Transcript: Women’s Holistic Health: Helping With Fertility, Pregnancy and Postpartum
As a baby massage instructor, I’m a big fan of holistic health and the many wonderful ways it can help. Women’s holistic health is no exception and there’s some great help on offer for fertility, pregnancy and postpartum.
In this episode I speak with Holly Leever who is a women’s holistic health practitioner and you’ll hear from Holly about practices she uses to help women in these areas, including yoni steaming, arvigo abdominal massage and acupuncture.
Hi, Holly and welcome to First time Mum’s chat. I’m really excited to have you here. When we first spoke, you told me all about steaming and that really intrigued me because I thought it would be great for moms as well as for me.
So can we start by just telling us a bit more about yourself and why you’re so passionate about what you do? Sure, thank you so much for having me. My name is Holly lever and I have a business called Rosebud wellness and I’m an acupuncturist first. I’ve added some additional trainings over the years.
Yoni steaming, which is what you were just talking about. It’s also sometimes called vaginal steaming. So if people aren’t familiar with the term Yoni I can talk a little bit more about why I prefer to use that term over vaginal steaming. I also practice Arvigo abdominal massage as well.
So I specialize in women’s health. I work a lot with fertility, with pregnancy and also with postpartum. Those are my main areas of interest. I’m very passionate about working with women overall in period related or gynecological conditions like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, things like that.
The abdominal massage, I presume is good for everything but as a pregnant woman, I guess that’s really helpful for moms who are pregnant.
Does it help move the baby, or what is it? Will it help with back issues and all that kind of stuff? Well, actually most of the time when I use Arvigo abdominal massage, I’m doing it for women that have period related issues, are working on fertility and it’s actually contraindicated in the early phases of pregnancy or if you could possibly be pregnant.
So for example, if a woman is in her fertile window and she has sex and could potentially be pregnant, so there’s a two-week window where you kind of don’t know if you’re pregnant or not. So during that time, it wouldn’t be advised to do the massage. It’s basically like you’re not wanting to get any movement into the uterus while implantation is happening in the early stages of pregnancy. So you don’t actually do the abdominal massage until 20 weeks when you can start doing it again. And there is a separate screening for pregnancy that I have not taken yet. I was about to, and then COVID happened. So that kind of thing messed with a lot of things, because it’s a very hands-on type of course, which wasn’t possible at that time. I did receive the massage while I was pregnant. I reached out to this woman that does the massage and she has taken the pregnancy training and she was the one that told me that I had to wait until I was 20 weeks, which was hard to wait because I really wanted to have the experience.
Basically it’s very similar to how massage always is, but it’s definitely more gentle. It’s still a firm pressure but with the abdominal massage outside of pregnancy you’re getting very deep pressure and sort of like pulling up and in on the uterus to try to get it back into alignment.
That’s not the situation with pregnancy. You’re kind of more, firmly but gently guiding the uterus into more of a centralized position. And then also there’s a portion of the massage that is done on the back primarily the pelvis and the sacrum and the coccsyx, which is your tailbone.
And so that part, you do side lying. So you lie one side at a time, because once you’re that pregnant, you can’t lie down on your back. Then at the end of that massage, which is the same when I do an abdominal massage on anybody, I also teach them a self-care portion where they learn how to do the front portions of the massage themselves.
She taught me that during my pregnancy and how it was a little bit different basically just keeping my hands brighter and all of the markers for like where you’re pulling towards, we’re slightly different because your anatomy just shifts so much during pregnancy. And I really loved doing that.
I would usually do it at night throughout my pregnancy. There’s also a gentle spiral, that’s a clockwise spiral that you do at the end to sort of like close the experience and just kind of say goodnight to your baby. So that was really a sweet little bonding experience for me and my daughter and she did move a lot during the massage, which she would do during meditations or Shavasana or yoga as well.
So it seemed to me like a little bit of dancing around. This was mostly what I experienced with it in terms of the baby. That sounds lovely. Being pregnant and being able to massage and getting that bonding, cause I know the feeling from baby massage, because when they come out and you massage them, you’re still having that bonding experience.
I know with baby massage, I always go in a clockwise direction because that’s the way the digestive system moves. Is that the same as abdominal massage as well? You always have to go in, in a clockwise direction because it’s the way the digestive system moves.
Yep. That’s exactly why. So when I’m teaching people, the self-care massage, for example, a lot of people, because they’re the way that the spiral is, is that you start kind of right on top of your belly button and then you spiral outward and then you spiral back in and you do that three times. And so when you’re spiraling, either out or back in people often want to switch directions, because it’s just kind of like, oh, you go the opposite way. I’m always having to tell people yeah, like you the whole time you’re staying in a clockwise direction, even though you’re shifting, the size of your circle or your spiral. It’s exactly because of the way that the digestive system naturally moves.
