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Postpartum Care by Valerie Plante, R.Ac, CD(DONA)

posted Jan 9, 2011, 1:23 AM by Tascheleia Marangoni

A lot of emphasis is placed on the preparation for birthing, as it should be. However, in comparison, very little consideration is given to the recovery time for mom. While I was waiting for a mom to come out of her c-section recently, I had the good fortune to be sharing the waiting room with a midwife from Jamaica, who was also waiting to hear of her daughter’s recovery from a similar situation. As we waited, she spoke commenting on the fine facilities we have here, however what she noted next stayed with me. She said that although their facilities were definitely lacking in Jamaica, what they did have, that she seldom saw here was people, family who care for each other. When the mother leaves the hospital she would be cared for by friends and extended family, her physical and emotional needs attended to until she and baby were ready to take on more of the demands of motherhood. Unfortunately, in our culture, often the mother is expected to fall back into a regular routine when she is still recovering from a dynamic physically, emotionally and spiritually altering experience.

There is a reason why this care was in place in the past and remains an important part of the post-partum period. From the Chinese Medicine perspective, mom loses a lot of fluid, blood and qi, and needs to take time to allow for the restoration of these essential essences. What is needed is standard, good sense medical care; plenty of rest, good nourishing food, as well as emotional support to assist with the transition to increased demands made on the family. At a group post-partum visit I recently held with my moms, many of the moms remarked on the need to express to their family and friends, the importance of having time to themselves initially so the family can recuperate, bond to one another, adjust to breastfeeding and transition slowly into the new lifestyle. One mom reminded us that people do want to help in whatever way they can and if it means leaving the family a week of recovery time, they are willing to do so, even if it means assisting in other ways such as dropping off food, going for groceries, sorting laundry, and attending to other day to day essentials. The bottom line was, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and to be sure to watch out for each other. Sometimes if mom and dad have not been sleeping due to baby’s erratic schedule, fuses can get short and it is good to recognize that there is often a reason behind this.

Nutritionally, foods that are warming, such as soups and stews are more nourishing than foods that are cold. Adding dark, green leafy vegetables to build the liver blood and orange, yellow, red foods, such as beets and carrots, will help the mom to build her energy. It is also possible and beneficial to keep the placenta, dry it, and encapsulate it to provide substantial post-partum support. Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help to balance the Liver and Kidney energy, both systems which have been compromised to some extent following the birth.

Not to forget the importance of the transition from womb to room that the baby has to experience, Dr. Frederick Leboyer, a maverick in women’s care throughout the birth experience, makes a strong defense for the need to transition baby slowly and gently to their new environment. Post-partum care, encompasses attending to all the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of mom and family, including dad and baby. Enlisting the help of family and friends as well as health professionals, following the birth of your child, should be an essential part of your birth planning to ensure the best start for your new family.