tiredness, loose stools, poor appetite).
Treatment depends on the type of imbalance and the general health of the woman.
Chinese Medicine considers a miscarriage to be very draining to a woman’s system. Women are discouraged from trying to get pregnant immediately after a miscarriage, but rather to give time to the body to recuperate. The time frame is 3 months to one year depending on the individual situation. This is an important question to discuss with your Chinese Medicine Practitioner.
Dawn, thanks for the help last week! It was successful!! Avery Dorothy Henning was born on Labour Day at 6:43 pm after a fast and efficient natural birth! Thanks again.
Bromley and Avery.