Pregnancy + Postpartum: A Natural Guide
by Dominique Del Col, Founder and Hedge-Witch Herbalist of WILDWOOD
Photo Credit: Liz Allison
We recently welcomed our daughter, our tiny witch.
She was born on a beautiful winters day, riding the arrow unleashed from the bow of the goddess, radiating light and illuminating our entire world.
Throughout my pregnancy and postpartum journey, I’ve felt intuitively connected to holistic, natural, and botanically-focused allies to help guide and nourish the outstanding physical, emotional and spiritual shifts that occur as your body grows and births another being. Even during the most challenging aspects of my pregnancy and postpartum experience, I’ve found incredible strength and healing in self-care rituals, including mindfulness, movement, herbal supplementation, and preparation for what was to come.
This journey is undeniably personal, and the passageway to motherhood will look completely different - extraordinarily unique and individual, to every single woman 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 discussion with other wonderful mamas 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.
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. 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 simple and restorative morning vinyasa and yin combination practice to be the most magical way to warm up stiff muscles, and quiet the mind. Somehow, I even managed to enjoy an active yoga session while I was in labour, as crazy at it sounds! Just my body, moving slowly in a room lit by the glow of beeswax candles, sweating, moaning and wailing my way through intense contractions - it wasn't pretty. But it felt powerful to know that I was bringing my child into the world through a body that was strong, resilient and open to what was ahead of me.
I also regularly frequented the gym or ran before I became pregnant, but my usual routine just didn’t feel right - with my newly cumbersome belly, change in gait, and epic sciatic pain that hit like a freight train in the second trimester, I opted for light strength training and walking a couple times a week to help me feel energized. 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.
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 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 with minimal ingredients that are safe during pregnancy and beyond.
My daily-go-to was our Nocturna Floria Ambrosia Repair Balm which deeply hydrated the sensitive skin on my face and neck, and felt glorious! I also massaged my body every day with a nourishing oil, either pure sesame oil or our Circe Breast and Belly Serum.
Dry Brushing is a magnificent way to help with the dreaded and uncomfortable swelling that occurs during pregnancy, particularly in the extremities. It helps encourage detoxification by increasing blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, and unclogs pores while gently exfoliating. 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 wonderful way to help boost the skins 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.
Supplements and Herbals:
While there is no better way to get your daily dose of essential vitamins and phytonutrients than to eat the rainbow (colourful fruits, veggies and herbs), it’s also important to ensure that you’re taking a quality prenatal vitamin. It is also beneficial to include a daily fish or algae based DHA supplement and some Omegas, as well as elemental iron. 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.
Morning Sickness Tip: Vitamin B6 and B Complex can be helpful for those suffering from nausea! Lavender, Fennel and Ginger tea with squeezed fresh lemon and raw honey is also very soothing on the stomach.
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 tea blend contains equal parts of: Raspberry Leaf, Nettle, Red Clover, 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.
Our studio lovingly crafts a Third Trimester/Postpartum tea with complementary benefits!
This can be a particularly tricky subject when morning sickness plagues many months of pregnancy. After my own experience of enduring morning 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 junkie, this was my go-to source for the consumption of 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 simple and quick 'meal' to wrap your head (and stomach) around when you’re plagued by nausea. I boosted my daily smoothie with things like avocado, MCT oil, whole flax and chia seeds, organic ghee, nuts, and collagen peptides!
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 also helps to preserve an ideal level of amniotic fluid and even helps fetal kidney function. Stay on top of your daily water intake by enjoying 6-8 x 200ml glasses of liquid per day, which 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 labour, plain old ice chips just seemed boring, 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!
'There is no old you to get back to. There's a new you to create and nurture' - Unknown
Supplements and Herbals:
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 helps to reduce afterbirth pains and cramping during nursing, without inhibiting the uterus from contracting. Homeopathic Cell Salt, Mag Phos 6x is useful for cramps, muscle aches, strains and can help with pain when nursing.
Yellow Maca is a 'hormone helper', offering sustainable energy, providing nourishing, mood balancing properties and supporting endocrine system wellness. Enjoy 1-2 tsp of powdered maca daily, blended in a smoothie or oatmeal.
Traditional Ayurvedic herbs such as Ashwaganda 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 naturally increase energy, while calming irritability and anxiety which are common as your body experiences significant hormonal shifts after birth. Holy Basil is easily enjoyed as a delicious tea. We love the blend from our friend Lee, of Lee's Provisions. With Ashwaganda Root Powder, I like to add a teaspoon to smoothies for a nourishing morning boost. The Gut Lab offers a great version!
Herbs such as Blessed Thistle, Anise Seed, Fennel and Fenugreek can be used to improve milk production if you choose to breastfeed. This is a wonderful option from Traditional Medicinals!
Moringa Leaf and Nettle Leaf are enormously beneficial to new mamas. Our friend Lauren Mary Holistics makes a beautiful Replenishing Powder that includes these powerhouse herbs, as well as others to boost energy, milk production, iron levels, and encourage postpartum healing, and overall wellness.
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 which I applied 2-3 times daily for several weeks after birth to reduce pain and swelling, and to encourage healing of delicate vaginal and perineal tissues. This infusion featured 2 cups each of alcohol-free Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera Water, infused in an airtight glass jar for 3 weeks before birth with dried herbs and flowers in equal parts by the teaspoon of: Calendula, Yarrow, Comfrey, Chickweed, Lavender and Thyme. I placed this blend in a spray bottle for easy application. You can also pour this mixture in a peri-bottle for cleansing, or drizzle onto an organic pad and place in the freezer (a padsicle!) for pain relief.
You can also soak your bottom in a ‘Steeped Tea Sitz Bath’ of the same herbal blend from above, without the witch hazel and aloe. Infuse herbs only in hot water for 10 minutes, (a French press coffee maker is great for this!), strain, and pour 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.
Matter Company makes a lovely organic Sitz Bath!
I also had a love affair with the Earth Mama Organics Perineal Balm!
You can nurture the healing process by including nutrient rich foods in your diet. Focus on incorporating dark leafy greens, fermented foods such as beet kvass, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi, MCT Oil, organic ghee, 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!
Having a newborn, and simultaneously healing your body from the most significant event it has likely ever experienced - takes time and patience. 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
Ask for a hug. Or better yet, give yourself a huge squeeze and repeat 'I've got this'. You do.
Pregnancy and postpartum are wild rides. Filled with a such a vast range of emotions - and you’ll be truly 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 it’s beautiful entirety. Be gentle, be kind, and love every moment (even when you don’t), and as you’re spending time getting to know your new body, and then your new little human, remember that you are still you. You are pure magic, mama.
All my love,
Dominique Del Col is the Founder, Hedge-Witch Herbalist, and Potion Maker behind WILDWOOD. She has spent nearly two decades immersed in the slow art, folk history, and medicinal practices of traditional herb craft and modern herbalism. You can find Dominique in her grassroots apothecary studio creating artisan care potions, and weaving spells with healing herbals in the wild woods of Wellington County. Her workshop is filled with soothing scents of drying lemon balm, blooming yarrow, wild rue and marshmallow root, slowly infusing in oils warmed by sunlight streaming through whitewashed windows, and surrounded by ancient stone. When she is not in her studio, Dominique enjoys homesteading crafts in her stone cottage, tending to her small flock of heritage hens, and foraging in the forest with her daughter, husband and two dogs.
You can learn more about Dominique and the WILDWOOD studio here.