The act of giving birth takes a lot out of a woman.
Apart from expending a lot of energy, she also suffers significant blood loss. In the days following delivery, a woman could be afflicted with a long list of maladies, from appearance-related embarrassments (hair loss, swollen breasts, water retention in the legs) to mild symptoms (body aches, perineum soreness, excessive perspiration, hot flashes, constipation, hemorrhoids) to more serious health problems (abdominal cramps, pain at the stitches, urinary leakage, vaginal bleeding).
That’s why it is important that the woman take the time—typically around a month—to recuperate. This period, known as ‘puerperium’ in Western medical terms, is commonly referred to as ‘confinement’ here. During this downtime, the woman’s body— especially her reproductive organs—gets to rest, heal and revert to its pre-pregnancy state. This also promotes lactation in the woman for breastfeeding. In addition, the lack of distraction allows for mother-baby bonding.
As part of confinement, the woman is advised to consume nutritious dishes that can aid her recovery. Confinement nourishment can be divided into three stages, each concentrating on a different part of the woman’s body, each thus requiring different nourishing ingredients.
First, concentrate on healing the uterus. After all, a woman experiences heavy blood loss when giving birth; even after delivery, the uterus continues bleeding until it contracts to normal size. The discharge, akin to menstrual flow, will gradually reduce in quantity as well as colour strength, from bright red to brown red to yellow.
In addition, you may experience pain due to blood clots in the uterus. To help the uterus recuperate, promote blood circulation and discharge to reduce stasis, the woman should consume Sheng Hua Soup once a day during this stage.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces 50% more blood because of the baby. Because not all the extra blood is expelled upon delivery, it can lead to fluid build up. It is recommended that the woman take herbal formulas such as Revitalising Tonic Soup to strengthen the gastrointestinal system, which then helps to flush out excess fluids.
A strong gastrointestinal system also aids digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus helping to repair tissues and improve the quality of breast milk.
The last stage involves physical strengthening. Not only is good nourishment important in regaining your vitality, it also fights premature ageing and prepares you for future pregnancies. Muscle strain (and those accursed stretch marks) around the abdomen area is common because this part of the woman’s body has carried a heavy load throughout the pregnancy. Kidney Tonic Soup should strengthen such a woman’s physique.
Additionally, she may feel fatigued or experience cold limbs after most of the vaginal blood has been discharged. She should consider taking Energising Tonic Soup, which tonifies the blood and helps maintain body warmth by improving blood circulation.
To make things super-convenient for women who have just given birth, many of whom are busy members of the workforce, Eu Yan Sang has come up with an essential kit which contains enough of the good stuff for the 28 days of confinement.
This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.12.
Discover the truth behind the myths of confinement from a TCM perspective.