The postpartum period is one of the three times that women have to either improve or harm their health.
The three times are known as the three golden opportunities, which are during menstruation, the postpartum period and menopause. Society has changed over the centuries, but the workings of the woman’s bodies have remained the same.
By understanding the cycles of the body and adopting certain practices, women can increase their vitality and protect their health. Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy does not think that the state of the human body is a balanced state, but instead balance comes with effort.
With food therapy and other lifestyle practices, we are able to harmonize the forces within our bodies and from the world around us to achieve a balance. In the postpartum period, lifestyle modifications and dietary choices focus on rebuilding the Qi (energy), Blood that has been lost and promotes the discharge of old blood. Rest and recovery are the most important aspects of recovery.
The level of rest the body needs will require assistance, which was traditionally family. In modern times it is not always possible to have a family member come to stay for an extended period, but the fact remains that rest is required to properly recover. If it can be afforded, help can be hired or meals can be prepared ahead of time and then frozen to lessen the workload after labour.
Preserving the essence (Jing) is the key to improving the quality and length of life.
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Healthy Mother makes a healthy baby
This is one key element in Chinese Medicine theory, we often treat imbalances in the body by treating the mother organ to feed the weakened organ. During the postpartum period, this theory is also prominent, a healthy and well nourished mother can properly nourish her baby. The best way to nourish the body after labour and delivery is by following the correct lifestyle guidelines following birth.
A Postpartum Gem
Sheng Hua Tang
Generate and Transform Formula
This simple formula was created in the 17th century by Fu Qing-Zhu for the purpose of invigorating and transforming blood stasis as well as nourishing the body and protecting from the invasion of external pathogens.
This formula is essential after labour, miscarriage or terminated pregnancies. To explain it simply, this formula cleans out the uterus while keeping it warm and helping to generate new fresh blood. Making sure that all of the old materials are expelled from the uterus will help to prevent problems such as postpartum fever as well as postpartum depression. Making sure that the body is producing enough new blood is essential for the production of breastmilk and keeping strong and healthy in general. Keeping the uterus warmed ensures that cold pathogens are not able to invade and cause illness.
Looking at the formula yet another way-it helps to rebalance the hormones which have just gone on a roller coaster ride. Regulating the hormones quickly will make postpartum life run smoothly- as hormone chain reactions run so many aspects of a woman’s body.
Sheng Hua Tang is taken on the second day after the birth or medical procedure and is taken for 7 days. After one week more nourishing formulas can be taken.
Advice for the Postpartum Period
- Mother and baby should remain at home for 4-6 weeks-especially in the cold weather.
- 10 hours of sleep per night is needed-this level of rest will require assistance
- Keep warm and avoid becoming cold. Avoid cold drafts and air conditioning, wear extra clothes and do not go swimming.
- Bathe and get dressed and dry hair before coming out of the warm room
- Cold food and drinks should be avoided- such as raw foods, iced drinks or ice cream.
- Drink only warm drinks.
- Add rice wine to foods (unless there is excessive heat, yellow vaginal discharge or mastitis) to invigorate Qi and Blood.
- Add ginger to cooking- it can be lightly fried first, but not burned to warm the uterus and invigorate Blood.
- Add black sesame oil to cooking to nourish Blood and Yin.
- Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activity-this will prevent prolapse
- Watching television and reading should be limited to 15 minute intervals to protect the eyes and liver Blood.
- Postpartum women should be shielded from bad news and conflict.
- Abdominal binding or a postpartum girdle should be applied, this helps the waist return to its former size and shape and will prevent prolapse. Binding should be removed for meals and bathing. The binding or girdle should cover the entire abdomen.
- During the first week postpartum the formula Sheng Hua Tang should be taken which focuses on discharging lochia, detoxifying the body, preserving the jing and regulating hormones.
- Herbs such as Yi Yi Ren (Job’s Tears), Chi Xiao Dou (Adzuki Bean) and Lu Dou (Mung Bean) can be taken to drain excess fluids and detoxify the body without damaging the Qi.
- During the third week and up to the fifth week, more tonifying foods should be eaten such foods to nourish Qi and Blood such as oats, sweet rice, yam, asparagus, button mushroom, cabbage, eggplant, peas, potato, pumpkin, shiitake mushroom, squash, sweet potato, tomato, avocado, apple, cherry, date, fig, grape, artichoke, beetroot, spinach, watercress, fermented soy, almonds, black sesame seeds, coconut flesh, molasses, adzuki beans, black beans, red kidney beans, bee pollen and hemp seeds.