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Pregnancy and Postpartum: A Natural Guide

Updated: Feb 19

By Dominique Del Col

Holistic Wellness Educator and the Founder, Herbalist, and Formulator behind Tidelands House Stillroom and Wildwood




Pregnancy is a mysterious, joyful, cumbersome, and transformational journey. A time when we feel our body and spirit metamorphosing from a single biological entity into a cosmic multi-person vessel filled with radiant new life on a one-way voyage to motherhood. It is a time when we focus so much energy on the luminous life growing inside our belly and oftentimes forget how vital it is to nourish ourselves in this extraordinary process of becoming. My pregnancy with my daughter was no exception. Persistent symptoms and physical changes that my body endured were a profound reminder of the importance of consistent and effective self-nurturing. They prompted me to elevate my wellness rituals to ensure the most comfortable and supportive experience for both myself and the magical little being growing within my womb.


Throughout my pregnancy and postpartum recovery, I felt intuitively connected to holistic, natural, and botanically-focused allies to help guide and nourish the unique physical, emotional and spiritual shifts that occur as your body grows and prepares to give birth. During the most challenging aspects of my pregnancy and postpartum experience, I found incredible strength and healing in self-care rituals, including mindfulness, movement, body attentiveness, herbal supplementation, and preparation for what was to come.


This journey is undeniably personal, and the passageway to motherhood will look completely different and extraordinarily individual to every single human who carries a child. With that said, I wanted to share with you some of the wellness rituals that made a world of difference for me, that helped nourish and sustain me during those single, most significant and deeply magical nine months and beyond.


So without further ado, here is my shortlist of favourite tips for creating a gentle, nourishing holistic wellness routine for pregnancy and postpartum, curated from my work as a herbal practitioner and in communion with other incredible women who have walked the childbirth path before me.


As always, connect with a trusted herbalist, naturopath, physician, midwife, or doula to ensure that these practices are suitable for you.

PREGNANCY


Movement:


If you're able, move often and with purpose, beginning as early in your pregnancy as is comfortable or recommended by your care practitioner. The body undergoes such tremendous change and strain while carrying a child, and lubricating your joints and activating your body is incredibly healing and supportive. Of course, this will manifest differently for each person but could include yoga, walking, light strength training, sex, or a delicious stretch after a long day on your feet. I've practiced yoga for nearly two decades and found a refreshing and straightforward morning vinyasa and yin combination practice to be the most magical way to warm up stiff muscles and quiet the mind. Somehow, I even enjoyed an active yoga session while in labour, as crazy as it sounds! Just my body, moving slowly in a room lit by the glow of beeswax candles, sweating, groaning and wailing my way through intense contractions. It wasn't pretty, but knowing that I was bringing my child into the world through a robust and resilient body that was open to what was ahead of me felt powerful.


I also regularly frequented the gym or ran before becoming pregnant, but my usual routine didn't feel right - with my newly cumbersome belly and change in gait. Plus, with the epic sciatic pain that hit like a freight train in the second trimester, I opted for light strength training, swimming, and walking a couple of times a week to help me feel energized. Finally, on the days that I was too exhausted to do any moving at all, I surrendered to the comfort of my bed and slept as long as I needed - and that was just as wonderful and healing.


It is also enormously beneficial to find a Chiropractor or Osteopath specializing in birthing bodies that can adjust your changing framework throughout your pregnancy. These practitioners are experts in pelvic wellness and alignment and can help you ward off aches and pains while helping your body prepare for labour.


Trust your body, and honour your energy levels. Observe your body, acknowledge and listen to what it tells you. Most importantly, move when it feels right, rest when it doesn't.



Self Care and Skin Care:


Keep your routine simple. Our skin can become extremely sensitive during pregnancy and postpartum. Opt for gentle, natural products that help support the skin as it stretches to accommodate your little one. Avoid any products that contain 'The Dirty Dozen' ingredients, and seek organic, plant-based care potions that are safe during pregnancy and beyond.


I leaned heavily into our own collection of finely crafted herbal skincare for my face and body. Tenderly formulated with only organic, sustainable, regionally-sourced and wild-foraged herbs and flowers in our stone cottage stillroom. During pregnancy, my personal favourites include Reishi Boréale Wild Mushroom Sun Repair Facial Serum for protecting against hormonal hyperpigmentation and increased UV sensitivity, Terrain Sage Cellular Repair Facial Balm to nourish and boost natural collagen production, and Circe Breast and Belly Ritual Serum to soften and support stretching skin.


