Postpartum University® Podcast

EP 140 Supporting the Postpartum Nervous System: 5 Holistic Strategies

November 28, 2023 Maranda Bower, Postpartum Nutrition Specialist
EP 140 Supporting the Postpartum Nervous System: 5 Holistic Strategies
Postpartum University® Podcast
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Postpartum University® Podcast
EP 140 Supporting the Postpartum Nervous System: 5 Holistic Strategies
Nov 28, 2023
Maranda Bower, Postpartum Nutrition Specialist

Supporting the postpartum nervous system is a critical part of recovery and long-term healing. 

Let's explore the changes the postpartum nervous system undergoes, why they matter, and how they contribute to well-being. 

In today's episode, we're sharing: 

  • What's happening with the nervous system after childbirth.
  • The role the nervous system plays in regulating other functions within the body. 
  • Holistic strategies that can be included in everyday routines (without adding more to your to-do list) that will support a healthy nervous system. 

The insight and practical steps I'm sharing here are strategies I actually use in my day-to-day life and have developed over 14 years of motherhood and four kids.
It's my hope that the strategies I'm sharing here are things you can start doing right away to enrich your own postpartum experience and support the mamas in your life.

Previous episodes referenced:
Nervous System Support with Lesha Nelson

Breath as Medicine with Cindy T. DeBonis

The Neuroscience Behind Nurturing Mom and Baby with Dr. Greer Kirshenbaum

Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about how you can actively revolutionize postpartum care?

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Supporting the postpartum nervous system is a critical part of recovery and long-term healing. 

Let's explore the changes the postpartum nervous system undergoes, why they matter, and how they contribute to well-being. 

In today's episode, we're sharing: 

  • What's happening with the nervous system after childbirth.
  • The role the nervous system plays in regulating other functions within the body. 
  • Holistic strategies that can be included in everyday routines (without adding more to your to-do list) that will support a healthy nervous system. 

The insight and practical steps I'm sharing here are strategies I actually use in my day-to-day life and have developed over 14 years of motherhood and four kids.
It's my hope that the strategies I'm sharing here are things you can start doing right away to enrich your own postpartum experience and support the mamas in your life.

Previous episodes referenced:
Nervous System Support with Lesha Nelson

Breath as Medicine with Cindy T. DeBonis

The Neuroscience Behind Nurturing Mom and Baby with Dr. Greer Kirshenbaum

Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about how you can actively revolutionize postpartum care?

Read the transcript of this episode:

Depression, anxiety, and autoimmune symptoms after birth is not how it's supposed to be. There is a much better way, and I'm here to show you how to do just that. Hey, my friend, I'm Maranda Bower, a mother to four kids and a biology student turned scientist obsessed with changing the world through postpartum care. Join us as we talk to mothers and the providers who serve them and getting evidence-based information that actually supports the mind, body, and soul in the years after birth.

5 holistic ways to support your postpartum nervous system

No matter where you are in your postpartum journey, whether you're six weeks postpartum or six years, these are going to change your life and I'm going to get really personal with you.

Why Nervous System Support is Important and How to Implement Practices With a Busy Schedule


Your nervous system plays a monumental role in your postpartum experience and in your life experience. It's your emotional compass, your resilience booster, your stress manager,  the undercurrent that influences every aspect of your life during this significant period.

But it took me a long time to fully grasp the significance of the postpartum nervous system. It wasn't a concept that I was introduced to in the typical postpartum literature. It wasn't something that I stumbled on until after my own postpartum journeys and I felt like I was completely failing them.

I had postpartum depression, I had major postpartum anxiety, I was having panic attacks. Things were really not working out for me so well, and obviously, this is happening to so many other mommas out there.

What we are experiencing in terms of mental health is an absolute epidemic.

We know that these changes are taking place within our bodies, but what we don't recognize is that there's a massive change that is taking place in our nervous system as well, and so I'm not going to get into the intricacies of those.

