Traditional Chinese medicine has lots of offer new mums with both lifestyle and dietary advice. I offer some simple tips in this blog, but as with all Chinese medicine – diet, herbs and acupuncture should be prescribed for each woman’s personal constitution and symptoms.
From a traditional Chinese medicine viewpoint the first three days post-birth are seen as a time of elimination or purgation. In the first week of postpartum, new mothers will feel hot due to the persistence of the hormone adrenaline from the birthing process, which floods into the bloodstream. In Chinese Medicine this can be a ‘false heat’ which has the potential to lead to activities that are may harm health such as walking barefoot and having fans or air conditioning blowing directly on the new mother, eating inappropriately hot or spicy foods which cause excessive sweating. This ‘false heat’ can increase and wane, leaving mum feeling cold and clammy.
Nourishment after Purgation
After the initial few days of purgation following childbirth, the nourishment can normally be started and is followed by thirty days of nourishment and replenishment (up to one hundred days in certain Traditional Chinese texts). This is seen as necessary to rebuild from the demands of pregnancy and childbirth on a woman’s body. This concept of nourishment applies to all women, not just those who feel exhausted following a difficult pregnancy or labour. Rest is encouraged and avoiding activities that might leave mum open to infections and viruses. It also includes trying to maintain harmonious emotions. The precipitous and sudden drop in your hormones can give you postnatal baby blues or more serious depression and psychosis. Women will often seek stimulants such as caffeine to keep them functioning through sleep deprivation, but this can worsen nightsweats and particularly mood.
‘Mother Roasting’ after purgation
This is a nourishing technique to energise women and aid their recovery. The technique uses a warming herb, which can be done by mum and her support people in the convenience of her home. This is a one off treatment, which is given around day four or five post-birth. The woman, or preferably her partner, can be shown how to use a moxa stick to warm the woman’s lower abdomen for five to ten minutes, and then the lower back too (if her partner is giving the treatment). It is important to stress that ‘mother roasting’ should not be done if the woman has a temperature, or is experiencing night sweats. It would also be a wise precaution to avoid using moxa over a caesarean scar if there is any suspicious redness or pus-like discharge. If no one is available to do this treatment, book for ‘mother roasting’ with acupuncture.
Postpartum – my best advice
In clinical practice, I see problems arise that were often present before the pregnancy, which have worsened following the birth of a child. Consequently, there are real benefits from preparing your body for at least three, preferably six months before getting pregnant (read my fertility programme). Ideally this preparation will include a nutritional assessment, exercise, stress reduction and regular acupuncture to soothe and balance your body. Then when pregnant, this level of self-care can continue to help prevent disharmonies developing. The idea is to get fit for pregnancy and caring for a newborn. Even if you’ve suffered problems in previous pregnancies they can then be averted or at least managed. My blog tells the story of client who suffered horrendous postnatal uterine cramps, which for her third child we significantly reduced (usually uterine cramps get worse after each subsequent birth as the uterus loses its muscle tone). This client was very motivated to do everything possible, so she followed Chinese Medicine dietary advice and prioritised having acupuncture. Read her story.
Read my blog about postpartum diet (coming soon).