In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the post partum time period is "Zuo Yue Zi" (坐月子). Birth takes a huge toll on your body and is the only naturally occurring time in your life where you lose large amounts of blood and Qi (energy) which needs to be replenished to return to full health and vitality.
It is recommended to rest as much as possible, receive help from friends and family with household chores and meals.
In TCM, we believe that after the delivery of a baby, the mother's physical health may become susceptible to two states of imbalance: 1) a deficiency of Blood and Yin and 2) Blood stagnation.The delivery of a baby requires immense energy (Qi) expenditure from the mother, the loss of blood during childbirth injures her Blood/Yin, which if left uncorrected can lead to more imbalances down the line.
The Postpartum Period is the first six weeks following child birth, but we know it lasts much longer - up to two years.
Chinese Medicine Diet Therapy has a long history of use for Postpartum recovery. During the post birth period nutrition and diet is used to support recovery from pregnancy and childbirth, while replenishing strength and nutrients to meet the increased demands of motherhood. Key nutrients are lost during pregnancy and childbirth and these also need to be restored - zinc, folate, B12, iodine, selenium and Omega 3's to name a few.
There are a few foods that are worth a special mention for being prized for their nourishing properties in the postpartum period:
Ginger – this is warming, nourishing, aids digestion and moves the blood. For women with heavy bleeding use only in small amounts and increase once the flow of lochia lightens.
Black sesame – traditional qi and blood tonic and increase lactation. They are full of essential fatty acids, b vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and tryptophan which is a known mood stabiliser.
Black vinegar – this is a warming, nourishing ingredient that purifies the blood and aids circulation, helps digestion and constipation, it also encourages perspiration which is an avenue for eliminating toxins and additional fluid after birth. It contains amino acids that are used in tissue repair and growth and can pair beautifully with bone broths.
Bone Broth – THE #1 food of new mothers in traditional Chinese culture. They are warm, supplement the blood and yin, and nourish the kidneys, which are also called the gate of life, and are thought to be depleted by pregnancy and birth. Bone broths contains gelatin so it will help constipation or skin dryness. It is also ideal for replenishing, repairing tissue, replacing blood, supporting lactation.
Eggs – nourish the yin, benefit the heart, kidneys liver and spleen. They are a highly nutritious food and are often included in postpartum recipes.
In traditional Chinese culture, food is medicine. It is the source of your postnatal qi and blood and is essential for proper healing. It is acknowledged that there are increased nutritional requirements during recovery from birth and particularly while breastfeeding, so the foods prized for this period are very nutrient dense. In addition to aiding healing and replenishing nutrients depleted by pregnancy and birth, the mother must be supported to produce breast milk and undergo a major life transition.
The focus is on nourishing blood, qi and yin, and yang all of which are necessary to grow a baby, are lost in birth and are required for breastfeeding and mothering. Because of the emphasis on highly nutritious foods, meat is generally at the centre, and most commonly soups and stews made of bone broths. Broth based soups are the ideal postpartum food, they are a source of protein, supply some iron, calcium, magnesium in an easily absorbed form, and contain gelatine which supports the repair of connective tissue, and helps stop excessive uterine bleeding.
In TCM, we believe that during labor, the mother exerts a lot of energy and loses a large amount of blood, which can lead to Heart Blood deficiency. In TCM theory, the Heart houses the Shen/Spirit. When there is Heart Blood deficiency, then the mind and spirit have no place of residence, and the mother can more easily become depressed and anxious.Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can really help to nourish the Heart and rebalance the body's Yin and Yang energies back to a more harmonious state.
The following conditions can be treated with Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatments:
- Postpartum depression
- Abdominal pain following childbirth
- Persistent lochia discharge
- Insufficient lactation
- Subacute and acute mastitis
- Postpartum fever
- Postpartum joint pain
- Urination difficulty
- Constipation and hemorrhoids after childbirth
- Postpartum hair loss
Most Important Herbs:
- He Shou Wu: Blood and Yin nourishing
- Reishi: Immune Support, Sleep regulation, Adrenals
- Deer Antler: Aid in physical recovery
- Astragalus: Qi tonic, and wound repair (c-section)
- Tremella: Yin support for potential dryness from loss of fluids either during birth or post partum night sweats
- Eleuthero: Adrenals, Energy, Immune
- Marine Collagen: Excellent for post partum hair loss recovery (hair rarely sheds during pregnancy, so some hair loss is normal, but the collagen helps with amino acid/protein and rebuilding hair health)
Qi And Blood Nourishing Foods:
- Clean animal protein
- Black beans
- Green leafy vegetables
- Red fruits like cherries, raspberries, and strawberries
- Stocks and soups made from bones
- Egg yolks
- Whole grains
Yin Nourishing Foods:
- Clean seafood
- Barley and millet
- String beans
- All dark colored beans
- Dark berries like blackberries, mulberries, and blueberries
- Animal products like fish, eggs, dairy, duck, and pork
- Fluids like soups and stocks
Yang Nourishing Foods
- Black beans