Integrative practices for postpartum

Find emotional balance for the hormonal roller coaster

When a new baby arrives into our world, he brings the new mother the potential for incredible joy and bliss, and simultaneously brings her challenges on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level. This postnatal period can be considered to extend for many months, or even years, and may the biggest time of transition in many a woman’s life.

Support for mothers through this time is essential for optimal healing, smooth transition to motherhood and prevention of common postpartum health issues. Natural therapies and mother-centered approaches are an important part of helping the new mom through this transformational time, so she can nurture not only her new baby, but also herself, with more ease and balance. [1]

Prepare for your baby’s arrival

Many practices that you do for yourself and your baby will greatly improve your likelihood of well-being postpartum.  These include:

  • Thoughtful choice of birth location and care providers to give yourself the best support for the birth you would like to have
  • Midwives attending your birth
  • Birth doula
  • Breastfeeding your baby
  • Help for breastfeeding when it’s difficult; including support from lactation counselors, lactation consultants and craniosacral therapists specializing in newborn care
  • Placenta encapsulation
  • Newborn care practices for bonding, including skin-to-skin for the first 3 days
  • Attachment parenting, including wearing your baby
  • Co-sleeping, including baby in the same room as you
  • Postpartum doula for in-home support
  • and many more ideas, contained below

Hands-on/touch therapies

Chiropractic care during postpartum reduces pain, assists mother’s body in normalizing cranial, spinal and pelvic biomechanics and quickens recovery time. Low-force adjustments as well as massage are best immediately after birth. Within six weeks postpartum evaluation of spine and pelvis is especially important because retained relaxin easily allows realignment.

A chiropractor specializing in family and pediatric care can counsel regarding nutrition, exercises and stress, as well as examine the newborn baby. Some of babies’ issues, such as colic or nursing problems, might be due to birth trauma (emotional or physical). When baby feels better, mother is less stressed and sleeps better. [2]

Craniosacral therapy helps realign and stabilize fascia, ligaments and uterus placement. The deeply calming cerebral-spinal fluid rhythm supports balance in the endocrine system. Women go through rapid hormonal and structural changes of her body during the first days and weeks postpartum. Craniosacral therapy realigns pelvic fascia and uterus placement, and recuperates balance in the central nervous system. Craniosacral therapy provides ongoing support for the stresses of breastfeeding and for carrying and caring for an infant. [3]

Feldenkrais Method is a somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning. Through this Method, you can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. These improvements will often generalize to enhance functioning in other aspects of your life. By expanding the self-image through movement sequences that bring attention to the parts of the self that are out of awareness, the Method enables you to include more of yourself in your functioning movements. [4]

Alexander Technique combines massage and coaching for posture and body use skills. Postpartum woman can learn how to move and to hold herself and her baby with efficient pain-free body mechanics. Alexander Technique addresses specific structural, physiological, and psychological discomforts of pregnancy and postpartum. [5]

Somatic movement therapy provides integrating touch therapy and movement therapy, facilitates healing and addresses structural alignment (muscle/fascia/skeletal/organs), emotional balance (endocrine, craniosacral, nervous system) and meets the profound changes of womanhood and mothering with fluidity and mindfulness. Practitioners offer deep connections for woman in accessing the mind through movements, both internal and spatial. Women can receive advice on movement activities for a home program. Somatic developmental movement therapists offer hands-on and movement facilitation for developing babies from nursing, tummy time, crawling and beyond. [6]

Massage Therapy:  Taking care of yourself is an essential part of mothering your new little one. Childbirth often requires tremendous physical exertion, and caring for your newborn (breastfeeding, holding, rocking, etc.) takes its toll on your body as well.  Postnatal massage offers physical and emotional benefits for the new mother, including:  helping with any structural changes that occurred during pregnancy and birth; alleviating muscle strain and soreness from labor delivery, and daily demands of newborn care; promoting realignment of the pelvic and abdominal region through circulatory and lymphatic drainage techniques.  Massage therapy also nurtures mom with much needed time for quiet, relaxation and meditation. [7]

Physical Therapy:There’s a reason they call it labor. Any mom-to-be knows her body will go through a workout to bring her new beloved into the world. Most pain of birth resolves soon. But some new mothers have ongoing problems: lasting muscle and joint pain, incontinence (urine leakage) and pain during intercourse. Physical therapy (PT), addresses the anatomical causes of these postpartum problems with hands-on techniques, ultrasound, stretching or strengthening exercises. [8]

Rolfing® Structural Integration is a hands-on manipulation developed by Ida P. Rolf 50 years ago. It works on the connective tissue to release, realign and balance the whole body. Rolfing enhances your posture and freedom of movement. It can resolve pain and discomfort from many different causes, including back pain, repetitive motion injury, trauma, and aging. Rolfing is also an excellent foundation for and complement to yoga, Pilates and other personal wellness practices. [9]