I dive into those in other episodes and so I'm going to definitely connect you to those pieces and those episodes in the show notes.
Nervous System Support with Lesha Nelson
Breath as Medicine with Cindy T. DeBonis
The Neuroscience Behind Nurturing Mom and Baby with Dr. Greer Kirshenbaum

Nervous System Strategies for Everyday Life

I will tell you I am not perfect. I am still learning about my nervous system. I'm still learning how to support it. It changes as I grow as a person, and that's the beautiful part about the journey to constantly be able to be tuned in to your body and to listen to the different things that you might need and to go with that flow.

So in today's episode, I want to share with you what I've learned the holistic approaches, and let's just get right into this, okay?

So paying attention to your nervous system in postpartum is of profound importance because it affects multiple areas of your life. It's your stress response. The postpartum period is stressful. It involves significant physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes, and relationship changes, and these stressors can activate your body's fight or flight.

As a matter of fact, the birth experience does this all on its own, and if we have a traumatic birth or we have very little support in the postpartum period, we have a massive stress response and that can lead to anxiety, depression, other mental health issues, especially because the brain is being rewired.

In the postpartum period, there's a lot of rewiring going on. Your nervous system is undergoing a huge, massive reboot, and reshift.
The way we experience stress and the way we experience healing is going to be completely altered.

Which way is this going to go? Is it going to feel good or is it not going to feel good?

The nervous system is also helping us regulate emotions. The sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system play a role in this regulation. They help balance the systems so that we feel emotional well-being and if we don't, those imbalances lead to things like mood swings, irritability, and emotional instability, which we call common in postpartum and (hint hint), not common.

It also plays a role in our physical healing. It's so tied to the way we digest foods, our metabolic rates, and everything in and of itself.

Everything is so interconnected. Oftentimes science has this tendency to compartmentalize the parts of our bodies, and in postpartum it becomes really obvious how untrue and unsupportive that compartmentalization is because everything blends in so much with each other and so our physical healing also is greatly impacted by our nervous system regulation or dysregulation, and that also plays a role in hormone regulation.

It plays a role in bonding and social connections and our self-care and coping strategies.

When you understand your nervous system, you can help develop these self-care practices and coping strategies and actually get yourself in a position to where you no longer need coping strategies.

I think as a society, we've gotten so stuck on how do we cope with our life. Rather than creating a life that you don't need to cope with, that you actually enjoy and you appreciate and want to be a part of, not something that you need a vacation from.

Such a different way of looking at things. I recognize and in the very beginning, when I was going through my postpartum experience for my son, when I had severe depression and anxiety and I was having panic attacks, things were I couldn't even get out of bed, like the only thing that got me out of my bed was my son and seeing the look on his face and knowing that he needed his diaper changed and he needed rocking and he needed a lot of care.

He was actually a really high-needs baby. He wanted me all the time and that probably was the case because he felt my dysregulation and my dysregulation really influenced his and created dysregulation in his body. Those are so intrinsically linked and an episode in and of itself.

But he needed a lot and I needed a lot, and we both didn't have anything. I became a single mother very, very early on in my postpartum journey with him, which did not help my mental health. It did not help my stress levels whatsoever. It was intense.

The last thing I thought about was how am I going to live a life that feels like a vacation? That was not a part of the thoughts that were going through my head. They were solely on how do I survive this moment? How do I get out of this intricate little moment that's happening right here? How do I get through my day? I just want to make it to tomorrow. Oftentimes I didn't even want to do that, but I had a son and I knew I had to. I knew I had to.

What I'm going to share with you? My strategies, are strategies that I still use today. I want to tell you that these are small, intricate things that you can incorporate into your daily life without having to do something extra.

Actually, I strongly believe that we don't need something extra in our life. We need less. It's not about needing more nervous system capacity. It's about needing fewer things that take our nervous system out of order.

In my Mama Thrive method when I talk about this, it really truly is a lifestyle change. We have to do what is out of the ordinary to create a life that feels good. Here's a couple of things that I've used.