I recommend enjoying small amounts of radiant, beautiful sunlight and using a 'physical sunblock' or zinc-based sunscreen, along with full-coverage clothing and a hat when you need additional protection. Avoid chemical sunscreens and any products containing Oxybenzone as they can be detrimental to our wellness and the environment.

Dry Brushing is a magnificent way to help with the dreaded and uncomfortable swelling during pregnancy, particularly in the extremities. It helps encourage detoxification by increasing blood circulation and lymphatic drainage and unclogs pores while gently exfoliating. In addition, it stimulates the nervous system, which helps boost energy and leaves you feeling invigorated. Although there is no miracle prevention for stretch marks, dry brushing is a beautiful way to help increase the skin's resiliency during the 'big stretch.' Before bathing, I dry brushed my entire body for a few minutes every day of my pregnancy, and it kept my skin feeling luminous and healthy.


Our Dental Health can be compromised during pregnancy due to higher levels of progesterone and estrogen, which can loosen the delicate tissues within the mouth and add additional risk for periodontal disease. The Oil Pulling Method is a time-honoured Ayurvedic technique that is inexpensive and wonderfully effective in supporting your mouth health. It helps to reduce oral microbial count, gingivitis, plaque and can gently brighten teeth while strengthening the gums.


How to Oil Pull: Every morning, or at least a few mornings each week, take one tablespoon of organic, food-grade coconut oil, olive oil, or sesame oil, and slowly swish the oil around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. I like to do this while making my bed each morning and getting ready for the day. When finished, spit out the oil and rinse the mouth with cool water.

Nutrition, Supplements and Herbals:


One of the most powerful pillars of my wellness ethos revolves around prioritizing quality, nutrient-dense, fresh, regional foods first over lab-formulated supplements. Temperamental pregnancy digestion, however, can make consuming powerhouse nutrition a bit challenging. So, while there is no better way to get your daily dose of essential vitamins and phytonutrients than to eat the rainbow (such as colourful fruits, veggies, sunshine-yellow pastured eggs, bright orange salmon roe, and vibrant green herbs), it's also necessary to ensure that you're taking a quality prenatal vitamin, as well as a daily fish or algae-based DHA supplement to ensure that your dietary needs are consistently met. Elemental iron is beneficial. Magnesium Citrate can assist with regularity which can be a nagging concern when you're expecting. Magnesium Glycinate is helpful for restless legs at night. Calcium and Vitamin D are also vital to support your body and your baby's rapidly growing bones, and studies have shown that Liposomal Vitamin C may prevent premature rupture of membranes. A potent probiotic is also a fantastic way to ensure a healthy gut microbiome (which can be passed on to your baby through the birth canal!). It is always best to consult with a naturopathic doctor to explore the perfect supplemental regime for your needs.


For occasional headaches, a tincture of Skullcap herb (Scutellaria lateriflora) can be very beneficial in alleviating pain. Take 20-60 drops acutely as needed under the tongue or in a small amount of water. An essential oil roller with pure peppermint can also offer instant relief when applied to the back of the neck or sparingly throughout the hairline.


For muscle and body pain, a homeopathic gel or cream rub containing Arnica Flowers (Arnica montana) is a beautiful, gentle, and safe solution to enjoy as needed for strains, muscle tension, sciatica, and backaches.


For leg cramps, look for homeopathic cream or gel containing pure Cell Salt 'Mag Phos 6x. This soothing mineral is beneficial for restless legs, round ligament pain and muscle spasms. Massage into the affected area before bedtime to aid in restful sleep.


Morning Sickness Tips: Vitamin B6 and B Complex can be helpful for those suffering from nausea! A therapeutic dose of up to 100mg of Vitamin B6 is often suggested to help alleviate pregnancy sickness when divided into small amounts taken throughout the day. Weekly acupuncture is also worth exploring as specific acupoints can reduce the severity of nausea and vomiting. Lavender, Fennel, and Ginger tea with squeezed fresh lemon and honey are also soothing on the stomach. Iced water with lemon, a slice of cucumber and a tiny sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt is also an excellent way to hydrate while curbing queasiness.


Around 28 weeks, I started drinking 3 cups a day of my own labour tea blend, a combination of herbs and flowers to help boost energy, and prepare the body for labour by ensuring that vitamin and mineral stores are maintained and crucial organs, such as the uterus, are in tip-top shape for the big day.


My third-trimester tea blend contains equal parts of Raspberry Leaf, Nettle Leaf, Red Clover Blossom, Peppermint, and Oat Straw, with a pinch of Lavender Blossoms, Chamomile Flowers, Nori Seaweed, and Star Anise. Enjoy 1 tbsp of the blend, steeped for 10 minutes and sipped three times a day.


