Next, let us take a look at herbs to support the birth. Following are some tried and true suggestions. As with all herbal wisdom, look within to find what works best for you, and find what honors and fulfills your unique needs. This information is also good wisdom for a caregivers or partners supporting the birthing woman.
Remember, with due respect for the innate power of your body, the natural guidance of your inner wisdom, and the basic principle of the Wise Woman Tradition: First, do no harm.
Do nothing. And so, let us begin with this simple step. Trust your body, your mind, your soul. Trust the birthing process, and your baby. Chances are, you have within you everything you need to get through this wild ride and incredible journey that is birth!
Keep nourished. And keep hydrated. That said, most of us could use a little support – maybe not because we need it, but because we want it. It is fulfilling. So in looking at nourishment, let us not only consider the needs of the body, but of the mind and soul as well. After all, it is your whole being going through this process, and the whole being of the little one within you emerging. Herbs can naturally support you through this process. (We will discuss other comfort measures at a later date.)
- A wonderful nourishing tonic that continues to provide support through the birthing process is Nettles, Raspberry Leaf and Alfalfa. Consider making up a strong brew of these green goddesses, sweetened with a little honey (for the extra energy) and drinking as a room temperature tea, or storing in the freezer and sucking on as soothing ice cubes.
Speed up. There are time when speeding up the birthing process innately feels like the thing to do, or is encouraged by those supporting us. This may be a time of stalled labor – which is often best overcome with rest, relaxation, and enhancement to the comfort of your body, mind and soul. So, before you turn to herbs (and certainly anything stronger) to speed up the natural process, you may choose to start with dimming the lights, removing distractions and tensions, work through any fear, creating a calm and beautiful environment and see if your body responds in kind with an increase of natural hormones which serve to speed up the process. Remember, some births simply take their time. Honor your body and your baby by giving it time when possible. That said, if the labor does feel stalled and you would like the support of herbs for speeding up the process, please consider a tincture of one of the following:
- Bethroot – often called “Birthroot” – for a labor that feels stalled. This is known to strengthen contractions.
- Lobelia to relax and open the cervix.
- Ginger root to increase energy.
- Black and Blue Cohosh may be used with respect and care in labor only (do not use before 39 weeks) as a uterine tonic to speed up, or even get labor going.
- You also may wish to use Evening Primrose oil externally for aromatherapy and massage.
Slow down. Likewise are there times it may be best to slow down… This may seem counter intuitive – don’t we want it over as quickly as possible? Well, actually, there are times slowing down is just what a woman needs. Perhaps the contractions seem too intense and closely spaced that a woman may find it hard to gather her strength and even breathe deeply. Sometimes a slow-down period is what women intuitively need to regain and gather their inner resources. You may wish to begin by working on any relaxation “tools” such as meditation, visualization, rocking or rhythmic movements to calm and relax, chanting, moaning and/or directed breathing, low and slow.
- Otherwise, you may consider a tincture of Partridgeberry. This wonderful native medicine is used to support the uterus, and commonly chosen to ease labor pains and delivery.
- Passionflower, Hops, Skullcap or Valerian are all good choices – preferably in teas, though tinctures are quick and easy – to calm body, mind and soul.
- Consider too the calming effects of Lavender and Rose, which can be used as powerful and effective aromatherapy for relaxation. Essential oils are wonderful as candles, or in spritz bottles, massage oil or on a warm cloth.
Reduce pain and/or fear. As these two are known to be tightly related, I will treat them as one in the same. When we work to alleviate one, the self will naturally elevate from both. Fear and pain are as much a part of the mind and spirit as they are of the body. In the intensity of birth, when we look deep within our soul to find our inner wisdom, trust and faith, we are more able to let go of the tensions creating fear and pain. Further, when we let go of our control and surrender to the wisdom of the Divine, God or Goddess, and/or the eternal power of the birthing woman, we rise above the tensions creating fear and pain. This is a wonderful topic we will be exploring further at a later date.
- A tea or tincture of Skullcap and/or Motherwort are my first choice. These two Wild Women Herbs are strong and bitter, and powerful medicine for relieving tension, physical and emotional, in the intuitive woman.
- You may wish to add Catnip to your brew, known for its ability to calm and relax.
- Another good choice is Chamomile for its soothing and relaxing qualities.
- Tincture of Crampbark can be turned to for reducing discomfort from contractions.
- Johns Wort is powerful medicine recommended for alleviating pain and pressure, when used in small doses. The essential oil can also be used in a massage oil to reduce cramping and tightness.
- Clary Sage, as aromatherapy is noted for enhancing mental clarity and strength, while Geranium is known for supporting emotional balance.
- Essential oils of Jasmine and Citrus are noted for their ability to uplift spirits and sooth the soul.
- For calming and relaxing essential oils, please consider Lavender, Chamomile and Rose.
- Consider burning Sage to clarify the room for the new life entering.
- Finally, for reducing blood pressure, Susun Weed recommends a brew of Skullcap, Valerian and Hops – a cupful every hour or two if blood pressure readings are slightly elevated. This is an important one to remember – just in case.
- Be sure to remember Bach’s Rescue Remedy if the fear, pain and stress feel “out of control.”
Birth is a powerful, intense and innate journey. By their very nature, herbs may support you through this process, helping you gather wisdom and connection, and/or release and let go. Trust in the wisdom of our sister plants, and most importantly, in the wisdom within you.
Next we will look at herbs to support the postpartum period.