Using Chinese Medicine to assist recovery after birth

Pregnancy and childbirth are a normal and natural part of a woman’s reproductive life. There will always be some uncomfortable, undesirable or even dangerous conditions or complications requiring intervention that present in some pregnant women. For some of these conditions Traditional Chinese Medicine will be a suitable option as either a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.

Of course in the case of medical emergency women must seek attention from their Western medical doctor immediately.

This article will focus on how Chinese Medicine might be used to assist to women to recover from birth and navigate the post-natal period, defined as the period beginning immediately after birth and lasting for six weeks.

In Chinese medicine the post-natal period is merely a point on a continuum which actually starts up to 12 months prior to pregnancy as part of the preparation for producing strong, healthy, robust mothers and babies.

Post-birth recovery is recovery not only from birth but from the experience of being pregnant and growing a baby for the previous 9 months.

It is our experience that post-natal care is rarely discussed within our culture although all mothers will be impacted by the extra demands on their bodies following pregnancy and childbirth.

Some women will naturally bounce back, full of vigour and vitality, while others will struggle to recapture pre-pregnancy health. There are a number of circumstances that may impede a women’s natural capacity for healthy recovery after giving birth.

A woman may have a constitutional weakness that predisposes her to a greater risk of post-partum symptoms. She may have experienced birth trauma or medical complications and intervention, multiple birth, previous miscarriage(s), pregnancies too close together, or be an older mother or have inadequate post-natal support.

These factors combined with blood loss and the enormous energy demands of labour, the sleep deprivation and disruption of tending a newborn, and continuing loss of body fluids via breast milk, can all affect a mother’s capacity to recuperate once the euphoria of childbirth wears off.

A Chinese medicine practitioner has many creative methods at their disposal in order to treat the physical symptoms that normally arise during the post-natal period as well as those arising from complications of medical or surgical intervention.

Treatment during the post-natal period is always aimed at supporting the mother. Post-natal care is gentle and aims to nourish warm and strengthen the mother.

Chinese medicine can assist with physical post-natal symptoms such as abdominal after pains, post-partum blood loss, anaemia, urinary complications and haemorrhoids.

It can assist with the less physical symptoms associated with women adapting to the new responsibilities of motherhood. These symptoms can range from tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion, fluctuating emotions, sleep disturbance, general malaise and mild post-natal depression.

Herbal medicine is one of the most effective, natural ways to restore energy and nourishment and thus support recovery after childbirth.

Existing Chinese Medicine clients can be prescribed herbs prior to their labour or via phone consultation after the birth. This is beneficial in that clinic visitation is not required and women can be left to nest and bond with their babies uninterrupted.

Acupuncture is ideal when women have easy access and the inclination to venture out and visit a clinic. The effect of acupuncture is usually immediately relaxing, and provides good opportunity for some well-deserved timeout and self-nurturing.

After birth, a special ‘mother warming’ technique using moxa, a cigar-shaped herbal stick, can be applied to the abdomen. This soothing technique, known as moxibustion facilitates the shrinking of the uterus and ameliorates the discomfort of after pains.

Chinese culture has a long history of using food therapy to support health and wellness. In the post-natal period, women are advised to avoid cold, raw food and fluid and take nourishing, warming, slow cooked food such as chicken soup.

Post-natal dieting for weight loss is never recommended because it can further weaken a woman’s body, increase the risk of complications and may result in serious health problems in later years.

Steam baths (sitz baths) and externally applied herbal washes can promote healing, alleviate perineal discomfort and swelling, and may prevent infection of episiotomy wounds.

The ability of a woman’s body to conceive, grow, birth and nurture a baby is truly a miracle of nature. Needless to say, some women will struggle to recover their pre-pregnancy health.

It is hoped that the information in is article has provided valuable insight for post-natal women to assist them in making informed choices on how best to access and use Traditional Chinese Medicine during their post-natal recovery.