Does it do any harm to your baby if you do it in another way? I mean, it doesn’t for baby massage, from what I understand, it doesn’t matter if you go in the wrong direction, but you’re not benefiting, you’re not doing anything for your bowel, whereas if you go in a clockwise direction, you are actually benefiting the bowel and shifting all those bubbles and getting all that constipation and all that, excuse the expression, but all that poo out of the other side. If when you’re pregnant, you do the abdominal massage anticlockwise, is that going to do any harm?
No, I think it’s the same kind of thing. It’s just not as beneficial.So let’s talk about this lovely Yona steaming, which I’m really intrigued about, because I looked at your website and I sort of thought, Ooh, I could do this myself and I looked at your video, was it on YouTube and I thought, wow, this looks amazing. So I’ll, I usually start with the term Yoni because most people aren’t familiar with it. I know that I wasn’t when I first learned about it so Yoni is a Sanskrit word and it basically translates to the entire female reproductive system.
So to call it vaginal steaming is just kind of focusing on the vagina, which we know but there’s so much more to it than that. And it has the steam, in particular it has such a further reach than just the vaginal canal too. So I think it’s important to make that distinction. So it can be used for a number of things.
Because I work a lot with fertility, a lot of people come for that and there isn’t a specific fertility steaming protocol per se. I mostly look at a woman’s menstrual history. If they’ve had previous pregnancies, for example if there’s any kind of symptoms or complications or syndromes or anything like that, that’s what I’m taking into consideration when I choose herbs or the specific days of their cycle, that they would want to steam and how long they would steam for.
And then we also take into consideration, any other digestive issues or anything like that, so it can be complex, but it can also be really simple if your periods are pretty straightforward too. So that’s why I do consults for Yoni steaming. If it’s a little bit more complicated what a woman is working on, then it’s helpful to have somebody guide you through that.
So the way to set up a steam is basically you take some sort of clean water source, so filtered water would work. Then you fill up a pot like a stainless steel or ceramic pot, three quarters of the way with a clean water source and then you put in whatever herbs you’re going to use. I also have a shop on my website.
There’s lots of different herb blends. If you’re familiar with different herbs that grow around where you live you can also just use fresh herbs or you can dry them, if you prefer to do that, either one is fine. A lot of it is just playing with what feels good to you, but I would just advise people to be familiar with what they’re working on. It’s not going to cause any side effects or anything like that. Like rose lavender, sage comfrey, calendula, those kinds of things are lovely to work with. Things that smell really good too are nice.
So you’ll add whatever herbs you’re going to be using and then you’ll boil the herbs for 10 minutes and you can even just burn them on your stove. I’ll just talk about the basic setup and then I’ll set them up differently. So you can just boil the herbs on the stove for 10 minutes and then you take off the lid off of the pot and you’ll want it to cool down a little bit from that initial boil before you actually sit over it.
There’s a lot of Yoni steam haters out there. A lot of times people will say, oh, you’re gonna burn yourself. If you’re comfortable with cooking hot items and waiting for them to cool down enough so that you can comfortably eat them, then you can do the same thing with steaming.
So it’s just waiting for it to be a comfortable temperature. And so a lot of times I hold my wrist over it just to bring a sensitive area, to test the temperature. Sometimes my wrist says it’s okay, but it’s still too warm for my Yoni. So just know that if, if you sit over it and it’s still a little too hot, just get out of there and wait a little bit longer.
Then you sit over the pot and I’ll talk in a second about the different ways to set up, but basically you’ll just be over the steam in some position for 10 to 45 minutes. The timeframe depends on what you’re working with. The general rule of thumb is 30 minutes for most people, if you don’t have any contraindications for doing that length of a steam, but if you have an IUD (birth control Intrauterine Device) no matter if it’s hormonal or not, you can only steam for 10 minutes.
When you do your first steam, it’s good to start with 10 minutes and just kind of see how you do. If you’re prone to really heavy, spontaneous bleeding, you would only do 10 minutes. There should be no steaming during your period during like the active, fresh red bleeding phase and no steaming during pregnancy.
The exception to that, which is interesting to talk about is doing it for labor preparation, which doesn’t start until you’re 38 weeks, but that just basically helps to ripen your cervix and just kind of soften all of the tissues in your pelvic area. That is something that I did for my own labor preparation.
