Mothering the Mother

We just celebrated Mother’s Day here in England. Yet, I would like to suggest we are in a season of celebrating mothers. In some countries like Norway, Mothers day is celebrated as early as February and in others like France it is on First Sunday of June. We are also in a spring season which is all about seeds, expansion and growth.

The modern American version of the Mother’s Day holiday began in the USA in the early 20th century. In England and Ireland, the history of mother’s day go back to 8th century Christianity when it was known as Mothering Sunday and was celebrated on the forth Sunday in the Lent. In Hindu tradition the day is observed on the new moon day in the month of Vaisakha (April/May). In France and Germany mother’s day was installed in midst of lowest birth-rate periods, late in 19s century and early 20s century respectively.

But what ever the history, Mother’s Day is a celebration to honour the mother, motherhood, maternal bonds and influence of mother in society. In recently published series of photographs by Lithuanian photographer Vaida Razmislavičė titled “Becoming a mother” where she photographed women before and after becoming mothers, this change is visibly observable.

What these images tells us is that all our being is affected, be it body, mind and spirit. You might have seen some blogs or Facebook posts where people tried to describe what is it that has changed in these women. There is a slight change in the shape/form of their faces, there is some signs suggesting a maturity of mind but most significantly many noticed the change in their eyes. In TCM, like many other traditions, eyes are seen as a domain of a spirit. In traditional Chinese medicine we do not see the separation between the body, mind and spirit but rather see the person holistically as embodiment of all three. The changes in one can create changes in other aspects. As our body changes in pregnancy or after child birth, so does the mind and spirit.

Motherhood is a long journey and it matters when do we step on this path. As recent statistics have shown, the conception rate in England and Wales, for example, is on a downwards sliding scale while women aged 40 years and over were the only age group to see an increase in conception rates. Getting pregnant at an older age have its advantages. We are more financially and socially secure and have more experiences and joys to bring to parenting. Yet, while most older mums have healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies, there is also a higher risk of complications.

“The risk of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage for women aged 30 is 18%. That rises for women aged 35 to 22%. For women aged 40, this increases to 38% of pregnancies, and 70% for women aged 45.”

But what ever age you are, in a following I would like to touch upon how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and modalities such as acupuncture and TuiNa massage could support you at all stages of this long journey. There are now numerous research studies that suggest that TCM methods may help at various stages and issues relating to fertility, conception, pregnancy, post-natal care and breastfeeding. (Disclaimer: as with most research related to complementary treatments, there isn’t enough of it, or of the right sort, to definitely prove (or disprove) its efficacy). Yet, there has been a great deal of research since the 1970s investigating the effects of acupuncture, which does show promising results. Most importantly, in all the peer- reviewed scientific studies, not one has shown there to be any increased risk for the use of acupuncture in pregnancy or labour. Besides, acupuncture is amazingly relaxing and can bring benefits for body, mind and spirit. 

Preparing for pregnancy

We often hear fraises such as “I am not yet ready to have a child’ or ‘I want to be financially stable before I think of having kids”. In modern society we think of financial and social readiness, which would represent the domain of the mind. We need to ‘know’ we are ready. Yet, this focus on mind often neglects the domain of the body. Is our body ready for it? Is our spirit ready for it? Is there a balance between the three?

In clinic we often find many women experience irregular periods, heavy bleeds and exhausting PMTs. All these seem to be normalised these days. Yet, from TCM point of view all these are signs of imbalances. It is not ok to have a period pain. No one should suffer and feel pain.    

Thus, even before you think of conception do the body, mind and spirit check list on where you at. And if you do notice any imbalance seek out the help.

Acupuncture and other TCM modalities can be helpful with:

Pregnancy

Welcome to the most important time in your life as you are about to create another human being. Acupuncture has a history of treating women in pregnancy for thousands of years, but our days it also adapts the modern knowledge of safety and evidence based medicine. Bellow are the conditions and links to studies that have looked at effects of acupuncture during pregnancy:

Post Natal Recovery

Congratulations! Your angel has arrived. You have gone through the gate of becoming! While the birth is the pivotal point in our mothering journey, the real work is just about to start. At this stage all our focus shifts to the new born. On how to feed and support it. At this stage we do often forget to check in with a state of our own body/mind/spirit balance. Do the check and if you are affected by any of below, do not neglect it as your healthy baby needs a healthy and strong mamma.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your little one is not only about food supply for the first weeks or its life. Breastfeeding is much more about mother/child diad and a secret bond that has life long consequences.

“Research has shown that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to have infections in the short-term such as gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections, and particularly infections requiring hospitalisation. In the longer term, evidence suggests that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to become obese in later childhood, which means they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and tend to have slightly higher levels of blood pressure and blood cholesterol in adulthood. For mothers, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.” (NHS England)

From my own experience, breastfeeding can be a rather difficult at the start. There are many elements that can affect the experience of breastfeeding journey. It is important to seek help as soon as issues arise. Join breastfeeding support groups and see your therapists for any bellow:

There is also lots you can do yourself. TuiNa massage and point acupressure is very beneficial to support your breasts in this period. Talk to your therapist and get a training to incorporate these in your daily practice.

Mothering beyond

We often forget that the postnatal stage or even breastfeeding is just a beginning of motherhood. The mothering and caring for children and family is life long process. Mothers give a lot and often forget to take care of themselves. Multiple birth, breastfeeding and constant caring can deplete our bodies. Its all about giving. Yet, from the point of view of TCM we should always aim for balance. In clinic, we often see the depletion of what we call the Earth element in mothers. It can manifest in gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating or diarrhoea, mental states such as fogginess of mind, of physical aspects such as body aches, pains or appearance of Varicose veins and Uterine prolapse (herniation of the uterus).

Where ever you are in your mothering journey do not forget about your needs. Our children need healthy and balanced mothers. Let’s celebrate our journey but let’s not forget to check in and reassess our own health. I haven’t even mention here the stress that can also affect how we act and react to the situations in our life. Traditional Chinese medicine can be of help to rebalance and support your life energy. Visiting your acupuncturist can also be a good ‘you’ time that offers relaxation and thus improve your ability to deal with whatever life brings.

Let us mother the mother!‍♀️

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