Expert Spotlight: Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbalist Shannon Gyles on supporting women through pr
I want to start this blog by sharing that I feel honored to be in a support position with women as they lean into motherhood throughout their fertility, pregnancy and postpartum journeys. I am called to do the work that I do because I had my own personal struggles postpartum with a high needs baby/toddler and prolonged sleep deprivation that lead to major challenge and growth in my life. In working with women amidst these phases, I see similar threads and currents of feelings and truths. Our vulnerability and a deeper knowing of what matters most in our hearts changes in our united experience as mothers. It is in these themes that we find our strength and resiliency as women. We learn how to ask for help, learn selflessness, care about the world in a deeper more intimate way, and learn how to take better care of ourselves.
What are the most common ailments that pregnant women come to you with, and how are you able to help?
The body can be more resilient in pregnancy and I often find certain conditions are easier to treat. Problems may come and go, (and maintenance may be needed) because the body is going through such drastic changes, accommodating, and shifting to support baby. It is also a time when women are seeking more natural therapies to minimize risks to the baby.
I see women throughout all stages of pregnancy. Every woman has different needs in terms of when they need or want to be supported with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Because I do a large amount of fertility work, I see women regularly to help support early pregnancy and viability. It can help ease anxiety associated with previous loss and/or fear of loss and support good blood flow to the reproductive organs to help with embryonic development.
In the second and third trimesters I work with most of the common issues that crop up in pregnancy including: anemia, ligament and muscle pain, heartburn, insomnia, constipation, headaches and migraines, high blood pressure, and breech presentation. After 37 weeks acupuncture can help prepare for the body for labor. I see a lot of transition and change happen with women at this juncture of pregnancy: mind, body and spirit. I believe it is one of the great transitions in a women’s life as we enter motherhood. Acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care can all be wonderful therapies to help support the physical and emotional changes occurring at the end of pregnancy.
What’s your number one tip for staying healthy postpartum?
Get the support you need! Make sure to listen to your body and heart, don’t forget that you need to fill your cup in order to be there for your family. We are lucky to live in a great community with wonderful resources. There are wonderful postpartum doulas in town that can help your recovery, rest, and help with baby. It is such a worthwhile investment in yourself and well-being. Take naps when you can, let others know how you're feeling, accept and receive support with grace, and know that you don't have to struggle alone or feel isolated.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), postpartum care is very important. Childbirth is one of the major events in a women's life. As amazing and miraculous as it is, it depletes our qi (life force energy), blood, yin (cool and nourishing component) and yang (hot and activating component). In conjunction, breastmilk is thought to be a blood substance, so as women head into breastfeeding they become even more deficient. TCM focuses on building qi and blood while nourishing, healing and warming the uterus and body on a whole. Postpartum can be a great opportunity to build an even stronger foundation than a woman had pre-baby.
In TCM the first few weeks up to a month post childbirth is referred to as the "golden month" or “sitting moon". Women are encouraged to not leave their house, eat medicinal foods (that are warming, nourishing, and support healing) that are prepared FOR them, keep their wombs warm, and drink warming teas. In Taiwan they have postpartum healing centers where women and baby stay for a month to 6 weeks and are taken care of with these ancient practices. In our culture women are expected to bounce back quickly, while much of the emphasis is placed off the mother and onto the baby. I encourage women postpartum to create a version of a "sitting moon" for themselves.
Here are some specific at home recommendations for women postpartum:
-Warming teas or spices with or before meals: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamom, orange peel, black sesame, and fennel
-Keeping the uterus warm: heating pad on low and warm baths with medicinal herbs
-Drink bone broth, warm soups and broths, eat cooked foods
-Drink room temperature or hot water
-Eat eggs, they are very nourishing and blood building in TCM
-Drink nettle and red raspberry leaf tea
-Acupuncture and moxa (a warming herb we burn over the abdomen) to nourish and heal
-Other therapies such as massage, chiropractic care for mom and baby
I tell women to come in postpartum for acupuncture when they feel ready. The postpartum appointments are longer and enable women to bring their babies. While mamas relax with their needles in I get to have some snuggle time and hold baby (lucky me!). Acupuncture can help nurture and support women postpartum in many ways. Here are some of the common conditions treated in our clinic: low or high milk supply, mastitis, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, postpartum anxiety and depression, persistent heavy bleeding, night sweats, and recovery from C-section or traumatic birth.
What do you wish every pregnant woman knew going into birth and postpartum?
That this a sacred time, filled with transformation and growth on all levels. Women are filled with life force and are holding space for creating, maintaining, and giving birth to new life. There is no bigger feat. We are so powerful as women, being the keepers and bringers of life. This can also come with the dichotomy of pain, anxiety, discomfort etc. Just know this is natural and all part of the process of bringing life to this earth.
I believe we as women are here to support, nurture and mother each other through these times of change in our lives. Receive and give support when it is needed.
“The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong.” -Sark