With about 40 days to go until the due date of my first child, I have been assembling the herbal remedies I plan to use for labor, delivery and recovery. It’s an exciting time for my husband and I as we’re looking forward to embarking on the adventure of parenthood, but it’s also not without its anxieties and concerns. I find preparing my herbs helps calm my nerves and gives me a sense of control over the situation in a time when lots of negative scenarios could possibly arise (though thankfully none have yet).
In addition to walking several miles every day, doing prenatal yoga most days a week and practicing my deep squats and kegels religiously, I’ve been making and using the following herbal preparations.
I’m a big tea drinker, so this pregnancy tea blend has been the easiest thing for me to incorporate into my daily life. I’ve made variations of this tea based on the trimester and my symptoms, but this specific blend has consistently been my go-to throughout pregnancy. There are lots of different recipes out there on the web and in books, but for mine, I chose to focus on nutritive herbs that would not only nourish my body and baby’s, but also prepare my body for the marathon of birth. In my blend, I included equal parts red raspberry leaf, nettle, alfalfa and oatstraw; a half part of lemon balm; and a quarter parts of rosehip and peppermint.
Red raspberry leaf has a toning effect on the uterus that can not only aid in labor by shortening its duration but also shorten the duration of postpartum bleeding. Nettle is rich in chlorophyll, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C, D and K, phosphorous and sulphur. Alfalfa is high in many of the same vitamins and minerals, and is particularly high in Vitamin K, which helps the blood to clot – an important topic for newborns, especially those whose mothers do not plan to have the standard vitamin K shot given to the newborn just after birth. Oatstraw is high in magnesium and zinc as well as calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, E and B. Lemon balm lightens up the blend and also calms the nerves and eases digestion. Rosehip is high in vitamin C, antioxidants and has a lighter flavor to balance out the heavier dark green herbs that dominate this blend. Finally, peppermint is very cooling, refreshing, calming, relaxing, and is a digestive aid.
I steep a cup of the herb blend in an extra-large mason jar filled with 64 oz. boiling water (though you could start off with less herb in the beginning and work your way up to a cup of dried herb in 64oz water), cover with the lid, let it sit out on the counter till cooled, then put it in the refrigerator overnight to drink as iced tea the following day. (With the heat in my region reaching a minimum of 85°F daily, there’s no way I’m drinking hot tea at this stage in pregnancy!) The blend has a very dense taste, so I’ll either add some fresh lemon juice and/or make it into ice popsicles to cut the bitterness and density of this very chlorophyll-rich blend.
Early in my pregnancy, my aunt gave me a tube of the very popular Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula that she raved about and used daily when she was pregnant. I wasn’t a big fan of some of the ingredients included, so decided to make my own to not only help prevent stretch marks as much as possible, but to also nourish my skin and keep it supple throughout pregnancy. My blend includes both shea butter and cocoa butter, calendula-infused coconut oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, Vitamin E, rosehip seed oil and a little lavender essential oil. I apply it daily after showering and have been loving the results so far. When I researched belly balms, I found a lot of them only had cocoa butter and left out the shea butter. I chose to include shea for its high vitamin A content; plus, I love how smooth is makes my skin! I also chose to infuse my coconut oil with calendula instead of using plain coconut oil because calendula is antibacterial, an immunostimulant, stimulates the production of collagen and minimises scarring. It’s a very smooth, deeply moisturising blend.
Perineum Massage Oil
I’m not very scared of labor and delivery itself, though I am moderately terrified of ripping my perineum due to hearing my mother’s horror stories over the years of the pain she experienced recovering from third degree lacerations after giving birth to me. For this reason, I’ve researched extensively everything that can be done to minimise as much as possible the chance of any sort of perineum nick, tear or laceration. From the herbal perspective of labor prep, an herbal perineum massage seems to be one of the most beneficial practices that produces the best results.
Any oil can be used when doing a perineum massage (i.e. coconut, olive, almond, avocado, etc), though I figured I’d combine the massage with the cervix-ripening qualities of evening primrose oil. (Side note: evening primrose oil capsules can also be taken orally starting at 36 weeks to help ripen the cervix and prepare for labor). While I started the perineal massage at 34 weeks using coconut oil, I do not plan on using this evening primrose-based massage oil till I’m 36 weeks and later. The 36+ weeks massage oil includes comfrey- and plantain-infused evening primrose oil with several drops of Vitamin E to ensure shelf stability and skin nourishment.
This isn’t exactly “herbal”, but it does have to do with things you ingest in order to prepare for pregnancy. In addition to an organic real foods diet and drinking 3-4L of water daily throughout my pregnancy, I’m also going to try eating six to eight dates each day for the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. Eating dates daily in late pregnancy has long been a tradition in many Middle Eastern cultures and is believed to help mothers dilate faster and go into natural labor more quickly as well as promote uterine contractions. Since I love dates and they’re readily available in my area, I figured I’d give it a try.
Next month’s article will be Part II of this 3-part pregnancy series. In it, I’ll be discussing how I plan to use herbs during labor and delivery.