I had a pretty efficient first birth and I don’t know if it was specifically because of my steaming. But there’s a blog on my website about that. Specifically what I did and what herbs I used and things, but there is some nuance to using it for that, like there is with using it for anything.
Now I want to go back to the different set ups. So the first scene setup is considered the mild which is if you’re doing it for 10 to 15 minutes and you don’t have a heat source underneath the pot throughout your steam. So you’re relying on the initial boil that kept your herbs warm and then just however long it takes for the steam to completely cool off where you can’t feel it anymore. So that’s the 10 to 15 minute range.
So you can put the entire pot in the toilet. I’ve had many people ask me if you pour the herbs and the water into the toilet water, but please don’t do that. You just basically put the entire pot into the toilet bowl. So it’s just using the toilet bowl as a vessel to hold the pot.
Then you just sit over. You sit on the toilet and it’s basically just to hold in the steam and give you a comfortable place to sit. Some people especially more recently have been kind of skeeved out by that, not wanting to use the toilet. So every time I tell somebody to put a pot in a toilet, I say, this is your Yoni steam pot.
Just leave it in the bathroom and don’t ever bring it back into your kitchen. So for hygiene purposes, definitely only use the pot for that purpose moving forward. Other people have been concerned also just because what’s inside the toilet bowl. So I would just advise for people to clean the toilet bowl prior to steaming with some kind of natural cleaner, so you’re not like bleaching it right before you steam in there. Still some people didn’t want to do that and I do kind of understand. It’s nice to kind of make it a little bit of a ritual. You certainly don’t have to make this big thing out of it, but I, I do find that it’s more relaxing and I feel like I get more out of it if I really make it a beautiful experience. I found that a little bit harder to do using the toilet. So there is another way that you could do a mild steam setup without purchasing any additional materials would be, and not everybody’s going to be comfortable in this position. I’ll, I’ll try to describe it.
So you’re on your hands and knees and I usually put a pillow underneath my knees so that they’re not digging into the floor. Then you put the pot underneath your hips and you bring your hands, interlace your hands and come down on to your elbows and just rest like that.
So you’re fully supported because if you were just like standing or squatting, you would get fatigued pretty quickly, but that’s the way to keep your upper body supported. You do need to have a certain level of hip flexibility in order to be comfortable in that position even for 10 minutes. Doing it that way, you would also want to wrap your lower body in a blanket.
I made a video it’s on my Instagram, so if, if people want to go check that out, it’s, it’s a reel on my Instagram of me showing, demoing that position. It shows like all the steps, like boiling the herbs, getting into the position and then covering yourself with a blanket and the end position.
I’d like to get that onto my YouTube channel, but I just haven’t done that yet. So that’s the other way and then the advanced steam setup, where if you were going to do a 30 or 45 minute steam, for example, you would need to have some kind of heat source in order to keep the water hot for that long and to keep the steam going.
So I just use a little hot plate, basically a little electric hot plate, and I put it underneath my steam sauna, which is basically just like a wooden box that has a hole cut out of it. Mine is like a diamond shape. They have just circles and there’s advantages to the different shapes. I personally like a little bit of a wider one.
You can imagine it to be more comfortable and so the one that I have right now is, is really beautiful with the diamond shape, but it, I don’t like the feeling of it as much as I have another one with a bigger hole. So you put the hot plate and then you could do the initial boil on that hot plate, and then you would just turn it down on to low, take the lid off, put the sauna over it, and then you would just sit down.
The same thing you might need to sit down, oh, that’s too hot and then stand back up again and pull down. Then you could just be there for 30 to 45 minutes. A 45 minutes steam would be appropriate for somebody that has a lot of stagnation which would be indicated by having cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, as long as they don’t have really heavy bleeding in conjunction with that, with the endometriosis.
Or if there was a lot of dark blood or clots, for example, or a lot of pain prior to, or, and, or during your period. So for period pain, for example, this is where all the different protocols, depending on what you’re working with, come in.
For period pain, because that’s something that a lot of people can relate to, the general protocol is to steam one to three days before your period starts. So if you have a really regular cycle or if you’re tracking with fertility awareness or something, and you pretty much know, right when your period’s going to come, you can steam before the period.
Then at the end of your period, you can start steaming then. It’s basically just during the fresh red bleeding that you don’t see. When we first talked, this is something that I was intrigued about Yoni steaming, but before we had this interview, I asked you about a pap smear because I said, when I have my pap smears, they’re really, really painful and I really don’t like them because it’s just so tight and so painful. I think you said, that Yoni steaming would be good for that.