Asian Bodywork Therapies are rooted in thousands of years of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai massage techniques. Shiatsu, Thai Yoga Bodywork, and qi gong energy healing are tailored to the postpartum mom’s physical and emotional needs.   A variety of techniques — kneading, pressure, soothing, etc. — work the muscles as well as energetic pathways, clearing areas that are tense and promoting flow of energy.  Stretches help muscles sore from nursing, lack of sleep, and labor; while gentle or deep pressure stimulates acupressure points that bring the mind and body into greater harmony.  A new mom can tune into her body as she settles into a state of deep relaxation and re-energizes herself. [10]

Mayan abdominal massage – The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage™ (MAM) is an external, non-invasive method of bodywork that is beneficial during the postpartum period. This work removes physical and emotional congestion and blockages from the abdomen. The MAM practitioner focuses on guiding the uterus to the optimal position; thereby improving the flow of blood, lymph, nerve impulses and chi. A woman’s well-being can be dramatically enhanced with proper uterine alignment. Practitioners of this technique also teach each client how to do self-care massage at home, empowering her to help herself and sustain the healing process far beyond the treatment room. [11]

Complementary medicines

Naturopathic Medicine, a distinct American health care profession since 1886, blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) commonly utilize botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, oriental medicine, as well as counseling and stress management. NDs care for the mother, the baby, and other family members during the postpartum period, providing alternative perspectives on pediatric health, well-child check-ups, and women’s health. Naturopathy’s emphasis on the prevention of disease supports and sustains the health of the whole family. [12]

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), offers a natural, safe and effective way to care for a mother before, during and after delivery.  Women receive individualized care that takes into account all the complex symptoms of postpartum depression; physical, emotional, and spiritual. Small needles (about the size of a hair) are placed along meridian pathways to help bring the body back to its natural balance. Practitioners may also recommend herbal medicine.  A formula is prepared that supports the individual woman’s body and health.   Care can range from weeks to months.  Regular care is recommend for long term well-being. [13]

Western herbs: Evening Primrose Oil capsules are reported to be quite helpful for postpartum depression, and are considered to be safe for breastfeeding moms. Other herbs that can be helpful for postpartum depression are motherwort and blessed thistle. St. John’s Wort appears to be relatively safe for nursing mothers, but caution should be used.  Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed includes a recipe for “Postpartum Depression Brew” that includes Licorice root, Raspberry leaf, Rosemary leaves and Skullcap.[14] Dr. Robert Roundtree, a complementary and alternative medicine specialist recommends eleuthero and roseroot. [15]

Energetic therapies

Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine that can be used for acute or chronic care. Immediately after birth remedies can help the mother recover from loss of blood, birth trauma, episiotomy, etc. During the postpartum time homeopathic remedies can be used to treat mood swings, hormonal imbalances, postpartum depression, difficulty nursing, ailments from loss of sleep, and more. Remedies are selected on the similarity of symptoms of the mother (mental, emotional or physical) to those the remedy can treat. Infants can also be treated safely with homeopathic remedies for a variety of conditions including difficulty nursing, colic, and constipation. [16]

Network Chiropractic (Network Spinal Analysis™) is an evidenced based approach to wellness and body awareness. Gentle precise touch to the spine cues the brain to create new wellness promoting strategies. Two unique healing waves develop with this work. They are associated with spontaneous release of spinal and life tensions, and the use of existing tension as fuel for spinal re-organization and enhanced wellness. Practitioners combine their clinical assessments of spinal refinements with patient’s self-assessments of wellness and life changes. Greater self-awareness and conscious awakening of the relationships between the body, mind, emotion, and expression of the human spirit are realized through this healing work. [17]

Healing Touch is a relaxing, nurturing energy therapy.  Gentle touch assists in balancing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Healing Touch works with your energy field to support your natural ability to heal.  It is safe for all ages and works in harmony with standard medical care. [18]

Reconnective Therapy is a healing art that facilitates connections between the energy body and the physical body through resonance.  We all carry the knowledge for perfect well-being contained within our energy body. The energy body is the force that builds the physical body and holds the templates for perfect body and mind structure and function. It contains all our feelings, thoughts, memories and possible futures. We lose our well being when connections between the energy body and the physical body are broken. The information the body wants to connect to vibrates on a certain frequency and, during treatment, the therapist provides this frequency, allowing the patient to resonate with it. [19]

