In this short article, I will present my understanding of the undeniable and irreplaceable importance of warmth in Āyurvedic postpartum care and WHY, from the perspective of this modality, ALL birthing people need it in the immediate postpartum period.
During the postpartum period, whether following a vaginal or c-section birth, there is a significant amount of blood loss, which results in significant loss of heat. From an Āyurvedic perspective, the rakta, red blood cell portion of the blood tissue, holds an immense amount of the digestive and assimilative capacity, and therefore immunological strength and functioning, throughout the entire body. With such a large loss of this palpable fire and inherent resilience through blood loss, heat is also inevitably and noticeably lost, leaving a perfect environment for cold to take over.
In addition to this cold quality, the postpartum time unquestionably evokes the qualities of spaciousness, dryness and lightness, (through loss of rasa dhātu, blood plasma tissue and all essential waters within the body as loss of blood, amniotic fluids, weight of the baby, breast milk, etc..,) along with mobility or changeability, through the fluctuations in hormones, intense and seemingly sudden changes to life with a new baby, breastfeeding hours a day, and loss of sleep. Āyurveda teaches us that all of these qualities (which increase and encourage Vata dosha) can be greatly ameliorated with warming therapies (amongst other treatments which support and encourage Pitta dosha and bodily fires, such as dietary fats and spices, oil massage, belly binding etc.).
This all being said, there will always be some women who report feeling energized, warmed up, and ready to face normal tasks, regular exercise, and work schedules within weeks or days of birthing their baby. Some may even have cravings for cold. This can often be explained as a constitutional characteristic. BUT, from an Āyurvedic perspective, it could also potentially be another indication or symptom pointing to the imbalance in Vata dosha qualities which are almost always in excess postpartum, resulting in “perverted” cravings which won’t actually support the long-term healing that this period holds the potential for.
In these cases, I’ve been taught to meet this person where they are and while maintaining firm ground in encouragement of rest, warmth, and nourishment to heal, we can respect this person’s constitutional experience or immediate desires simultaneously. Perhaps this person needs room temperature water rather than hot water, but still almost NEVER cold or iced. Maybe socks OR a hat, and not both. Perhaps a little fresh and gently cooling cilantro or mint can be sprinkled onto their well-cooked and spiced congee, stew or kitchari. Hot or warm tea made with cooling herbs and lime juice. Allow the individual expressions and needs to be supported and respected without allowing the unquestionable need for warmth and support of fire in the immediate postpartum period to become jeopardized.
Beyond keeping a fire lit or the heat on, piling on the blankets, staying indoors, and keeping a strict policy of only warm foods or drinks, postpartum warming therapies include:
- Moxibustion to the abdomen
- Wrapping the abdomen
- Warm oil massage
- Hot herbal baths
- Yoni steams
- Sitz baths
- Warming herbal remedies
- Gently spiced foods
Stay warm and cozy new mamas!!!