5 Holistic Ways to Support the Postpartum Nervous System


Journaling was actually one of the first things that I did in my postpartum experience. I remember thinking how am I going to do this? How am I going to get out of it? I thought you know what I heard about this thing called journaling. I'm just going to do it. I'm just going to journal.

I loved journaling as a kid and thought I should return to it. I remember one time it was nine o'clock at night. I spent over an hour trying to put my kid down for a nap because he was fighting me or putting him down for bed. I was exhausted, absolutely exhausted.

I thought you know what I got to do this. I have so much that's going on in my head. The mental load that we carry as women and as mothers is significant. It's not something that anyone can truly understand unless you have been in that space unless you are there and understand that constant flow, and I just needed somewhere to release it.

That's really what journaling is all about is the releasing of that mental flow of stuff and understanding it for what it is. This one evening of fighting him for an hour, putting him down in his bed, and I lit a candle and I grabbed my journal and I just started writing and writing and writing and writing, and an hour went by and I felt immense relief from that.

Not only relief, but sheer exhaustion on another level, because I finally just let go of so much weight that I could finally fall asleep in a way that I hadn't been able to as somebody who was dealing with anxiety and depression. Sleep was so challenging and I remember just closing that book and blowing out that candle and crashing right then on the couch.

I crashed on the couch and I slept probably like an hour and a half, because then, of course, my son had to wake up and nurse. But it was like the best hour and a half of my life and I knew that I had to do something with that and I made that a part of my day and sometimes it didn't happen.

Sometimes it didn't happen for a solid week, plus life gets in the way kids get sick, things happen. But I always came back to it.

Today I am an avid journal, a journaler I don't even think that's a word, but I journal often and I actually journal twice a day.

I journal in the morning and then I journal at night, and sometimes my journals in the morning are usually pretty short and sweet, about five minutes maybe, and then my journals at night are pretty extensive.

It's my time to really get into my day the things that I was thinking about, the things that were on my heart, just kind of releasing them from my body, but also being able to recognize, like why I might've been feeling the way that I did. It helps me really articulate my emotions.

Sometimes I feel so deeply and maybe this is you, maybe it's not, but I have a hard time putting things into words it becomes really difficult.

So when I go to write, sometimes things don't wanna come out right, like I sit there and I say I don't even know what to write, I feel really frustrated or I'm feeling really sad in the moment. I don't know why, I don't understand.

And then there's like a flow, like well, it kind of started today after this incident and then I'd write about what happened in my day or what somebody had said to me, and it just kind of flows from there and then eventually, within 10 minutes and sometimes even 30 minutes, I'll have an actual answer and I'll be like, wow, that goes back to some childhood trauma or that goes back to this fear that I have of XYZ, and I didn't even recognize it. And so there's like this learning that happens within, where I get to understand myself, where I get to know myself.

That was so important to me in postpartum because I felt like I was so lost. I had no idea who I was. Things that brought me joy once in my life no longer brought me joy. I lost my relationship. I was living at home with my parents. I had zero, what felt like zero autonomy. I like completely lost myself.

Journaling provided me a means of self-discovery once again and that was so beautiful for me and I still, to this day, cherish that and I use that and it still helps me today understand who I am as a person and to do so at a different level, obviously, but it's something that has been put into my life as a lifestyle change. It is now incorporated into my life and that feels really beautiful.


So let's talk about meditation for a second too, because this was also really key for me. I think the idea of meditation, you know, sitting in a one-spot for several hours and or having our minds go blank, is the stereotypical response to meditation.

But that is not what meditation is. Especially in motherhood, there's no time for that, so I didn't discover this right away.

Journaling was my main go-to in the very early stages of my postpartum. Meditation happened later and I recognized this meditation. Sometimes you can even call it prayer, you can call it all sorts of different things, but it was something that I recognized myself doing and times where I had to just do stuff right fold laundry, do the dishes, clean out the car, vacuum the floor, make a meal, like the mundane tasks that not necessarily, like you, don't always want to do, but they're necessary components to life.

