Postnatal Recovery and Traditional Chinese Medicine
In China, the first few weeks after childbirth are called Chan Ru (childbirth mattress) or Zao Yue Zi (sitting the month). The concept of adequate rest to ensure women are completely recovered from childbirth is an important part of Asian societies. Also termed the “Golden Month” or “Sitting Moon” this was a time of rest and eating specific foods to assist in recovery for 28 days.
Acupuncturist, Nikole Maxey says, “This idea is not widespread or even encouraged in western society, and often times the mother is seen as a “hero” for being up, walking around, and even running errands 1-2 days after birth.
Many women who are too active too soon, may initially cope but will find that months later they are exhausted and are having a hard time recovering from the birthing process.” As a trained doula and acupuncturist, Treasure De La Cruz says, “Our busy culture often praises moms who, like Beyoncé, recover quickly and get their “pre-baby” body back, but it’s not realistic or healthy.”
Nikole highly recommends her patients stay at home and inside for at least 7 days. “Both mother and child should avoid being in harsh weather or wind as the pores are still open post childbirth and the chance of infection is increased. This is not absolute bed rest, but limiting time on your feet. Having adequate help is very important, let others cook and clean.”
As far as guidelines for activity:
Week 1—walk 1 block, (½ a block and back)
Week 2—walk 2 blocks total
Week 3—walk 3 blocks total
And so on…
And of course, if you are able, coming in for a follow up acupuncture visit 10-14 days after birth can be very helpful to help boost the Qi and Yin and return the body to a state of balance. At that visit, we will discuss future visits depending on how you and baby are feeling.
What’s that scent?
The newborn scent is real! There are actually health benefits to delaying the first bath. Treasure says, “We waited till our daughter was 10 days old for her first bath!” Babies are not only born covered with a white substance called vernixcaseosa, they’ve been protected with it the whole time in the womb from chapping or wrinkling. Thisvernixcaseosa also contains antioxidants and anti-infection properties. Amazing! Babies are born covered in their own anti-germ barrier. Don’t worry, the nurses will wipe the baby down after birth so they are ready for their first selfies, but holding off their first bath keeps their protective layer on and keeps the baby’s skin soft. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of vernixcaseosa and recommends not wiping it off.
Cuddling is important! Skin to skin is not just for the hospital. You can keep doing skin to skin for as long as you are comfortable and doing so will help build a strong attachment. Skin to skin will also assist in the let down of milk, so if you are having trouble with lactation, holding your baby will help!
Treasure says, “I bring this up because many of the new mothers I work with don’t know that it is normal and healthy to have postpartum bleeding up to 4 to 6 weeks after birth.” Postpartum bleeding and nursing are two more reasons why the Golden Month is so important. Postpartum bleeding, called the lochia, is the shedding of blood, mucus and tissue from where the placenta was attached. Be watchful of your bleeding, if one day you have heavier bleeding, then examine what you did that day or the day before. You probably did too much or had too many guests, so take more rest.
Although normal, if you notice large clots (larger than a sliver dollar), extremely heavy flow or you are filling a pad every hour, call your doctor immediately!
Nourishing the body!
In Chinese medicine there are traditional foods that rebuild energy and blood lost during childbirth, replenish lost nutrients and produce breast milk. Treasure says, “I was blessed to have my mom stay for a couple of weeks and cook some of these traditional Chinese postpartum meals.” Silkie chicken soup is one. Silkies have black skin and white feathers and can be found in Chinese markets, sometimes in the freezer department. The black skin makes the chicken more nourishing. If silkies are not available, organic chicken will do. You can make a basic chicken soup with vegetables, ginger, onions, shitake mushrooms and your grain of choice.
There are some other traditional Chinese postpartum foods that are even more adventurous, such as pigs feet in molasses, black vinegar and ginger or fish broth soup, which is excellent for encouraging milk production.
- Use warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, nutmeg, black or white pepper, cardamom, orange peel, and fennel.
- A special mention about Ginger: great for postpartum because of it’s warming properties and ability to help shrink the uterus. However, ginger can also activate bleeding, so if you are experiencing a surge of bleeding, avoid ginger for 2 weeks!
- Broth! Broth! Broth! All kinds of broth; chicken, beef, fish, mushroom and seaweed. Drink it like a cup of coffee, cook grains with it or make soup or stew with it!
- Seaweed is mineral rich, high in protein and iron.
- Mushrooms such as shiitake to boost the immunity.
- Eggs are excellent and will nourish the body and the blood.
- Spirulina, although not traditional Chinese food, is rich in antioxidant, protein and omega-6 which benefitsthe baby’s brain.
- Teas: Nettles can help build blood and red raspberry can help shrink the uterus and if nursing, encourage milk supply. Also Mother’s Milk tea by Traditional Medicinal is helpful for promoting more milk.
- Just like when you were pregnant, a variety of in-season vegetables are always best and organic when possible. Grass fed/organic beef and organic free-range chicken is worth the extra cost for more nutrient dense food.
- Eat mostly warm, cooked foods that are easy to digest like soups and stews. No cold drinks or raw foods, like salads.
- Whole grains that are well cooked and easy to digest: such as congee.
- Eat small meals and snacks every 2-3 hours so as not to overwhelm your digestion.
- Hydrate – Drink room temperature or hot water and never drink ice water. 8 cups a day! This is especially important if you are nursing!
Vitamins & Supplements and Vitamins
- Prenatal Vitamins: Continue taking them until you stop nursing or after 3 months.
- Omega-3 fatty acids 1000mg: For promoting the baby’s brain development through nursing. Choose a supplement brand that has been independently tested and guaranteed to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other environmental toxins. One 4 oz serving of salmon provides over 1000 mg of omega-3, so if you eat salmon or other fish rich in omega, you can skip your omega-3 supplement for that day.
Set up a meal train!
Have someone set up a meal train for your family! It’s also a great way for people to meet the baby too!
Create a sign up sheet starting right after birth to 2-3 months out.www.mealtrain.com is an excellent and free website to help organize friends and family. Not only were they helpful, having meals ready-to-eat was essential! We suggest multiple servings delivered every other day. Stews and soups are encouraged since they canbe frozen and enjoyed later. Request that friends and family check in with you the day of to see if you are open for a visit or prefer a simple drop off.
As we mentioned before, acupuncture can play a huge part in all aspects of fertility, pregnancy and also post childbirth. Besides assisting your body in the recovery period as a whole, we can also assist with:
- Issues with lactation
- Hormonal imbalance
- Postpartum depression or “baby blues”
- Night sweats
- Decreased energy
- Persistent bleeding
- Recovery from C-section or traumatic birth
We love talking and educating patients about postnatal recovery, please call or email anytime you have questions or better yet, let’s get you set up on a schedule before giving birth so we can support you the best way we know how.
The First Forty Days: Nourishing the New Mother, by HengOu
Sitting Moon: A Guide to Rejuvenation after Pregnancy, by Dashing Ni