Energetic body work: While some post-natal healing is needed on the physical level, and thus improved through physical bodywork, women who are having more subtle energetic and emotional blockages may find greater support from a practitioner who is also skilled in energy healing.  Chi, prana, ki, vital force, and ruach are just a few of the names used to describe our life-force energy. This energy is what keeps the body alive and maintains health and wellbeing. Practitioners may incorporate energy healing into their work using many techniques, including hands on or off the body, or using sound or movement, to balance, harmonize and accelerate the healing process. [20]

Flower essences are distilled plant preparations that convey a distinct imprint, or etheric pattern, of a specific flower. Just as food nourishes the human body, so can the flowers nourish the human soul, enhancing emotional and psychological well-being. Flower essences belong to a pioneering new field of potentized remedies that derive their beneficial powers from the inherent life forces within substances. [21]

Movement practices

Yoga is an ancient practice that links mind, body, and spirit. As a contemporary practice for postnatal women, yoga helps heal, strengthen, and bonding between mother and child. A new mama can practice postnatal yoga as soon as she and her care-provider agree she can begin light physical activity. Postnatal yoga soothes the nervous system through breathwork, helps tone and strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, offers the emotional benefit of interacting with other new mothers, and helps relieve neck, shoulder, and back fatigue associated with nursing and carrying a baby. A mama-and-baby yoga class offers similar benefits. Baby receives the comfort and security of a routine, while parent and child bond and build important social connections.  [22]

Exercise: Research has shown that 30 minutes of exercise a day is as effective as any anti-depressants, without the side effects of the drugs.  Many movement activities are beneficial, including:

  • Walking and running
  • Biking or roller blading
  • Swimming
  • Belly dance
  • Tai chi and qi gong
  • Aikido
  • Ballroom and swing dancing
  • Skiing or skating
  • Your favorite activities!  [23]


Feldenkrais Method – Awareness through Movement (ATM) gives participants the chance to discover where their own habits of movement and awareness contribute to chronic pain, and to learn new and more comfortable options for movement. Postpartum women can work with nagging back or knee or neck pain and other discomforts. Gentle exploratory movement sequences are designed to give each person more understanding of herself. Participants learn to move with less pain and effort, while getting rid of unnecessary interfering habits. The lessons begin with comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity. [24]
Self care

Breastfeeding may be one protective factor against postpartum illness. “A more recent research focus has been the area of prolactin activity during the puerperium. Prolactin levels form a reverse curve of the estrogen and progesterone levels during the postpartum period, with low levels occurring immediately after delivery and increasing to a high level plateau by the first week after birth. It is reasonable to assume a possible relationship exists between the decline of breast-feeding in the U.S., the rapid decline in prolactin in mothers who do not breast-feed and postpartum depression. This relationship is important and requires more research (Kruckman & Smith, 1998)”  [25]

Nutrition  – Deeply nourishing foods, sufficient water, herbal teas and select supplements help to form the most basic and essential substances for postnatal recovery, renewal and long-term well-being. Breastfeeding mothers actually need slightly higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than pregnant women. Ideal foods will be iron-rich, sustaining, slow releasing and organic. Berries, high-protein whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, organic meats, and fish that are low in mercury are all excellent choices.

What is good for the mother is usually good for the baby as well, so commitment to the healthiest dietary choices is a gift to yourself and your growing family. Eating low-allergenic foods is also important for women who have a family history of allergies, in order to avoid reactions in their babies. In addition, these specific herbal teas and supplements are healthful choices:

  • Continue to take prenatal vitamins and minerals. Enjoy raspberry leaf and nettles tea. This mixture is iron- and nutrient-rich, and raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic, supporting the return of the uterus to a healthy post-pregnancy condition and preventing after-pains.
  • Take fish oils containing a high amount of DHA. DHA is the main essential fatty acid in breastmilk, supports brain development in the baby, and helps to prevent postpartum depression for mom as well.
  • Probiotics, in particular Lactobacillus GG, help to support a healthy gut flora in the mother and, when taken six weeks before and after birth, have been shown to reduce the incidence of allergies and allergic-related conditions (e.g. eczema) for the baby.  [26]


Meditation practices offer abundant methods of calming oneself, developing awareness, working with difficult mind-states, and undoing unhelpful habits of the mind.  Everyday mindfulness practices are a resource for postpartum women to foster compassion, joy and spaciousness for herself as she goes through the intense changes of motherhood and tending baby. A postpartum woman may find she has beliefs, expectations or emotional reactions that are not helpful to her, her baby or her situation.  Mindfulness practices are a gentle process of self-care, love and acceptance of things just as they are. Meditation can complement any faith.  [27]