They're just something that you have to do and oftentimes they're placed on our shoulders as moms, and these are the things and the care practices that we do for our homes for our children, and even for ourselves.

It feels oftentimes like the mundane, but meditation is really about bringing in that sacredness to the mundane, to not just being grateful for you know, I've heard these strategies and I think they're legit, they work.

But, you know, doing dishes and being grateful that you had food to put on those dishes, or folding laundry and being grateful that you have, you know, clothes to fold and that you can change into multiple clothes per day and that you have the ability to wash them. Yes, those are key, important things that you can do.

Practicing gratitude is a form of meditation, but also just being in the moment and taking deep breaths and connecting with yourself as you're doing those tasks.

You're folding this piece of laundry, taking a deep breath in and taking a deep breath out, and just being with yourself, feeling the movement of your body and listening in.

When was the last time I got to use the bathroom? How much water do I need right now, at this moment? When was the last time I got some protein?

Doing so very methodologically, just taking in those deep breaths slowly and paying attention to yourself, and those became my moments of joy, like I really looked forward to those moments of folding laundry and doing dishes. In those mundane times I seriously, to this day, I still enjoy those.

Now I have these moments where I don't. I've had moments where they don't feel good at all and I don't want anything to do with them.

But oftentimes, when I'm connecting in with myself again, which has become part of my lifestyle, it's not even something that I necessarily have to do anymore. It's just because it's already something that my body does. When I go into folding the laundry and doing the dishes and changing the kids' bedsheets or scrubbing the couch with the dog's nose after he dug a hole in the backyard.

Those are real-life things that happen to us on the regular and we can find peace in those moments.

I often relate it to my husband going to the bathroom for 20-plus minutes and we all have it, we all know it. It's like such a stereotypical joke our husbands can escape to the bathroom for 20-plus minutes and they feel good. That is their release time, metaphorically and literally.

But also it is a time to disconnect and they can connect with themselves or zone out on their phone or whatever it is.

But this is my moment. I don't want to zone out on my phone in the bathroom or I don't want to sit there on the toilet. That does not feel like a good place for me to be.

But what does feel good is being in the moment of serving my family by doing the dishes or doing the laundry or whatever task it is at hand.

Scrubbing the couch, vacuuming the floors, sweeping for the hundredth time that day, whatever it is, that can feel good because I'm connecting and tuning in with myself during those moments. So this isn't, you know again, this is not adding more things to your plate. It is simply giving yourself a new way of doing something that you're already doing.

Conscious Awareness

Another thing that's been really helpful is this conscious awareness and being very aware of the thoughts that come up.

For me, especially when you know this idea of meditation. Or I'm sitting there doing a household chore that I have to do every single day or cooking a meal, or whatever. There's like these thoughts that are constantly coming into my head oh, I got to do this, I got to call that. Or I have to schedule the kids for their dental appointment. Oh, Gabby's got her gymnastics banquet, I got to bring some food.

What am I going to do, like all of the thoughts that are being thrown at my head and taking a moment, I will have like a notebook next to me or even my phone. I have like a little list thing on my phone where I just like, oh, I need to remember that.

And so I'm like thanks, brain, for bringing that to my attention. I'm going to write that down and if it comes up for me again, then I can be like I already got that covered and just move on and go back to connecting in with myself.

And so again that that writing you know you can do with that in the journaling.

But for me, that conscious awareness of my thoughts, what's coming up for me? How can I remove them so that I'm not constantly thinking about all the things I've got to do?

And then also asking for support for those, like, once you become consciously aware of them, you know, ask for support, get the thing off your to-do list, make time in your schedule to maintain that or take care of that or release it, let it go.

But also conscious awareness and our thoughts our feelings and our emotions. You know like I get here's getting personal with you.

