In traditional zuo yue zi, it’s said that birth leaves a mother in an extremely open state, more susceptible than?normal to physical and emotional strain. With her body aching and her senses and nerves raw and exposed, innocuous-seeming things like a brief walk, a cool breeze, or a thoughtless comment can take root and lead to exhaustion, illness, or depression down the line.
The traditional justification for conserving and building chi, or energy, through rest and excellent nutrition is equally relevant today. Forty days of care today is thought to lead to forty years of vital?womanhood tomorrow. While mother does almost nothing, her lucrative retirement portfolio?-?good health and energy?is growing! When you consider all that your body is doing during this post-birth?phase, it’s clear why preserving and replenishing the chi, nourishing the blood, and supporting the hormones in this vulnerable moment is so essential.
In one of the most surprising and under-discussed aspects of the postpartum experience, bleeding?occurs at a rate that eclipses a heavy period for three to ten days, and then can continue lightly for up?to six weeks. A woman’s blood volume increases by up to 50 percent in pregnancy, and she grow?a significant amount of tissue; this discharge of the excess is an act of repair and re-balancing that’s often seen as purifying?a powerful opportunity to shed toxins from the body.
The uterus is also returning to pre-pregnancy size and position. Chinese tradition says that this recently emptied “baby room” is now extra-susceptible to cold and wind. If the body isn’t kept warm enough, there can be a slowing down of blood flow to the area, which impedes the uterus’s return to its previous size and slows the release of unneeded blood. The consequence may be reproductive problems in the future, from period pain to endometriosis, or even miscarriage, as well as lower-back ache and uncomfortable menopause later in life.
In the first days after delivery, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically, often triggering a tidal surge of emotions around day three of postpartum, as prolactin kicks in. This signals the breasts, which have been making small amounts of the super food colostrum for baby’s minuscule stomach, to start producing milk. This is usually somewhere around the third day?postpartum, but could be longer if you had a C-section. Rest assured that the high-fat, high-protein?colostrum will nourish baby before this happens. When your milk does come in, it will contain the exact immunity-supporting antibodies your baby needs and barring complications, your supply will be intelligently calibrated to your baby’s hunger demands.
Skin cells are busily repairing damage that may have occurred through small tears at the perineum or, after a C-section, at the incision point. The liver is detoxifying any drugs taken during?the delivery and the lymph system carries them out, a common cause of grogginess in the immediate postpartum days.
The cherry on top of all this activity is that your brain is growing during postpartum, too. Science is now showing how the regions associated with complex emotional judgment and decision making get measurably bigger and stronger through mothering a child, starting in the first six weeks.
This incredible coordination of physical responses will be supported and enhanced by the food and lifestyle suggestions that follow.
Text copyright ? 2016 by Heng Ou. Amely Greeven, and Marisa Belger