If I wanted to go ahead and do something like that at home, how would I work with what you’ve just said? Have you got any herbs on your website that I can use for that particular part of Yoni steaming, because I think it would be so helpful for me, cause it’s just so painful when I have pap smears, I hate them? So I would put that in the category of people that have pain with, with sex or with like inserting a tampon. Which I don’t know if you would specifically say that this is exactly what you’re experiencing, but have you ever heard of the condition called vaginismus? If you’re too, and there are huge varying degrees, where some women can’t insert anything it’s like completely closed up and tight and then other women experience pain, trying to insert anything.
That’s been my personal experience with having a speculum inserted, having sex, inserting a tampon. All of it has been really painful for me and what I’ve observed is that with regular steaming that has been much less and the times when I would kind of not be so good about myself care, that it would come back and it would start to be painful again.
So, basically, you could try to steam just before you’re going to have an appointment, but probably what would be better is if you did it weekly, for example, just to get your body used to softening for things like that too, pelvic PT was something else that I did.
I know it’s not really related to something I do, but there are actually a lot of people that do Arvigo abdominal massage that have also studied with Tami Lynn Kent, which is something I would like to do, but haven’t done yet. They do holistic pelvic care, which is similar to pelvic PT.
I’ve talked about it before, but I, I don’t exactly know how they differ. I would imagine that the holistic pelvic care takes into consideration, some more of the energetics and pelvic PT is more like anatomical. I did find that very helpful too but regular steaming and weekly is kind of just a general rule of thumb.
There was a period of time where, just for experimentation purposes I was steaming almost every single day just because it was a thing that I liked and had time for at that time. In terms of herbs, it kind of depends. I mean, I would say just the steam alone would be helpful. But also if there’s some dryness issue, which sometimes there can be when there’s pain with inserting anything the moisturizing blend could be nice for that if there’s any dryness. Then in general, my most sort of universal blend is called the clearing blend. So both of those could be, could be options for something like that.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds it painful but I don’t have periods anymore luckily. I’m really pleased that I don’t, but I used to find putting tampons in really hard. I forced myself to do it because I prefer that than having pads, but I used to find it so painful. So yeah. It’s interesting. That’s a good tip for moms to know that because I used to find that really, really painful.
One other thing I wanted to mention about steaming since this is a moms podcast is mostly what it has been historically used for is postpartum.Things that it’s doing are to clear out the lochia, which is the blood and tissue that’s left over after childbirth that is why you bleed for six weeks after you give birth. Most people bleed for that length of time. It’s different for everybody but it helps to make sure that your body completely clears that because if it doesn’t, you could potentially have more painful periods and some other issues that crop up over the years, if it’s not completely cleared out. It also helps the uterus go back to its original size and can help with swelling or, and also if you have, I didn’t experience this, but some women can feel their uterus contracting back and particularly while they’re nursing, they can feel almost like contractions basically. Like cramps in their belly. So it can help to alleviate those as well. It can also help with breast milk supply because the menstrual blood and the milk in Chinese medicine are viewed as having the same source. So one of the things that steaming, depending on what herbs you choose to use, can help with is preventing an early period return. This is just very general information. It’s so individualized that I don’t want anybody to think that something’s wrong if they had a different experience, but for a lot of women, the period will stay away while you’re nursing for a certain length of time. The reason for that is to make sure that you are producing enough milk and if you were bleeding and producing milk at the same time, that would be really depleting for your system.
Some of the herbs can help to prevent your body from getting your period back too early. That would potentially deplete your health basically is how it is looked at. There are some people, like my acupuncture mentor, for example, that was able to bleed and have breast milk and still be very robust and healthy. So this is just like a general rule of thumb that preventing, not preventing the period from coming back too early is part of how that works.
I know some women when they give birth they tear and if you’ve got stitches, is it advisable to use that because I would have thought it might dissolve the stitches. Definitely yes, it can help with tearing and with pain and yes, you can steam when you have stitches.
So definitely it can help with that. One thing, I will say that because I learned about this before I had a child and I was postpartum, steaming, you know, everybody’s got to do it. I found it really uncomfortable because I just had a wooden box and I wish that I had a toilet seat cushion, but I had left it at my office and I didn’t have it at my home.
Then COVID came along and I had a newborn baby and was not prioritizing that, but it was uncomfortable because I had just given birth and so I did have some pain that it felt kind of uncomfortable to sit on the sauna. So I would just say anybody that’s steaming postpartum, maybe just get a nice cushion for yourself.