I get so frustrated sometimes when my kids don't listen to me and I feel deeply frustrated, more so than what I thought would be the thing or like a thing or that other people would do.

So, one, I'm comparing myself to others, which is not healthy, right? And two, it's okay not to feel good when your children listen and don't listen to you or when somebody doesn't listen to you.

But for me, this has been like a forever thing and it might sound so obvious and maybe you've experienced it or maybe it's your thing, but this is such a childhood trauma of feeling not heard and not listened to and that just came to me not too long ago. I was like, oh my gosh, I've been dealing with this.

I've been a parent now for 14 years and I've always like trying to figure this out, but it's because I've been giving myself this conscious awareness and this attention. And yeah, you know what? Sometimes it takes 14 freaking years to make something happen and come to your fruition and you can get it and understand it and work with it and support it.

Right, and sometimes it doesn't take that long, right? Sometimes it's just a matter of, oh, now I'm consciously aware of it, oh, this is why I'm feeling like these emotions and now I can communicate it, or now I can do something about it.

There are so many different aspects of it, but just being consciously aware of the thoughts and the emotions and the feelings that are coming up for you, get them out of your mind, journal on them, do whatever it is that you need to do, meditate on them and while you're doing the dishes, I prefer to connect in with myself during those times but find something that works for you.

TRE therapy

Here's another component TRE therapy. Highly recommend looking it up. I wrote about it in my book Reclaiming Postpartum Wellness, but it is.

It's also known as shaking therapy and it's really putting your body into a state of shaking so that you are physically removing the store trauma within your body. And this is a fun activity. You can do it with your kids. This isn't something that you have to do alone.

Personally, I do it right before bed. I'll hop in my bed and I can put myself immediately because I have a lot of experience and you might take a little bit longer as you're learning, but for the first five minutes I'll do shaking and it's just legit removing the trauma that's been stored in my body, as we know, right this might maybe this sounds a little bit funny to you.

We know that when we go through a very stressful situation, whether it's something that happened to us in our day-to-day lives, or if it was something more significant, maybe a deeper challenge or a trauma that has happened we store that within the cellular within ourselves. We also pass this down to our children. It's a mechanism that has supported us in deep healing.

We know that the trauma of the generations before us are stored within our bodies on a cellular level. We store seven generations of family trauma, not just our own. We see this repeatedly. This is science. This is not woo. You can definitely go look it up. There's a lot to this.

It affects your genetics, epigenetics, the way your body responds within the environment and so many different components. This is a way in which we can help eliminate that on a physical level. You might be somebody who's like you know what TRE therapy. That sounds funky.

Go look it up. I have so many resources for you.

If you're on my mama mailing list, you get that immediately. If you have my book Reclaiming Postpartum Wellness, you have special access to the workbook space where you can go in and download an actual how-to video and have all of the resources for it. If it's something that you love and you benefit from amazing. If it's not, that's fine.

There are other things out there that you can do. Go dance it off, go hula hoop, go do pole dancing, go do running. Whatever it is that you need to physically remove the trauma from your body, do that. Tre therapy has been easiest and most effective in my life. But again, whatever it is that you choose, here's the other one. I mentioned this earlier.

Time Outside

It's time outside time with nature, nature therapy as it's now called, which is so silly because it's not therapy. It is just a way that we are supposed to live.

In this modern world, we just don't get access to that so much. We're so busy and we can easily incorporate nature into our lives.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a plant or buying some fancy waterfalls to put in the corner of your house. Those are amazing things that I've heard people do before. But just going out and taking a walk around your neighborhood or sitting up against a tree or putting your bare feet in grass, are really grounding techniques that can just help us immensely.

We see this on a scientific level. We know that our metabolism slows down when we're in nature, that our heart rate is regulated, our blood pressure is regulated, and that we are just calm and feel good in nature.

