Hi Sandra, I've recently given birth to my first child. I've been left with a dragging pain in my pelvis that gets worse when I walk or stand for long periods. My gynaecologist has said nothing is out of place and has referred me to a physiotherapist for strengthening exercises. Is there anything else I can be doing to speed up my recovery? Kelsi, Auckland.
Hi Kelsi, thanks for your question.
Many women experience a weakening of uterine and pelvic tissues following childbirth, which can result in the dragging sensation you describe. A combination of factors such as the weight of the growing baby, the action of the hormone Relaxin that softens the ligaments in the pelvis and widens the cervix, and the exertion of a vaginal delivery, can leave the tissues in this area weakened and stretched.
It's great that you've sought out the advice of your gynecologist and that you're seeing a physiotherapist for assistance. This is important to ensure a speedy recovery.
In addition to your exercise regime, you may benefit from using a superb class of plant medicines called ''uterine tonics''.
The safe, effective use of herbal medicine has been an integral part of supportive health care during pregnancy, in childbirth and post-partum for thousands of years. Women have always been concerned with safe deliveries of their children and a quick recovery to return to daily activities. This is still a valuable support in the 21st century.
In countries such as Switzerland, herbal medicine is officially used in obstetric care and is regarded as the first choice in safely preventing and treating common ailments in mother and child. Scientific studies continue to emerge that support this practice.
The key plant medicines for post-partum recovery include:
Raspberry leaves (Rubus idaeus): The most popular Western herb used during and after pregnancy, raspberry leaf has a specific affinity to the uterus and has been used since ancient times to encourage an easy childbirth.
Regular use during pregnancy helps to build up the strength of the uterine muscle, which promotes effective, less painful uterine contractions at birth, thus shortening its duration.
Post-partum, raspberry leaf can support uterine recovery and is helpful for uterine prolapse. Most of the benefits that are attributed to raspberry leaf are traced to the nourishing source of vitamins and minerals found in the plant, and to flavonoids, gallotannins and ellagitannins that give tone to the muscles of the pelvic region and the uterus itself.
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris): Lady's Mantle is taken during pregnancy to prevent spot bleeding, to strengthen and prepare the uterus for a speedy birth and post-partum to assist the recovery of the womb.
As a uterine tonic it has regulating, strengthening, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, astringent (to reduce bleeding) and calming properties.
It helps with incontinence after birth and the healing of possible reproductive injuries. As a bonus, it promotes milk production in breastfeeding mothers.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum): Whilst not a uterine tonic like the plants above, I find St John's wort to be a wonderful aid to new mothers regularly used by midwives post-partum.
It helps to alleviate tiredness and fatigue, and with respect to uterine and pelvic recovery specifically, it is excellent for the pain of neuralgia, sciatica and backache that can be experienced post-partum.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): I recommend horsetail in the post-partum period for its high silica content. It helps to strengthen ligaments and connective tissue of the uterus and urinary tract, speeding up recovery.
These plants are best combined and taken as a medicinal tea as their active constituents are soluble in water and can be easily absorbed by the body in liquid form.
It's important to use the highest quality certified organic or wild-crafted medicinal plants, since this is an important time for both mother and child and exposure to environmental toxins should be minimised.
For full strengthening and nourishing benefit, take three cups daily. All these plants can be safely used whilst breastfeeding and can be continued long-term until your pelvic discomfort is lessened.
If your condition worsens or does not improve, please see your healthcare professional.