Chinese Medicine and Postnatal Care
By Georgia Payten
What is the Fourth Trimester, and how does Chinese Medicine and acupuncture support the mother during the postpartum period?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine and culture, the first month after giving birth is considered crucial to the immediate and future health of both the mother and her baby. This is a period of time where it is encouraged for the mother to rest, recuperate and be nourished.
After the previous nine months of growing a baby it is not only important for the new mother to ensure that her baby is healthy, but also that she is healthy and is supporting her body to recover. In most traditional cultures, in some way shape or form, the mother will rest for the first forty days post birth. In traditional Chinese culture, this practice is known as ‘sitting the month’, where the mother is confined inside her home, away from the wind and cold, limiting socialising and is encouraged to rest. The term is is referred to as ‘the gateway’, or Zuo Yuezi, as it is the threshold between one way of being, and an entirely new existence – life before baby, and life with baby. The aim for spending dedicated time in this in-between space is for the mother to emerge more beautiful and rejuvenated than before.
What are some practical ways to reclaim this wisdom?
Create a support team around you. This can include asking for help from family members, friends and people in your parents groups. This can also mean having a good relationship with your GP or other health professionals.
Create healthy boundaries and clear expectations with family and friends that you’ll be spending this time at home to recover. I recommend educating friends and family members about the fourth trimester so they have an understanding of why you are doing it and how it will benefit your recovery.
Prioritise rest. Having moments of doing absolutely nothing and knowing it is good for you. This includes surrendering to the mess in the house and not feeling socially pressured to be out and about with your baby. Priority and focus should be on limiting activity beyond baby care, mother-warming acupuncture treatment and resting as much as possible.
Prioritise warmth. Keep the body warm by consuming warm foods, wearing warm, comfortable clothes, especially socks, and avoiding any exposure to cold including swimming in the ocean for the first 40 days. This will help support a mother’s postpartum recovery, rebuilding her Qi (vital energy) and conserving her Jing (essence) for breastfeeding, future menstrual cycles, fertility and even to menopause.
Other simple ways a mother can support herself during this stage include having a daily shower, opening the windows and doors to let some fresh air in the house and taking a moment to sit in the sun whether that be on the balcony, in her backyard or at a local park.
How does Chinese medicine and acupuncture help post birth?
There are many benefits from receiving Chinese Medicine and acupuncture post birth. At the core these treatments aim to deeply replenish the new mother in order to provide the internal resources necessary to be able to both recover and care for a new baby.
I find receiving a ‘mother warming’ treatment in first 1-2 weeks post birth plus taking some personalised herbs can help encourage healing and improve feelings of wellbeing. More specific acupuncture treatments can be focused on calming the nervous system to improve sleep and reduce feelings of fatigue, anxiety, depression or overwhelm. Chinese medicine is also frequently used to support breastfeeding, manage mastitis, ease pain and generally aid in many of the postpartum conditions that may arise.
What is ‘Mother Warming’?
Mother Warming is a one-off moxibustion (moxa) treatment that aims to energise a new mum and aid her recovery. Moxa is a form of therapy that involves using the heat from smouldering mugwort leaf to stimulate acupuncture points. During a mother warming treatment moxa is run from the belly button to the pubic bone to warm the new mothers lower abdomen for 10 to 20 minutes. This radiates a pleasant warmth throughout the uterus and abdomen, encouraging blood circulation and promoting healing.
Do you deserve the first forty days?
A lot of mothers feel as though they don’t deserve or aren’t entitled to this transitional period from woman to mother. Other mothers may feel their circumstances during this time, whether their support person is back at work, they have other young children or are a single-parent just doesn’t allow for this type of care. The simple answer, each and every woman deserves some kind of nourishment and support post birth. It’s important to remember that over the past nine months they have grown and birthed another human. That kind of energy expenditure needs adequate time and support to rebuild.
If you would like to learn more about the fourth trimester please reach out. As a qualified Chinese Medicine practitioner and a new mother myself, supporting women through this transition brings me great joy. I routinely see women in the first 1-2 weeks post partum for a mother warming treatment, prescribe supportive herbs and provide diet advice if needed.
For further reading I recommend the following resources:
● The First Forty Days by Heng Ou
● The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Oscar Serrallach
By Georgia Payten TCM Practitioner & Acupuncturist at Quiescence Chinese Medicine