Postpartum Healing: Acupuncture. An Interview with Aimee Ruiz LAc of East Bay Acupuncture
I discovered acupuncture a few years ago and after regular sessions helped significantly improve a long term hip situation that had developed from years as a ballet dancer, I was totally hooked. I also saw an acupuncturist more recently while I was pregnant with the hopes of flipping my breech baby. The babe did not turn, but the procedure was incredibly effective at relieving the severe swelling I was experiencing in my ankles (by this point my husband was calling me 'The Hulk'). Anyway, I have seen a lot of personal success with acupuncture and have a strong belief in its efficacy (I am not a doctor, make sure to see a medical professional before starting any kind of treatment).
What is acupuncture? Acupuncture is a practice in traditional Chinese medicine that dates back to at least 100 BCE (source). According to the philosophy, there are 20 energy meridians in the body and strategically placed tiny needles can help remove qi (or energy) blockages along these meridians.
How can acupuncture help you heal post-babe? I am really excited to have gotten the opportunity to chat with Aimee Ruiz LAc of East Bay Acupuncture about how acupuncture can help new mamas. Aimee is a nationally certified and California-licensed acupuncturist and herbalist who also holds a Master’s of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and was trained as a doula. Aimee works with women through their conception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
How did you find yourself passionate about working with women?
Well, I’ve always been a girl’s girl. I feel at home in the company of women and that has informed most of my life. While studying Chinese medicine in New York, I was fortunate to participate in an acupuncture program at a teaching hospital in Brooklyn. The moment I stepped foot on the labor and delivery floor, I was completely captivated and it changed the course of my life forever. That first time I saw a woman give birth, I knew that I needed to know everything I could about pregnancy, birth and motherhood. This led me down the path to becoming a doula, learning birth acupuncture and then later diving into the worlds of fertility and postpartum care.
According to Chinese Medicine what is happening with a woman's body and energy after childbirth?
In Chinese medicine, we believe that women lose blood, qi, yin, yang and essence in the birth process. Depending on her pregnancy and birth, other imbalances may also occur. Add lack of sleep, stress, pain, anxiety all the while tending to a new babe and it’s no wonder that women are quite depleted. Pregnancy and birth take a huge amount of energy to sustain. We experience trauma to our bodies and are pushed to (and through) our physical and emotional limits. So it is essential for the postpartum period to be a time of restoration and nourishment.
Why is it important for women to nurture themselves after they have the baby?
When we consider the postpartum experience, we aren’t just thinking of how women feel in the present. We know that taking good care of ourselves postpartum will benefit our overall long-term health and even the health of future pregnancies. This is a time of real recovery from a beautiful, amazing and gigantic job. While our bodies and brains get used to not being pregnant and our hormones shift, we benefit from a space that is extra loving and gentle. Rest allows us to be still long enough to tune into what we need and give ourselves a lot of room to just be.
New moms definitely want to nurture themselves but more importantly we want moms to gather support around them so they can feel nurtured by others. Zuo yuezi, translated as “sitting the month” is a practice where the new mom spends most of her time in bed and her support system tends to her. This isn’t realistic for many women these days but pulling some of the key principles from it can be incredibly nurturing. Planning ahead by asking for help, stocking food, finding care providers and enlisting friends and family can make such a huge difference in a new mom’s ability to really rest and receive.
What are some of the symptoms that women experience after childbirth that would lead them into an acupuncture session?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can treat so many things postpartum. Many of my clients seek help because they are exhausted, experiencing depression/anxiety, digestive upset and/or sleep quality issues. Women seek help when they are struggling with breastfeeding, specifically with insufficient lactation, clogged ducts or mastitis. We can also help to heal scars and break up scar tissue after cesarean birth or tears from vaginal birth. If she had any conditions arise during her pregnancy like preeclampsia, we can help. We can even be on their support team while women process emotional trauma. Acupuncture can help a new mom to heal faster in general than she would without treatment. We offer home visits so that new moms can conserve their energy and be pampered in the comfort of their own home.
Does it makes sense for a woman to get acupuncture treatment even if they are not experiencing major postpartum symptoms?
100 and 8 times yes! Chinese medicine shines best as preventative medicine. Even if a new mom doesn’t have any symptoms, childbirth takes an immense energetic toll on our bodies. Every woman would benefit from the power of Chinese medicine to help restore her energy, smooth out her hormones, nourish her and improve her healing process.
What are some other ways that women can nurture themselves after having a baby, according to Chinese Medicine?
Stay warm by keeping your feet, pelvis, bellies and backs covered. Warm internally by drinking herbal teas, nourishing soups and broths. Herbal sitz baths can be used to soothe and heal tissues that have been torn. She can learn about moxibustion and mother roasting practices that can be done at home. Allow every feeling that comes up to be given gentle attention and care and let it move through you. And of course, rest.