Modern research on postpartum recovery.
These days, a woman is usually discharged from the hospital within 24 to 48 hours after a vaginal birth but can be as little as 6 hours post-birth. In a Cesarean (c-section) delivery, generally, women are kept in hospital care for 3 to 5 days. While society puts a lot of emphasis on supporting a woman during pregnancy and the birthing process, a woman might often feel unsupported in the first few weeks after birth. Often, she is left to teach herself all the things around the baby with little to no time to recuperate from the strains of giving birth.
In ancient times, more importance was attributed to the first month after birth and it was considered crucial in determining the later health of the mum and the baby. Traditionally called “sitting the month”, this time was indispensable to recuperate and reclaim strength. Ideally, the new mum would rest, stay at home, and not expose herself to wind and cold, or people. She would be supported by her own mother who would cook warm meals for her and give her massages. Traditionally, this aimed at her longevity and avoiding negative consequences.
And even though times have changed – and your own mum may or may not be able to be around you for many weeks – there are still many ways to ensure you can rest and be nourished, which is essential for your recovery and overall health.
Why is this still so important?
Your body has been growing and supporting a baby for the last 9 months. By giving birth, a lot of heat and qi from the baby (Yang) is lost alongside blood, fluids and essence (Yin), which can make you feel very depleted and raw. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the process of giving birth can establish a feeling of cold in the lower body, this cold blocks the energy flow, which can cause disharmanies to arise, resulting in an increase in signs and symptoms. In acupuncture, we use gentle techniques, such as needle-moxa or cupping-moxa to re-establish the warmth in your body, increase qi flow throughout the body, and increase energy and fluid metabolism (ie breastmilk).
Acupuncture can also support you mentally and emotionally. It is not uncommon for the new mum to develop feelings of depression, such as feeling sad, hopeless or empty, being overwhelmed, crying for no apparent reason and doubting her ability to care for her baby (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). Research has shown that acupuncture, in combination with psychological therapy, was as effective as the intervention of the control group which was treated with the drug fluoxetine hydrochloride (Huang, Li, Su, & Lu-shan, 2014)
We suggest you take some time in the last weeks of pregnancy, to get organised. Because when you feel supported, it will be easier for you to support your little baby.
- Find someone to help with the household chores for the first four weeks, so you can focus on your baby. – Create a chore chart, if one of your friends comes around to visit the baby, they have to do a chore, they will actually be happy to help, people love to be needed and help out a new mum.
- Avoid having too many people coming over in the first few weeks or decide according to how you feel – You may even want to be proactive and invite them for a later time, like a sip-and-see party.
- If your best friends ask you what they can bring you, suggest a home-cooked soup, some nourishing cookies, or anything that goes into the freezer – ready for you to heat up when you need it.
- Create a food train – where you have different people deliver different foods on allocated days to help nourish mumma.
- Create a list of all the paperwork related to having a baby and ask your partner to take care/help you follow up, lesson in delegation.
- Have plenty of healthy snacks available: These could be mungbean-chicken muffins, other savoury muffins (warmed up) sweet potatoes, boiled eggs, black bean cake, and oat cookies – very practical because you can eat these one-handed while holding little bub 😉
- Eat warm, home-cooked foods. – having lots of food in your fridge or freezer that you can easily warm up, preparation is the key to success.
Your food needs to be nourishing, for example:
What else is needed?
- Resting, sleeping time for yourself and meditation will go a long way.
- Schedule weekly post-partum treatments for your recovery.
- Have a support crew.
- Get light regular exercise and get out in nature.
- Join a local mums group, who meet up weekly.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Postpartum Depression Facts. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/postpartum-depression-brochure_146657.pdf
Huang, Han-ling, Li Peng, Su Zheng, and Lu-shan Wang. “Observation on therapeutic effects of acupuncture plus psychological intervention for postpartum depression.” Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 12, no. 6 (2014): 358-361. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11726-014-0805-