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Ten Moons: Herbs for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a transition. Not only for the new life that is created, but also for the woman who is becoming a mother. Whether it is her first time or her 5th, this is a sacred time for the woman to nourish and honor her body. So many women choose pregnancy as the time to start making healthier choices in their lives. They not only have themselves to worry about, but they also want to give the best possible start to their baby. It makes sense that during this momentous transformation period, the woman chooses to remove some old bad habits and learn new healthy ones that will carry on throughout her and her children’s lives.

One way that some women choose to take their health into their own hands is to save modern medicine as a last resort and use herbs and other natural remedies first. Let’s start with the most common thing that all pregnant women are encouraged to take: the prenatal vitamin. This is a gigantic horse pill that makes the average person gag, much less someone who has a sensitive stomach anyway! And how do we know exactly what we are absorbing and what is going to waste, so to speak? Pills have to travel through our digestive system, get broken down, and then some of it goes to our blood stream, and the rest goes, well, I don’t need to draw you a picture. Herbal infusions (strong teas brewed for several hours) like all liquids, get assimilated much easier and faster. So, after making sure you are eating nourishing foods-lots of proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, if you drink a nice well rounded pregnancy support tea, you will be sure that your are receiving all the vitamins and minerals your body deserves. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged teas in convenient little tea bags, but how long have they actually been sitting there? My favorite way to make teas is to buy each individual herb and then blend it myself. For each cup. That way if I need a bit more of something, I can add it! For instance, if I’m low on calcium, I’ll add more nettles. Drinking 1-4 cups of tea a day not only is nourishing to your body, but to your soul.

Morning sickness is major complaint during pregnancy that many women are looking for natural ways to support. Recently, the FDA has issued a “potential safety issue” regarding using a popular anti-nausea medication. So, of course-alternatives are needed. One school of thought is that since the excess level of hormones in a women’s body during pregnancy is causing the nausea and vomiting, that helping the body process those hormones better will curb the morning sickness. One way to do that is to strengthen the liver. A very effective and gentle way is to use milk thistle seed in a tincture (herbal extract, usually in alcohol). Using milk thistle seed along with making your you are eating small frequent meals that are high in protein, and drinking your pregnancy support infusion, you should be able to reduce your morning sickness significantly.

One of the biggest constituents of most pregnancy teas is red raspberry leaf (RRL). Not only is RRL rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin E, it is a wonderful uterine tonic. Your uterus is a muscle and it needs to be nice and strong to effective birth your baby. One way to help strengthen and tone your uterus is to drink strong RRL infusions during the last month of your pregnancy. I usually would steep one ounce (in weight) of RRL in a quart of boiling water overnight. The next day, I would drink the entire quart throughout the day. This is only appropriate during the last month of pregnancy, as excess RRL can cause Braxton-Hicks contractions.

The postpartum period is a time that the mother really only needs to focus on nourishing herself so she can properly nourish her baby. She should not be hosting, cleaning, cooking, or any of those things that our society thinks women should magically be able to do! Continuing your pregnancy infusion during the postpartum period is a good idea-another idea is to have a postpartum tea that is nourishing, energizing, and soothing all at the same time (recipe below). This is wonderful to make by the gallon and drink hot or iced-great for the entire new family (except the baby)! Another great way to support your well being after birth is a bath. A blend of herbs to help facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, and encourage relaxation brewed into a bath tea is a lovely addition to any bath (during pregnancy, postpartum, menstruation, Tuesday, etc).

For women who choose to breastfeeding and are struggling with true supply issues, some herbs will help encourage milk productions. *Note: If you have a normal supply (most women) do not use herbs to increase your supply. Over supply is a real problem!  Herbs to increase milk supply: Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Fennel Seed, Alfalfa, Oatstraw, Goat’s Rue (only in tincture).

Lastly, while a lot of herbs are safe and gentle, not all of them are. Some herbs are very beneficial for people who are not pregnant, but could pose a threat to a pregnancy. Some common herbs to avoid during pregnancy: pennyroyal, osha, blue cohosh, black cohosh, cottonroot, tansy, yarrow, tulsi, ephedra, valerian, mugwort, angelica, feverfew, sage, and wormwood.  Some of these listed are used by midwives to facilitate labor, so only use them under the guidance of your care provider.

Recipes

Pregnancy Tea:

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 1 part Oatstraw
  • 1 part Alfalfa
  • 1 part Rosehips

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Awesome Mama Postpartum Tea

  • 3 parts Lemon Balm
  • 3 parts Comfrey
  • 2 parts Chamomile
  • 2 parts Hibiscus
  • 1 part Rose Petals and Rose Hips
  • 1/8 part Lavender Buds

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Pospartum Sitz Bath

  • 1 part St. Joan’s Wort
  • 1 part Comfrey
  • 1 part Uva Ursi
  • 1 part Calendula
  • 1 part Shepherd’s Purse
  • Yarrow

Steep one ounce of herbs in a quart of boiling water for 45 minutes. Strain (very important!! No one wants to clean herbs out of a bathtub!) and add tea to bath with sea salts.

**This article is for informational purposes only. Any advice given has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to treat or diagnose. Consult your primary care provider.

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