Food intake can be tricky when morning sickness plagues many months of pregnancy. After my own experience of morning (aka. All Day) sickness throughout my entire pregnancy, I can recommend only this - eat whole foods as often as possible, and don't feel guilty if you turn to comfort foods and things you wouldn't normally eat. It all serves a purpose in helping sustain you as your baby grows. As a diehard plant-smoothie devotee, this was my go-to source for consuming veggies, fruits, healthy fats and fibre. Smoothies are a great way to cram a variety of nutritious foods into your day, are easily digested, and can be a quick and straightforward 'meal' to wrap your head (and stomach) around when you're plagued by nausea. I boosted my daily smoothie with things like pitted dates, avocado, MCT oil, whole flax and chia seeds, organic ghee, nut butter, and collagen peptides!


Liquids:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water helps your body absorb essential nutrients and transports vitamins, minerals, and hormones to blood cells. It's those nutrient-rich blood cells that ultimately reach your baby. Drinking water helps preserve an ideal amniotic fluid level and even supports fetal kidney function. Stay on top of your daily water intake by enjoying 6-8 x 200ml glasses of liquid per day. This can include tasty alternatives to water such as chilled tea (think Raspberry Leaf and Ginger Root), coconut water, or water infused with lemon, cucumber, or fresh fruit!

For hydration during labour, plain old ice chips just seemed unappealing, so I froze bite-sized ice cubes made with various ratios of coconut water and steeped teas of Hibiscus, Rose Hips, Raspberry Leaf, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow Root, Peppermint and Raw Honey. Energy-boosting, nourishing, and delicious!


 

POSTPARTUM

'There is no old you to get back to. There is only a new you to create and nurture' - Unknown.

Supplements and Herbals for Postpartum Recovery:

After birth, herbal tinctures can be very helpful to reduce pain naturally and soothe overactive nerves. Motherwort Tincture is an excellent tonic for the uterus, which also helps to ease irritability and anxiety, and supports a healthy heart during an emotional time. Cramp Bark Tincture helps to reduce afterbirth pains and cramping during nursing without inhibiting the uterus from contracting. Homeopathic Cell Salt 'Mag Phos 6x' is helpful for cramps, muscle aches, strains and can help with pain when nursing.


Yellow Maca Root is a 'hormone helper,' offering sustainable energy, providing nourishing, mood-balancing properties and supporting endocrine system wellness. Enjoy 1-2 tsp of powdered Maca Root daily, blended in a smoothie, soups, or oatmeal.


Traditional Ayurvedic herbs such as Ashwagandha Root, Astragalus Root and Holy Basil are beautiful choices to help the body adapt to stress, building emotional and physical resiliency, boosting the immune system, and helping to increase energy naturally. All while calming irritability and anxiety, common as your body experiences significant hormonal shifts after birth. Holy Basil is easily enjoyed as a delicious tea. With Ashwagandha Root Powder, I like to add a teaspoon to smoothies for a nourishing morning boost. Ashwagandha Tincture is also a lovely alternative to powder and can be taken in a small amount of water or tea to minimize the bitter taste.


Herbs such as Blessed Thistle, Anise Seed, Fennel, Shatavari, and Fenugreek can be used to improve milk production if you choose to breastfeed. This is a favourite tincture that naturally boosts milk supply. Moringa Leaf and Nettle Leaf are also enormously beneficial to new mothers. These powerhouse herbs boost energy, milk production, iron levels and encourage postpartum healing and overall wellness. Both can be found in tea or powder form for easy consumption.


During your postpartum recovery, you will want to continue taking any vitamins and supplements recommended during your pregnancy. They help replenish nutrients lost during the last ten months and may positively impact your breastfeeding journey.


I also love to drink a nourishing postpartum tea blend to soothe the spirit and replenish essential vitamins and minerals.


Here is a recipe for my favourite Postpartum Tea:


2 tbsp Nettle Leaf

2 tbsp Alfalfa Leaf

2 tbsp Milky Oats

2 tbsp Red Raspberry Leaf

1 tbsp Licorice Root

1 tbsp Ashwagandha Root

1 tbsp Fennel Seed


Blend all ingredients in a bowl, and store in an airtight mason jar. Steep 1 tbsp of the herbal blend in a cup of water for 10 mins. Drink 1-3 cups daily.



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It may be wise to consult your care practitioner to inquire about running various blood tests anywhere between 6 weeks to 3 months postpartum. These tests can reveal any nutritional inadequacies that may impact your physical and emotional recovery.


