So many times, what I hear from moms all over the place is that there's so much noise and too much mystery when it comes to getting some help on the obvious when healing from childbirth. For instance, recovering from postpartum hemorrhage.
This weekend, I was on a country road running and all I could think about was the work I recently did with a mom who had a huge hemorrhage after her final and fourth birth. As far as 6 weeks out, she was still not fully recovered from her birth and a lot of it had to do with the hemorrhage she experienced.
Her story is her's to tell, not mine, but it made me think of all the other moms that can use the tips I shared with her.
Here are a few facts about your body and uterus:
1. The more pregnancies you carry to term, the more your uterus (a muscle) gets stretched out and loses it's elasticity.
2. Once you give birth, your body activates the "clamping down" effect of your uterus and begins to control the bleeding.
3. Tools like getting a baby to breast immediately, uterine massage (ouch!), pitocin and other common hemorrhage drugs, sometimes herbs, and other medical procedures help the uterus clamp down after giving birth if you need more help to control the bleeding.
Now, a visual for you - imagine a pregnant uterus as a balloon. Once you give birth, your uterus is like a rapidly deflating balloon. Once you deliver your placenta, the balloon deflates more except the inner wall has an open wound where the placenta was once attached. This open area on your uterine wall PLUS your body not being able to activate the uterine muscle to clamp down is why you can have a postpartum hemorrhage. Basically, that balloon can't deflate properly and will continue to fill up with fluid - in the case of our bodies, that means blood.
NOW - you can lose a little blood or a lot of blood, but any amount of blood that's beyond normal blood loss will slow down your recovery a bit.
What happens when you loose too much blood is the hemoglobin (protein that carries the oxygen through your blood) and hematocrit (the % of red blood cells in your body) levels in your body drop. In turn you feel sluggish and low energy, and like it's hard to get on top of all you're doing to recover. To restore these levels back to normal, after big blood loss, can often take more than a couple days.
When a mom's struggling with feeling good a couple weeks out after a hemorrhage, I always say, "Think about what you're eating, what you're drinking, and how much you're resting to help restore your blood and iron levels to normal."
What you're eating: think "heme" iron rich foods. If you eat red meat, dig in! If you're vegan (or not), also think about dark, iron rich greens and beans. Drink dark green juices, and smoothies.
Every day you want to get at least a third of your food as heme-rich foods while you're recovering. Heme foods are one of the best ways, nutritionally, to restore the amount of oxygen in your blood and boost your red blood cells on your own.
Included in this charge is supplementation. You might receive iron pills from your doctor or midwife. A favorite supplement I suggest is E3Live (my favorite green supplement which goes straight to building your hemoglobin) or any other form of liquid chlorella. Another alternative is vegetable based iron supplementation, like Floradix. A tincture of Nettles is also hugely helpful in restoring your blood levels to normal, but remember nettles is highly energetic and take it between 8am and 5pm.
**Please talk to an integrative provider, or the specialist at a drug store, to get dosage recommendations that will help you specifically.
What you're drinking: You need to replenish the fluid amounts in your body if you've lost too much blood as well. Drink half your body weight in fluids such as water, electrolyte drinks, Emergen-C, herbal tea, lemon water every day. Try to avoid too much caffeine or carbonated beverages while you're in restore mode.
How much you're resting: You need more time to rest and heal after a postpartum hemorrhage. The more activity you do once you're home, the more you will continue to bleed into the first 6-weeks postpartum. Rest helps your blood volume return to normal, and it helps that open tissue on the inside of your uterus heal and close.
Remember to sleep when the baby sleeps, and enlist help so you can recover and be ready to go when your life demands you return.
Eat well, drink well, and rest well. Three simple ways to help get your body back to normal after a life-threatening situation.
Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. If you're reading this, and had a hemorrhage, I am so glad you had a skilled provider to care for you and help save your life. Truly!
Prolonging your recovery in the immediate postpartum days or weeks can lead to emotional and physical deficiency, so if you know someone who's had a hemorrhage and want to help her recover, please share this post with her today.
More questions? Please use the comments below to ask away.
Hope you have a great week!