It has to be something that has a hole in it, so something like a toilet seat cushion worked really well for that. Then also just be aware that it could potentially increase your bleeding, which it did for me and I never felt like it was depleting me which is part of why it’s helpful to work with somebody if you’re doing it, because then you can say, oh, this happened, can you tell me what to do now?
Or should I change my herbs or should I stop? Since I have that training, I was just doing it for myself. Certainly if you were doing it yourself and you were concerned at all, you could just stop for a few days and then start up again. The protocol for postpartum is to steam 30 days in a row for 30 minutes.
So that’s just to make sure that everything’s really cleared out you’re healing, everything. It’s a time when your cervix is still open so that you can, there’s also an opportunity to heal from longer-lasting, if you had any sort of period issues that would be the a time where you could work with that and steaming would help that.
So you’re basically saying that it’s better to have a consultation with somebody too, as well, because you’re giving them support at the same time and you can talk them through different things. Definitely. I mean, unless you feel very confident in knowing your body and listening to your body, which some people definitely do.
A lot of times. I’m inviting women to listen to what feels best to them intuitively. So if somebody feels really connected to that they could certainly do it themselves, but if they would appreciate some support and guidance, then that would be a good thing to do, have a consultation.
Before we go, there’s a couple of things too about acupuncture. I’ve had acupuncture because I used to have really, really sore backs and I used to have acupuncture and acupuncture is the only thing that actually helped. I haven’t had it done for ages, but I used to be really afraid of the needles, but then I sort of thought to myself, I’m going to try it. I know from experience how wonderful it actually is, but I know some people like me are afraid of the needles. So I hear that all the time that people are afraid of the needles and I never push for people to do something that doesn’t feel comfortable to them. I think that if, if somebody’s really, really scared of needles there are probably other treatment modalities to try first, depending on what you’re working on.
A lot of the time people are surprised by how little they feel. I think that they have this association with a hypodermic needle and how that feels, and it feels really different from that. I imagine that you had that experience. I would also say that, especially as you get used to it and you get acupuncture regularly people just get so so comfortable with the sensation that a lot of people fall asleep during their treatment. I know that’s certainly happened to me before. Or it can even be that space in between asleep and awake. Kind of like a meditation.
It doesn’t have to be that way to be effective, but for a lot of people it can be. How to be concise about explaining acupuncture.
So I could try to give you a little bit of a short description.So basically there’s a lot of different styles of acupuncture too, just to throw that out there but the way that I practice is basically we get an overall picture of all of the symptoms that you’re experiencing all over your entire body.
Even if you were just coming for back pain, or for example, if a woman is experiencing morning sickness for example, we would be talking about her entire system, your entire system to identify an overall pattern of diagnosis. That is a Chinese medicine diagnosis and that would be individual to you.
I won’t get into what they are because their names can be kind of confusing and I think it would just make everything more confusing than we need to. So basically I would select a number of acupuncture points to use that would help to treat that pattern. Some of them are used in conjunction with each other, like there’s, a couple of different sets to use for this specific thing.
Basically I’m creating this overall harmony in your body to try to address that pattern and specific symptoms that you’re experiencing. So that’s why, a lot of times people will come in for pain. Then they’re like, why are you asking me about my digestion? That doesn’t make any sense!
Sometimes it’s irrelevant and we didn’t even really need to talk about it, but it’s important in Chinese medicine to understand the overall picture to give the best treatment, basically. I understand that.
So is there anything else before I ask you a final question you’d like to say about what you do?
If anybody wanted to find out about you and find out about what we’ve been talking about and go to your shop and buy the herbs, where would they do it? So my website is RosebudWellness.com and the shop is RosebudWellness.com/Shop.
I’m also relatively active on Instagram, so it’s Rosebud_wellness. All of my contact information is on my website. One final question. What magical tip would you give to a first time mom in relation to what you do?
What magical tip would you give? Hmm, that’s a great question. The first thing that popped into my head was to take good care of yourself. Not really anything in particular, not necessarily acupuncture or steaming but just to do something that feels really, really good to you and feels really nourishing to you.
I have a 17 month old and I, I have to tell myself that all the time. Okay, thank you, Holly. You’ve been amazing. I’ve had a lovely chat with you and thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you.
Holly shared some great tips on women’s holistic health in this episode and I’ve learnt a lot from her. You can learn lots more from Holly from her podcast which is called Womb Wisdom and there’s some great videos in Holly’s YouTube Channel. I’ve included links to these in the show notes and to Holly’s website and online shop. You can access the show notes by going to www.mybabymassage.net/podcast/031.