Here are some tests worth requesting:


Vitamin B12, Ferritin (Iron), Vitamin D, CBC (Complete Blood Count), Thyroid Antibodies, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel.

Perineum and Vaginal Care:

Take care down there! Your precious parts will need extra tender loving care after you give birth. I enjoyed a herb-infused mist that I applied 2-3 times daily for several weeks after delivery to reduce pain and swelling and encourage healing of delicate vaginal and perineal tissues.


Herbal Perineum Mist Recipe:


1.5 cups Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel

1.5 cups Aloe Vera Water

1 tbsp each of dried Calendula Flowers, Yarrow, Comfrey Leaf, Chickweed, Lavender, and Thyme.


Combine this mixture of botanicals and liquid in an airtight glass jar for three weeks before your expected delivery date, and shake daily to infuse all your herbs and flowers evenly. After herbs have been infused into the liquid, strain through a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer and pour into a spray or peri-bottle. The liquid may remain in the refrigerator or at room temperature for three months. To Use: A few times per day, spray or squirt herbal blend externally over vulva and perineum, and air or pat dry.


You can also drizzle this herbal mixture onto a sanitary pad and place it into the freezer for a healing and cooling 'padsicle'!


Without the witch hazel and aloe, you can also soak your bottom in the same herbal blend from above - known as a Sitz Bath. Infuse herbs only in hot water for 10 minutes (a French Press coffee maker is great for this!), strain, and pour the mixture into the bathtub or a small pan/shallow bowl that you can sit comfortably within. Remain seated with delicate parts submerged in the mixture for as long as is comfortable, and gently pat dry.


I also had a love affair with the Earth Mama Organics Perineal Balm!



Postpartum Nutrition:


You can nurture the postpartum healing process by including nutrient-rich foods in your diet. Focus on incorporating dark leafy greens, fermented foods such as beet kvass, cultured coconut, sauerkraut, water or milk kefir, kombucha, kimchi, MCT Oil, Cod Liver Oil, organic ghee, avocados, flax and chia seeds, and bone broth.


While preparing for the healing journey of the early postpartum weeks with my little one, I found and made several nourishing (and EASY) meals, snacks and treats to support my body and keep me fuelled for long nights ahead of breastfeeding. Here are some of my favourites!


  • Turmeric Maca Post Partum Fudge

  • Lactation Cookies

  • Detox Lentil Soup (Freezer)

  • Simple Farro and Bean Soup (Freezer)

  • Herbal Bone Broth

  • Mung Yoga Bowl

  • Turmeric Chickpeas with Garlic Tahini

  • Almond Flour Banana Bread


Postpartum Reading:

  • The First Forty Days: The Essential Art Of Nourishing The New Mother by Heng Ou

  • The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide To Rebuilding Your Health And Reclaiming Your Energy by Dr. Oscar Serrallach



Restorative Practices:

Having a newborn and simultaneously healing your body from the most significant event it has likely ever experienced - takes time and patience. So here are some gentle ideas when you need to find balance or reduce stress.

  • Take a bath

  • Go for a slow walk outdoors, breathe in nature

  • Make a cup of tea and sit quietly while your little one naps

  • Do some gentle stretching or yoga, breathe slowly and into the belly

  • Light a candle

  • Write about your daily experiences in a journal

  • Write down your birth story

  • Connect with a gentle-spirited friend or family member

  • Give yourself a giant squeeze and repeat, 'I've got this .' You truly do.


———————-

Both pregnancy and the postpartum period are wild rides. Filled with such a vast range of emotions - and you'll be genuinely astounded that your body can create them and flip between them in a matter of moments. Your body will change in extraordinary ways, feeling foreign and yet always yours in its beautiful entirety. So be gentle and kind to yourself. Embrace every messy and magical moment as you get to know your new tiny human and greet the changes around you and within you.

Remember that you are still you. You are here.

You are magnificent, and this is just a season.

All my love,

Dominique

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Dominique Del Col is a Holistic Wellness Educator and the Founder, Herbalist, and Formulator behind Tidelands House Stillroom and Wildwood. She has spent nearly two decades immersed in the ancient medicinal practices of traditional herb craft and natural wellness. You can find Dominique in the peaceful stillroom of her stone cottage studio in the heart of Wellington County, Ontario. A precious space where tenderly dried tea rose petals and wild marshmallow roots are slowly infused in oils warmed by the sunlight streaming through whitewashed windows encased in ancient stone. When she is not in her studio, Dominique enjoys reading tattered old books by candlelight, visiting the local farmers market in search of the perfect jar of raw honey, tending to her small flock of heritage hens, and foraging in the forest with her young daughter, husband and two dogs.