There's a deeper connection there to Mother Earth and to the birthing and to womanhood that is so intrinsically connected there on a level that goes beyond this episode. But it's such a beautiful thing and it's easy to incorporate in our lives.

When we have children, it's that time out at the park, go sit next to that tree or go sit in the grass and take your shoes off for a moment and just be in that space while your kid goes and plays on the playground again, incorporating this into your everyday life and eventually it just becomes that Mama Thrive method.

It becomes the lifestyle change that you so know that you need.

I know that I am in a good healing place. I think often there's healing work to be done. Always it's a never-ending journey and always tuning in and paying attention.

But I know that I am in a good place when I'm enjoying my body and my mind and I feel peace within myself. I know that I am healing well or healed whatever word that you want to use or that I'm conscious or in a good place eventually and emotionally whatever you want to know or call it or whatever it is for you I enjoy my mind and my body. I find peace in it.

I also hold more compassion for others and I see when they react to their own unresolved traumas and I don't get angry or hurt. It's not something that I take to heart. I also feel I'm in the right space when I'm able to hold boundaries and self-respect for myself and I'm caring for my body and listening in and prioritizing myself and seeing the benefits and I'm holding no guilt for it. These are just things that I do.

Lifestyle changes they're just a part of who I am. I still have deep emotions. I still have big emotions, but I do so unapologetically and without feeling like something is wrong with me.

I still make big human mistakes, but I don't beat myself up over them, at least not often. It's really easy for me to apologize and let go and move on most of the time, still human, still working through those things.


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But really these lifestyle choices and these changes have really helped me regulate my nervous system in such a way that I don't even have to think about regulating my nervous system because it's already just a part of who I am.

It's already a part of my lifestyle and by me incorporating these things and starting off in really small pieces, this wasn't something that I just all of a sudden like, oh, I'm going to integrate journaling and meditation and doing all of these things and everything is going to be golden. No, that's not how it works.

There's an ebb and a flow and you're going to see like parts of your life where, hey, this doesn't work. I remember this one period of time where doing the dishes for me was absolutely impossible because I had a screaming baby like it was the time when they needed me the most. I had very needy babies so I would spend after dinner time not being able to focus on cleaning my house, not being able to do the things that allow me meditation.

It was the sole focus of taking care of my baby and supporting them and whatever it is that they needed as deeply as possible and then feeling like I'm going to pass out afterward right and honoring that, not feeling guilty for it, allowing myself to fall asleep next to them and know that that is the best of decisions for the both of us. That in itself is so healing and supportive of the nervous system just being in those moments and allowing that to transpire.

And sometimes that still happens right? Sick kids happen, the craziness of life happens back to back, events that happen.

Like this past weekend was grandma's birthday and then we had a gymnastics competition meet, the first of the season, so there were a lot of nerves.

We've got all of the different things going on, followed by parent-teacher conferences, and it's like how in the world are we fitting it all in?

But we do, and we do so gently and carefully and, again, not perfectly, but these are a part of our lifestyles and I really encourage you to embrace this knowledge and the understanding of nurturing your nervous system and how powerful that is, what a powerful tool it is that you can bring to your life and how that can create such positive and fulfilling experiences for you, not just in postpartum but beyond postpartum.

It's OK to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. By tending to your nervous system and managing stress, you're not only benefiting yourself, but also the well-being of your baby and your family. Postpartum is this journey. It's an unfolding and it's going to have challenges. But with the right tools and the knowledge and self-compassion which you can build up to, with the use of nervous system regulation support, you have the ability to create a joyful life in postpartum and beyond. And truly it begins with just one step.

I am so grateful you turned into the Postpartum University podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode enough to leave us a quick review and, more importantly, I hope more than ever that you take what you've learned here, apply it to your own life, and consider joining us in the Postpartum University membership. It's a private space where mothers and providers learn the real truth and the real tools needed to heal in the years to come and the real tools needed to heal in the years Postpartum. You can learn more at www.postpartumu. That's the letter We'll see you next week.

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