Family, friends & faith community – As capable women we are accustomed to taking care of ourselves, our lives, and other people. But with a new baby, life bursts at the seams.  Someone else can cook, clean, do laundry and provide childcare for older kids. No-one else can nurse your baby or sleep for you. In the first six weeks this is your full-time job, 24-7. If your baby isn’t sleeping well or is colicky, you may need help for longer. It is blessed to give – to you and your baby. So it is blessed to receive from the people that care about you and your baby. If they are scarce, ask for help in new ways from people you know.  [29]

Talking buddy – Having friends who understand the challenges and joys of being a new mom can mean the difference between feeling isolated and feeling supported.  While you may not feel as close to your friends without children at this time, your deepening relationships with other new moms can be reassuring that what you are going through is universal. Another valuable resource is a friend whose child is months or years older than your own. This mom may have ideas to help you through the challenges, as she understands things like sleep deprivation, the emotional roller coaster, and feelings of isolation common to moms of newborns.  [30]

La Leche League – Difficulty with breastfeeding is a contributing factor in postpartum depression.  La Leche League’s focus is on mother-to-mother support for women beginning in pregnancy and continuing through weaning. At group meetings facilitated by trained Leaders, women have a safe place to ask questions and share concerns and hear what has worked for other moms in similar situations; to get out of the house with their nursing infant; and to have a sense of community with other mothers.  In one-to-one helping with women via telephone or e-mail, Leaders provide an empathetic ear and more in-depth information about particular breastfeeding concerns. LLL’s services are free.  [31]

Early Childhood Family Education – Provides educational support for families navigating parenthood. Each city/county has their own location and provide different class schedules. These classes focus on helping parents with common issues from newborns through Kindergarten. They generally include a parent-child activity time, parent discussion time, and children activity time (depending on child’s age). The parent discussions prove to be a great outlet for stress. For second time parents, it can be a time for the older child(ren) to spend away from mom or dad with children their own age. [32]

Online moms groups

Chiropractors, physical therapists, craniosacral therapists, nutritionists and other practitioners who specialize in women’s health can offer further suggestions for self-care.


Acknowledgements:  This resource list was created by Catherine Burns with holistic practitioners who contributed in their areas of specialization:


Kate Birch; RSHom (NA), CCH, Homeopathist. (612) 701-0629.

Catherine Burns; (RSMT), Craniosacral Therapist, Registered Somatic Movement Therapist. 612/332-7459
Maureen Campion; Psychologist

Helen Healy; ND, Naturopath. 651-222-4111.

Julie Kesti: Doula, Asian techniques, including Shiatsu and Thai Yoga Bodywork.

Sarah Longacre; Doula, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, owner of Blooma.

Margaret Owens. Birth and Postpartum Doula. 763-755-2282.

Deb McLaughlin; Craniosacral Therapist and Birth Doula. 218-590-1891

Jalashree Pradhan: Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine. 612-396-2997

Elena Pekurovsky; DC. Chiropractor. 763-593-4000.

Sara Samuels; Birth and Postpartum Doula. 952-836-6097.

Deborah Savran; Healing Arts Practitioner & Herbalist.

Debra Schulman; Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine. (612) 730-0378

Mary Vansteenberg; Postpartum Doula. 651-454-6444.

Sara Wilcox; La Leche League Leader, Birth and Postpartum Doula 612-798-5539.

Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops. Permissions to reprint excerpts of Deborah Savran’s article, ‘Postpartum Care for the New Mother’ from their newsletter Mix, May/Ju


[1] Deborah Savran; Healing Arts Practitioner & Herbalist. Introduction and descriptions authored by Deborah Savran are reprinted with permission by the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops Publication Mix, St Paul, MN, May/June 2008.

[2]Elena Pekurovsky; Chiropractor

[3]Catherine Burns; Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Craniosacral Therapist



[6]Catherine Burns; Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Craniosacral Therapist

[7] Sarah Longacre; Doula, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Blooma



[10] Julie Kesti: Doula, Asian techniques, including Shiatsu and Thai Yoga Bodywork

[11] Deborah Savran; Healing Arts Practitioner & Herbalist.

[12]Helen Healy; Naturopath

[13] Jalashree Pradhan and Debra Schulman; Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine


[16]Kate Birch, Homeopathist




[20] Deborah Savran; Healing Arts Practitioner & Herbalist

[21]FES Quintessentials. Flower Essence Services.

[22] Sarah Longacre; Doula, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Blooma

[23]Catherine Burns; Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Craniosacral Therapist



[26] Deborah Savran; Healing Arts Practitioner & Herbalist

[27]Catherine Burns; Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Craniosacral Therapist

[28] Maureen Campion; Psychologist, Parenting Oasis

[29]Catherine Burns; Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Craniosacral Therapist

[30] Mary Vansteenberg; Postpartum Doula

[31] Sara Wilcox; La Leche League Leader, Birth and Postpartum Doula

[32] Sara Samuels, Birth and Postpartum Doula