Herbs for the Childbearing Year
Drinking two or three cups per day of the following herbal mixture can add substantially to the mother’s health throughout pregnancy and lessen pain and bleeding during birth. These herbs are primarily nutritive in nature, providing much-needed vitamins and minerals in a form that the body can easily assimilate (unlike most vitamin pills). This is a great way to get more iron in pregnancy. The tea can be taken postpartum as well, to help tone the uterus and build a healthy milk supply.
Red Raspberry Leaves
Contain vitamins A, B, and E, as well as calcium, phosphorous, iron, and an acid neutralizer. Helps tone the uterus.
Nettle is a blood-cleansing and blood-building herb with a high iron content. It is very nourishing to the kidneys and liver, and will help to relieve (or prevent altogether) vascular problems common during pregnancy. Helps build a good milk supply.
The following herbs may be added to the above mixture if desired:
Contains the entire vitamin C complex. Good for vascular problems (hemorrhoids, varicose veins) and to boost the immune system.
Soothing to the stomach, aids in digestion, and lends a pleasant taste to the mixture. A little goes a long way.
How to Make Pregnancy Tea
Combine one part red raspberry leaves to one part nettles. Add some or all of the optional herbs if desired. Measure approximately two small handfuls of herbs to two quarts of water. Use a glass or other non-metal (aluminum is the worst) container with a lid. A half-gallon mason jar is perfect (locally available at Ace Hardware). Cover the herbs with almost-boiling water and cap tightly. Steep this mixture from four to eight hours. Pour the mixture through a strainer and discard the herbs. The tea will stay fresh for up to four days if kept in the refrigerator. A small amount of fruit juice (try grape, apple, raspberry) can be added as a sweetener, if you like. There is no right or wrong way to make the tea. Play with it a bit, till you find a mixture that suits you.
Learn more about optimizing the health of mom and baby during pregnancy. Our online program, Optimal Nutrition for the Childbearing Year, explores the truth about vitamins, supplements, eating fish, weight gain, and safe use of herbs during pregnancy. In this program, we draw a clear connection between nutritional choices and discomforts of pregnancy, complications of pregnancy, complications of labor and delivery, a healthy baby, and breastfeeding success.
Postpartum Herbal Healing Bath
The postpartum herbal bath is wonderfully healing for both mom and baby. The recommended herbs have astringent and antiseptic properties which soothe and heal sore bottoms, help dry up the baby’s cord stump, and prevent infections. You and your baby can take a minimum of one bath per day for the first five days postpartum. If you have stitches or any lacerations, you may want to take two baths per day for two to three weeks, or until healing is complete. Hydrotherapy on its own is widely recommended for pain relief; add the herbs and you speed the healing process.
- Calendula flowers (1/4 pound)
- Comfrey leaves (1/4 pound)
- Lavender flowers (1/4 pound)
How to Make the Postpartum Herbal Bath
Combine the herbs and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard. Boil approximately a gallon of water or just use a large stock pot. Once the water boils, turn off the heat and add a large handful of each herb (children love to help with this part). Cover and let steep for at least one hour (longer is better). When ready, pour the herb water directly into the bath water through a strainer and discard the herbs. Your herb bath can be made in early labor so that it will be nice and strong when you’re ready for it. The mixture can sit at room temperature for up to 24 hours. If not used within 24 hours, strain out the herbs and refrigerator the fluid. It will keep for 2-3 days. You can brew up the next batch just after the current bath. Then, whenever you’re ready for the bath, it’s ready for you!
It’s a good idea to have a helper if you are bringing your baby into the bath. Mom can get in first while the bath is hot and then bring baby in once it cools down a bit. Most newborns love the bath but will startle when first brought in. Have your helper hand the baby to mom and simply support the baby’s head with both hands, allowing the body to immerse and float between your legs. Watch your baby relax and unfold as he/she settles in. Enjoy!
Need more information and support for your postpartum healing? Check out our online class, Physical Recovery after Birth. This program includes exercises for your postpartum abs, including adaptations for post-cesarean moms and five awesome videos focused on restoring tone and elasticity to your pelvic floor muscles.
A word about quality of herbs
Herbs should be organic or wild-crafted and fresh (dried is fine, but no more than one year old). Older herbs often have a funky flavor and the tea will appear cloudy. Make sure that your local supplier doesn’t sell herbs that have been sitting on the shelf for a long time. If the packaging doesn’t say “organic” or “wild-crafted,” it isn’t.
If you have these plants growing around you, try harvesting them yourself. Lay them out on a screen or bundle and hang them to dry. Once dried, herbs should be stored in air-tight containers, in a cool, dark place. Exposure to sunlight and temperature extremes (such as above the stove) will age your herbs more quickly.
For more information about the safe use of herbs during pregnancy, see Susun Weed’s book, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year or Aviva Jill Romm’s website.
Where can I buy herbs?
The Center sells organic Red Raspberry Leaves and Nettles in quarter-pound packages. We also have the organic Postpartum Herbal Healing Baths in pre-mixed bags containing enough herbs for three baths. WE DO NOT SHIP HERBS. Since the Center is not a drop-in venue and it would be pure luck to find us open and someone here to assist you, it is best to email firstname.lastname@example.org regarding your needs. You will likely receive a response from me in less than 24 hours (phone messages will likely take longer). I can leave herbs for pick up at your convenience from our Drop Box, just inside the front screen door of the Center.
If there is a delay in procuring herbal baths and you are in need of pain relief, try a sitz bath or full tub immersion in hot water with a little salt added. The herbs speed the healing process, but hydrotherapy on its own is widely recommended for both pain relief and healing.
To purchase bulk herbs online, I recommend these sources: