In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said that there are three factors that are needed to start labour; a) activity (yang) Replace growth (yin) b) qi must move freely and move blood c) the uterus must open. I would add a fouth, the baby’s spirit must be ready.
After all Babies come in their own time. But there are so many factors that can make us feel like they aren’t coming at the right time, our nervousness about labour, our desire to meet our babies, our sore achy bodies, medical practitioners talking about big babies and the risks of going overdue, family and friends saying “are you still pregnant, when is that baby coming, wow you look huge”
So how do we help these three factors come together and promote a healthy natural start to labour? Prebirth Acupuncture (aka cervical ripening Acupuncture). Prebirth Acupuncture begins at 36-37 weeks gestation and continues each week until labour begins. In each treatment we discuss how the birthing person is feeling, addressing their concerns, hopes, fears, dreams and desires and based on this a unique combination of points is developed with the help of some special points that move qi and blood, ripen the cervix, relax the tendons and strengthen the body. This time spent each week allows mom to prepare herself, her body and her baby. I am a big advocate of talking to your body and baby and this is a great time to do it. Fears are released, anxiety dissolves, worries disappear, resilience and strength are built and trust in our power and knowledge is developed. All of these things help make stronger mamas and babies and promote more effective labour and birth. It strongly helps mitigate the need to medical interventions and if an induction is required it can make it that much more effective.
Sometimes Inductions happen and hopefully it is for an important reason. Acupuncture is one tool amongst many that can be used for induction or help medical inductions be more effective and prevent further interventions. However, if baby isn’t ready or the three factors that start labour aren’t completed then acupuncture or any other natural induction method will not work. In those cases, only medical interventions will get that baby out, so that mom and baby are both healthy and safe.
Studies show that those women who receive pre birth acupuncture had a shortened labour(1), improved cervical ripening(2,3), a 35% reduction in medical inductions (43%. For first baby), 31% reduction in epidurals and 32% reduction in emergency c-sections(4). While the 2013 Cochrane review of acupuncture for labour induction only found some evidence of cervical maturation in those who received acupuncture(5).
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1 Kubista E Kucera H. 1974. Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178 224-9
2 Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. 2001. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113 (23-24): 942-6
3 Tempfer C, Zeisler H, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M Husslein P. 1998. Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour Gynecol Obstet Invest; 46:22-5
4 Betts D, Lennox S. 2006. Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture May; 17(3):17-20
5 Smith Ca. Crowther CA. Grant SJ. 2013. Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database System Review.
As most people wonder when I begin to speak about mother roasting, I imagine you are also wondering, what could mother roasting be? Is it publicly roasting mothers with our words or could it be cooking them in a human sized roasting pan? Fortunately, I can reassure you it is neither, well no quite! Mother Roasting is an ancient form of caring for a mother after birth. As SacredPregnancy.com so beautifully puts it “Mother Roasters are CAREGIVERS that nurture new mothers after BIRTH while supporting their RECOVERY + JOURNEY into motherhood; as EVERY woman deserves to be welcomed into MOTHERHOOD through GENTLE + LOVING + CARE*.
The history of Mother Roasting can be drawn back to nearly every culture around the world and today it is still practiced in many Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin and Indigenous Cultures. All of these cultures recognize the great care a mother needs after birth in order for her to be able to give back to her family. By sealing up the gateways of birth, returning the organs and bones to their normal places, protecting and supporting her back, keeping wind and cold from entering her body, nourishing her with rich, healing, milk-enhancing foods and teas and giving her permission to take care of herself, a mother is able to take the time to heal, integrate motherhood, bond with her baby and seal her story of birth. The different practices vary from culture to culture from sleeping on warm furs beside the hearth to having moxa sticks heat your womb and back, having your belly bound with a bengkung (Malaysia), Haramaki (Japan) or a Faja (latin America) to having your pelvis and womb massaged by a skilled practitioner, but all of these practices are meant to allow the mother to heal, transition and bond with her baby.
