Planning to give birth out of hospital? Enjoy $100 off from my birth doula package!

Postpartum recovery according Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM is all about creating a balance in the body, and different conditions are considered "hot" or "cold". For example, a cold can produce a fever, which is an excess of heat. Therefore, the treatment would be something that has a cooling effect on the body. But in TCM, postnatal women are considered to have an excess of cold in the body. In China, new mothers are discouraged from eating cold food or drinks, or even from taking a shower lest it creates an additional chill. She is only given warm foods and foods that have a warming effect on her system, for at least the first 30-40 days postpartum

For China, the assistant to the new mother is an integral figure during the first month of postpartum. This period is called confinement.
What is confinement? Restrictive practices are traditional postnatal practices that help the new mother recover from the various effects of pregnancy and childbirth. Traditionally, mother and baby are nesting at home during the whole first month. This practice is used by the Chinese, Malays and Indians. The reason is to support the new mother and help her to replenish physical and emotional strength. In modern conditions of life, some mothers do not apply restrictive practices at all, considering them to be old-fashioned, but many still observe them partially to rest and recover from childbirth.


As an example of some of the rules of these practices:

  • the prohibition to wash hair during the entire period of restriction;
  • protection against "cooling" elements, such as cold water, and against the effects of air conditioning or a fan;
  • swimming only in specially prepared warm water, which is infused with herbs;
  • use of the services of traditional massage therapists, massaging the abdomen and connecting it with a special postpartum corset.

During the period of restriction, moms are advised to follow a certain diet. This diet is based on Traditional Chinese medicine and the theory that all products can generate in the body either “hot” energy (correlated with the Chinese concept of yang) or “cold” energy (correlated with the concept of yin). The idea of ​​dividing products into increasing and decreasing heat is connected with the idea of ​​the balance between yin and yang. Traditionally the imbalance of these elements explains some of the emotional (irritability, temper, fatigue or lethargy) and physical conditions (fever, sore throat, and runny nose, mouth ulcers, indigestion or constipation, flushing to the face cheeks, rashes, acne and acne, dark yellow urine).


It is believed that warming foods like hot sun, are sweet or sharp, "dry" or "hard", rich in fat and sodium. A "cooling" products grow with a small amount of sunlight, they are gentle, "wet" and "soft", rich in potassium.

  • Some “cooling” foods: bananas, pears, grapefruits, persimmon, watermelon, mandarin, strawberries, pineapple, tomatoes, bitter gourd, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower, zucchini, radishes, lotus root, algae turmeric, marjoram, mint, sugarcane, barley, bean curd, chicken egg white, yogurt, clams, and crabs.
  • "Neutral" products: apricots, papaya, apples, figs, dates, plums, raspberries, raisins, beets, carrots, celery, olives, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, radish, Brussels sprouts, peas in pods, rice, red beans , yellow soybeans, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, honey, sage, rosemary, thyme, milk, chicken egg yolk, beef, pork, carp, cuttlefish, duck.
  • Some warming foods: cherry, raspberry, blackberry, black currant, mango, grape, chestnut, grapefruit, peach, garlic, leek, shallot, green onion, soybean oil, vinegar, walnut, apricot kernels, pepper (seasoning), cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, coffee, nutmeg, basil, cloves, coriander, chicken, ham, lamb, shrimp.

It is also important how the food is cooked. For example, beef is considered a “neutral” product, but if you cook it on a grill or fry it strongly, it becomes a “warming” food. In the postpartum period, you should eat food that "increase heat" in the body. It is believed that this improves blood circulation, strengthens the joints, stimulates the production of breast milk, fights against the "wind" - that is, gases - in mom and baby, prevents hair loss and premature aging. And the "cooling" products should be avoided: they can cause the opposite effect, as well as provoke rheumatism, arthritis and weakening of the joints in the mother.


Approximate diet of postpartum woman according TCM:

  • In a first month drink only warm water, compotes and infusions. Very helpful is decoction of red beans - the red adzuki beans are cooked to a soft state, the broth is drunk. The beans themselves can also be eaten. Compote of dried fruits: red dates, black dates, prunes, goji berries, dried tangerine peels, dried longan. Dried longan, by the way, promotes relaxation and good sleep, which, in turn, helps milk production.
  • Fresh oily fish. It is believed that fresh fish promotes healing of internal organs and tissues.
  • Avoid “cooling” elements, for example, cucumbers, young coconut, spinach, watermelon and other products from the “cooling list” (see above).
  • Ginger. A lot of ginger. This grated ginger can be added to all dishes: wash-fry vegetables, baked fish, soups. It is not only useful for digestion, but also very effectively "warms" the body, which, again, contributes to the production of milk.
  • Ginger "tea" - grated ginger juice, poured with hot water, plus a teaspoon of honey. In the first week - no more than one cup of such tea per day, starting from the second week - two cups or more. Ginger prevents the formation of gas in the child and the emergence of other problems with the tummy.
  • Eat a lot and varied: always green leafy vegetables (only ready-made), roots, wild rice, mushrooms, nuts (every day are different), fruits, including pomelo (the only recommended citrus fruit), and, of course, papaya and fishbone soup. This soup is an indispensable part of a program to stimulate milk production. It is believed that papaya in combination with fish oil gives a strong effect.
  • To support the “inner” warmth — wear warm shoes and warm clothes, did not sit under air conditioners, took only hot showers.

And if we speak about placenta or Zî hé chē, according TCM it's considered to be a very powerful  and the most tonifying medicine. The cooking is a part of what makes the placenta the most powerful tonifying medicine in the TCM arsenal. Raw placenta will have a cooling effect on mother's system, throwing her even further out of balance. Prepared or cooked placenta (steamed is preferable, as steaming is the most gentle way to cook something and retain the most nutrients in the food) is the most preferable way of ingesting placenta for postpartum women. It will have a warming (tonifying) effect on her system, bringing her more quickly into balance.


However, cooling foods may be best in the first 24-48 hours postpartum. Raw foods, thus raw placenta, are used to help calm the hormonal rush and blood flow. Fresh, raw placenta can be helpful to get the mother's uterus to begin contracting, and stop excessive blood loss. It can also be beneficial to quickly restore mother's resources immediately after the birth.


So in other words balance is the most important thing. Be healthy and happy!