Postpartum Health Preservation
Postpartum health preservation is a very important subject today. Whether or not you believe in Chinese medicine herbs or superstitions surrounding “one month confinement” there is no doubt that belief plays a significant role in one's feeling of health preservation and well-being.
Postpartum is simply too tired due to excessive loss of blood and energy, sweating, backache, abdominal pain during childbirth process. In addition, external wind-cold or wind-evil may attack postpartum bodies due to their blood, bones, tendons and muscles are very weak after delivery process. Therefore, new mums will need more moderate exercises, recuperation, appropriate tonic and diet to regulate and tonify their bodies and energy.
The purpose of one month confinement is an Asian practice whereby new mums are confined to the home or postpartum centre for a period of one month after the delivery of their babies, aim to recover and restore their health after 9 months of nourishing their infants in their wombs.
Origins in Chinese Medicine Medical writings about one month confinement (Zuo Yuezi) can be traced back to Xi Han (Li Ji‧NeiZe), it is more than two thousand years of history, also called “Yue Nei”. It is a very important ceremony after delivery process.
What is one month confinement (Zuo Yuezi)
The term of Zuo Yuezi that translates into “one month confinement”. The Chinese tradition of Zuo Yuezi dictates that for 30 to 40 days from the birth of their children, new mothers must stay inside and avoid bathing, washing their hair or brushing their teeth. They must cover their heads to prevent chills, keep the windows closed, and remain in bed for as long as possible. It also requires mothers to avoid all forms of stress, including crying, shouting and talking for an entire cycle of the moon.
New mothers can not eat cold foods such as cool drinks, ice cream, cold fruits during one month confinement. Instead, they must load up on ‘hot' foods like boiled eggs, chicken and fish soup. Along with the tradition is a famous most importantly, Chinese postpartum ‘decoction' known as Shenghua Tang was thought to purify the female body and help slow vaginal bleeding.
Essentially, “one month confinement” was a primitive form of quarantine to prevent postpartum complications. If you analyze Zuo Yuezi in an early medical context, many of the practices made sense. The avoidance of bathing and teeth-brushing was a way to prevent water-borne illness; staying indoors helped women and babies avoid exposure to communicable diseases, and covering the head protected new mothers from catching a ‘chill'. Food-wise, the proteins and iron found in eggs, meat and fish provided mothers with strength and muscle repair.
Rest and heavy consumption of hot soup helped prevent dehydration, kept moms warm and was believed to promote the production of breast milk. Clearly a lot of these reasons behind the confinement are now obsolete since we don't have to fear contaminated water supplies, nor would we be concerned about catching a "chill", especially if you live in a tropical country. Although I think that the fallacy that you can catch a "chill" from cold weather should be acknowledged.
The postpartum health preservation in different countries
“In the United States, Germany and Japan, the new mums can have shower, brush teeth, wash hair. They supply mineral water with gas but hot water to drink in hospitals. The diets for postpartum are no difference everyone. There are as well as ice apple, ice milk, iced tea for postpartum in Japanese hospitals. People do not preserve postpartum health as a very special status as in China.”
General diet of promoting lactation with Chinese medicine herbs.
If postpartum find that their milk supply is low, they should add Radix Rhapontici (lou-lu tong) or vaccaria segetalis (wang-bu-liu-xing) to their soups. Postpartum can eat following dietetic food or soups for promoting lactation.
Dietetic food includes knuckle, peanut, tail, chicken feet, eggs, beef, milk, loofah, dofu, day lily, scallions, white beans, black sesame, walnut, sweet potato, fish, shrimp, squid, sea cucumber, gouqizi, guiyuan, capsicum, tomato, potato and nuts.
Soups for promoting lactation includes stewed green papaya with ribs pork chops, fish soup, oyster soup, peanut and tails soup etc. In addition, there are some acu points may be used for promoting lactation including San Yin Jiao, Zhu San Li and Xue Hai etc.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, pregnancy, labour and birth are a huge drain on postpartum energy reserves.
A balanced diet with adequate nutrition during the one-month postnatal confinement period is vital to restore postpartum to good health.
This is particularly important because postpartum now have the additional responsibilities of caring for new baby. However, this does not mean postpartum can eat anything you want.
In general, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner would advise that postpartum need to note the following taboos during one month confinement.
There are three important stages for women – teenager (adolescence), postpartum and menopause. The stage of postpartum is just between adolescence and menopause.
We do believe one month confinement is truly important for postpartum that it is a customs and traditions of the Chinese characteristic as well as the health preservation of TCM culture. However, it has been less care by the Western when we as Chinese are treated it importantly and somehow, it has been seriously conflicting between the two.
Local eating and drinking habits are the result of the necessarily to have one month confinement. There is not a must have one month confinement like Chinese people do or wrong with Western that not to have it at all. Regardless of the past or the present, there surely is change in body after childbirth, an appropriate diet, proper rest and exercises will help recover postpartum health and body energy.