Here are two examples of how a mother may be supported if she lives in Malaysia or Thailand:
In Malaysia, The Pantang/exclusion period lasts for 40 days during which the mother’s belly is massaged and bound every day for a minimum of 3 days up to 40. This is done to allow the organs and bones to return to their original places. A week after the birth a stone or metal ball is heated in the fire and then wrapped in a cloth and rolled along the mother’s body. In Malaysian culture, the mother is thought to enter a cold phase after birth, thus she eats only foods that will heat her up and her body is warmed with massage and wrapped to restore her to her normal temperature.
In Thailand, during the pregnancy, the father will collect special smokeless firewood. After the birth the father will create a fire for his wife to sit near or he may place a special bed over the fire. The fire keeps her body warm while the smoke purifies her and keeps evil spirits away. The Thai recognize that after birth the mother is weak and exhausted and her uterus is still filled with harmful fluids, therefore they warm up her body to help recover her energy and to push out the fluids. Her body is not only warmed by the fire but also with hot water that she bathes in and drinks and basic warm foods and traditional medicines that she eats.
In the West, I often see mothers who feel the pressure to be continuously productive and bounce right back from birth like nothing ever happened. I have heard many say that it is their jobs as mothers to serve and there is no time for self-care. I think this is one of the greatest misfortunes of our Western perspective, how are we to raise our children to our greatest ability and their greatest success if we are not giving back to ourselves. One of my wishes for all mothers is the opportunity to honour the babymoon and the transition they have gone through, to ask for and receive the support they need from family, friends and community and to take time for themselves. I know 40 days may sound like a long time but even a week or a few hours a day to enter into a sanctuary with your baby and take time to relax, nurture, heal and honour can make the greatest difference in a mother’s life, her baby’s and her whole family’s.
Priya, Jacqueline Vincent. Birth Traditions and Modern Pregnancy Care. 1992. Element books ltd. Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK. Pg. 108-116.
Johnson, Deborah. With Child: Wisdom and Traditions for pregnancy, birth and motherhood. 1999. Chronicle Books. USA. Pg. 70-73.
Body Shop Team, Mamatoto. 1991. Virago Press ltd. London, UK. Pg. 120-129.
Originally published in Birthing Magazine Spring 2015
For more info on Mother Roasting Treatments and packages http://marikareidhall.com/wp/birth-medicine/
Autumn is my favourite season. As the daylight comes later and the rains return here on the NorthWest coast, I can feel autumn laying it’s cloak upon me, it is thick and cool made of fog, wind, dimming light and vibrant decomposing leaves. It reminds me that nature is preparing for its winter slumber and urges me to do the same. Everything needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to return to source and realign with who it is and how it serves. With modern technologies and our seemingly never-ending drive to do more, be more, have more, we no longer allow ourselves to enjoy this movement inward, as our ancestors, not so long ago, did. I, for one, wish to reclaim the powers of the seasons and not become another burned out, frustrated, hormonally imbalanced, directionless human. I want to live a life in alignment with my natural cycles and spirit and working with the seasons aids me in doing that.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the transition time moving from the hot fiery yang energies of summer to the cold watery yin energies of winter. It is governed by the element of metal that allows us to cut away what no longer serves, just as the trees drop their leaves and these will decompose and become the fertilizer for the new growth of spring. The Metal element helps us discriminate what is precious and what needs to go. It shows us, if we are listening, where the golden nuggets lie and which are the real gold, nourishing our self worth and connection to spirit and which are fools gold, hiding our dragons of self-deprecation, arrogance, self-destruction, martyrdom,…… Shamanism also sees the fall as a time of letting go and of great dreaming and if we can let go of feeding our dragons, we can dream a new dream that serves our highest purpose and all that live on this planet with us.
