Chinese Medicine wisdom and post-partum recovery

At Heart & Hands, we love our acu-mommas! Nothing more exciting than supporting the process of childbirth and in the last few weeks, it has been baby season! Lots of labour inductions! And, I’ve finally gotten into the habit of reminding our lovely mommas to check-in with us after the birth, just to know that the induction did the job, but also to know that mom and babe are both happy and healthy :)

It’s wonderful to see that many women are choosing to take the more natural, traditional route with midwives, doulas and home births, but as an acupuncturist I feel that there needs to be more of a focus on post-partum care. With a new baby in tow, many exhausted mothers feel the urgency of visiting family, adjusting to a new schedule, appointments-appointments-appointments and  shedding baby weight.

“Yue zi” is the month after delivery and it is a very important time for a woman to recover. It is this period of time where after childbirth, a woman can be most vulnerable to pain, depression, and hormonal problems. When a woman pushes herself too hard after giving birth, it can lead to premature aging and chronic hormonal/emotional imbalances. It is important to remember that a new mother needs to conserve her energy in order for her body to heal from blood loss, changes in the pelvic floor as well as being able to produce milk for breast feeding.

Post-partum depression can be associated with stressful, complicated birth (often with medical induction and/or C-section) and inadequate support at home. This can cause further exhaustion, continued stress and difficulty with breast-feeding. Many persistent and unpleasant symptoms are easiest to treat if the woman receives adequate care following child birth.  Many gynecological diseases can stem from improper care during this sacred month. Here are a few important principles:

1. Stay warm.
Stay away from cold drafts, cold weather and avoid cold or raw food and drinks.  Keep your head and neck covered as well.  Avoid being by the air conditioner and getting your hair wet.

2. Nourish blood
Blood nourishing foods which include animal products (meat, eggs, bone broth, liver, tendon), which are generally number one in Traditional Chinese Medicine; however, there are many plant-based alternatives including dark leafy greens, hemp, flax seed, dates and sesame seeds. This would also be a good time to start a blood building iron supplement. Remember two principles: 1. Warm; 2. Easily digestible.

Here is an excellent handout by Debra Betts L.Ac (UK) on “Diet and Postnatal Recovery” (click for pdf).

3.  Avoid heavy exercise or sweating.  Walking, light tai chi or yoga is acceptable.
If childbirth wasn’t enough over-exertion, heavy exercise will further deplete an already weakened body. Post-partum is a time with deficient Qi, blood and body fluids (yin), it is recommended to conserve and rebuild these vital substances.

Depleted energy reserves in combination to exposure to wind-cold-damp (likely sleep deprival too) leaves a post-partum woman especially susceptible to colds/flu.

4. Avoid soaking in water, this includes baths, vaginal douches and swimming.
The “door” or birth canal is still in the process of healing and retracting back to its original size. We do not want to invite unwanted pathogens into the body.

We would like to shift more focus onto post-natal care, which can be tricky with a new baby at home. We would like to encourage more new mommas to maintain a recovery regime into the first few months after birth, where we recommend not only occasional acu-naps (because mommies always need a nap), but also moxabustion and the possibility of herbal formulas.

We’d also like to mention a future development in the Heart & Hands schedule, a mom & babe weekly time slot where mothers with babies under 6 months can receive their pokes while holding their babies, breast-feed, etc. in the comfort of our recliners – stay tuned! Motherhood is demanding enough and we’d like to support mothers to be the best and  healthiest they can be!

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