A woman’s body undergoes major hormonal, physiological, circulatory, respiratory and metabolic changes during pregnancy. While most mothers bask in this “glow” of pregnancy, many are caught off guard by the post-delivery changes that occur in a matter of days or even hours after birth.
In Chinese Medicine, the four months directly following labour and delivery is considered the postpartum period. The first month of this period is considered the most crucial month in which the mother replenishes the nutrients lost from childbirth, while in the following months her womb slowly recovers and her blood and qi regain balance.
Pregnancy and childbirth deplete Blood and Qi from the mother’s body. The resulting postpartum imbalances include:
Qi and Blood deficiency:
The blood loss during labour and childbirth depletes blood and qi from the mother’s body. Following that, breastfeeding further depletes blood as nutrients from her blood are transformed into breastmilk. This can cause other organs in the body to be overworked, such as the spleen, which in turn results in the following symptoms –
Fatigue, frequent urination, low appetite, indigestion, incontinence and poor breast milk production.
Yin and Blood deficiency:
Due to the high demand on kidney yin and liver blood by the growing foetus, the mother’s body is left deficient in yin and blood after the pregnancy. This deficiency particularly affects older mothers and those who had difficulties conceiving, including mothers who’d conceived as a result of assisted reproductive procedures such as IUI and IVF. Yin and blood deficiency leads to the following postpartum symptoms –
Constipation, excessive night sweats, insomnia, depression, hair loss, dizziness and hormonal imbalance.
Pathogenic cold resulting in Blood stasis:
Blood deficiency due to loss of blood during childbirth also leads to pathogenic cold – the channels leading to the womb are left open, letting cold enter. Pathogenic cold in the uterus can lead to blood stasis causing several symptoms such as –
Abdominal pain, retention of lochia (uterus discharge), incontinence and severe depression.
Herbs and acupuncture can help in Postnatal Recovery
To help with postnatal recovery, confinement herbs should be taken according to these three stages:
Aid in uterus contraction and lochia discharge
Improve digestion and absorption of nutrients to improve Qi and Blood supply
Nourishing the respective organs to regain pre-pregnancy vitality
To address the concern of the safety of TCM herbs for breastfeeding mothers, as well as the risk of postpartum bleeding, it is advisable to only take TCM herbs that are prescribed by the physician. Together with proper rest and diet, the herbs will help mommies regain the balance of Qi and Blood at a pace in accordance with their body constitution.
While Chinese herbs nourish the internal organs, acupuncture can be used to improve circulation. Mothers who suffer from conditions such as headache, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tension may benefit from acupuncture right after delivery.
Thomson Chinese Medicine offers postnatal TCM programmes. These include 28 Days Confinement Herbal Care, Internal Rejuvenation for Mommies (post-confinement herbs) and Go Go Mommies (six sessions of acupuncture to relieve stress, fatigue, aches and pains).