In our bodies, Metal is reflected in the paired organs of the lung and large intestine. They are the organs that filter the precious from the waste. Our lungs inhale clear qi from the heavens and exhale old turbid qi. They are connected to the skin, body hair and nose and protect us from external pathogens. They are also responsible for grief. The lungs capacity for grief allows us to honour and have gratitude for what we are letting go of and recognize that our lives will be transformed by this process. This is the gift of grief and how the decomposing of the old becomes the new life of the spring. If we do not allow our lungs to inspire and expire and move through grief naturally, our lung qi becomes stagnated and we may produce excess phlegm, become short of breath, get sick frequently, have chronic nasal issues, asthma or a chronic cough. On the other side if we get rid of too much and see nothing as precious our lungs may become deficient and we can have similar problems marked with more dryness and weakness.
The large Intestine also acts as a discriminator for us, when our colon is healthy we are able to reabsorb the precious minerals and water we need and expel the waste. When we can’t let go we become stagnated with toxins, emotions, and old habits and these can show up as pain in the lower abdomen, constipation or weight gain and just like with the lung when we let go of too much we become depleted of our own nourishment.
In the five element cycle, healthy metal nourishes our water, which is reflected in our kidneys and bladder and controls our deepest resources, our ancestoral essence/genetics, as well as our fear. Metal also helps control the wood element, preventing our livers from overacting on our other organs with anger, aggression and fire. When we work with our metal it assists us to make the long stretch of winter with ease and strength, which encourages a fertile and vibrant spring guided by spirit.
There are several things we can do to nourish our metal during this season:
- Slow down and take stock of our lives, reflecting on what no longer serves and what is most precious in our lives and begin to release through gently cleansing our bodies and minds, saying goodbye to relationships and old stuff, creating a simple releasing ritual to honour this process and your grief.
- Allow grief and sadness a place in your life. When it comes up recognize it and let it flow through you, letting it go through breath, crying, movement
- Eating warm, seasonal, easily digestible Pungent foods. These help promote circulation and digestion and release excess phlegm, Such as: ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, black peppercorn, garlic, celery, cilantro, fennel, spearmint, radish, chile pepper, sweet pepper, turnip, taro, cinnamon, cabbage, cardamom, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, wine. Also eating yin nourishing foods to help protect against the dryness and winds of the fall, such as: pears, apples, mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, almonds, pine nuts, oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut, sesame), pork. As with any eating make sure you don’t over do it on any one kind of food.
- Wear a scarf to protect yourself from external pathogens, especially wind
- Take herbs that clear, moisten and nourish the lungs and intestines: A simple tea made of some of the pungent herbs above to clear phlegm and warm the body like the always classic lemon, ginger and honey or a nice moistening blend with slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice root.
- Practice gentle movement practices to keep your qi moving but also build your qi and strength for the winter like qi gong, yin yoga, tai chi, walking,
- Spend time outside breathing in clear qi from the heavens
- And of course get some acupuncture! For low cost acupuncture, check out the local acupuncture schools or community acupuncture clinics in your area. For more psycho-spiritual assistance look for a five element or alchemical acupuncturist.
If you wish to go even deeper into your process and the process of the cosmos, the autumn/metal time of year is supported by three primary astrological signs:
- Libra- Sept. 23 to Oct. 22- the sign of balance, justice, beauty, truth, perfection and relationships. A wonderful time to delve into your relationships with self, other, spirit, work, body and the planet.
- Scorpio- Oct. 23 to Nov. 21- the sign of self-will, taboo, secrets, transition. A time to go deep within and look at our shadowy places around emotions, love, sex, secrets and taboos. What needs to be brought up to the light and what needs to be let go.
- Sagittarius- Nov. 22 to Dec. 21- The sign of higher knowledge, learning, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy. This sign helps us to start to dream a new dream and find the wisdom in all of our letting go, helping us to make the transition to winter.
Wishing you all a gentle, nourishing and deep Autumn,
Marika Reid Hall
References and Resources to go deeper: