After delivery, it’s common to experience anxiety, postpartum depression, and fatigue. Remember, your body just went through a huge transformation and you need adequate nurturing, rest, and care for the first five to six weeks after delivery. Western culture does not always have the same emphasis on postnatal recovery that other cultures do. We often want to bounce back or may feel awkward asking for help. But there is both a physical and emotional transformation that your body goes through during pregnancy and it’s important to remind yourself that your body needs to recover and to be patient with the process.
The first week after having your baby, your hormones are trying to normalize back to the levels they were at before you were pregnant. About 70 to 80 percent of women will experience what’s referred to as the “baby blues” after birth. In most cases, this feeling lifts after a few days. But if these feelings continue for more than two weeks or feel more serious in nature, you should seek help from a professional.1 According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, most forms of postpartum depression stems from a depletion of blood or yin, also known as your energy.
Every person is different, but here are some general symptoms that would be associated with each imbalance and the TCM-approach to balancing them.2
Heart Blood Deficiency: Depression, fatigue, mild anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, poor memory, and a decline in libido.
Heart Yin Deficiency: Depression, exhaustion, restlessness, and waking up multiple times during sleep, palpitations, night sweating and feeling warm at night, low breast milk production, and a decline in libido.
Heart Blood Stasis: Depression with destructive manic and aggressive behavior and the potential to be suicidal. This is a severe case of postpartum depression and you should contact your obstetrician or a psychologist immediately.3
Heart and Spleen Yang Deficiency: Depression, shortness of breath, palpitations, low appetite, restlessness or dream-disturbed sleep, and forgetfulness.
- Stagnation of Liver Qi and Fire Rising: Impatience, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, dizziness, headache, low appetite, nausea, and belching.4
Do any of these imbalances resonate with you? According to TCM, there are lifestyle adjustments you can start incorporating the month after your delivery to help your body replenish its blood, yin, and qi and manage the hormonal shifts that are occurring at this time.
- Add nourishing foods that are known to help build blood and qi to your diet. Those include beetroot, dark leafy greens, avocados, dates, sesame seeds, eggs, meat, yams, mushrooms, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, and other herbs and spices.
- Eat primarily warm or cooked foods since it’s easier on the digestive system. I recommend bone broth, healthy fats like grass-fed butter and oils (olive, avocado, sesame, and coconut), room-temperature smoothies with superfoods like maca and spirulina, congee rice porridge, grain bowls with eggs, meat and cooked vegetables, and nut and seed butter.
- Sip on teas made with goji berries, cinnamon sticks, turmeric, fresh ginger, fennel seeds, raspberry leaf, and red dates.
- Keep your body warm by staying away from cold or raw foods and chilly drafts.
- Ask for support and help from your friends and family. Give them specific instructions on what kind of help you need and how they can provide it for you.
- Be okay with going inward for a while and set boundaries with visitors if you feel like this is depleting your energy rather than boosting it.
- Stay hydrated with room temperature or warm water. I recommended at least two liters of water per day as this is essential for breast milk production if you are breastfeeding.
- Rest as much as possible, whenever you can.5
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1 The baby blues | American pregnancy association. Americanpregnancy.org.
2 CAc(Nanjing), M. G. (2011). Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone.
3 United States | postpartum Support International (PSI). Postpartum.net.
4 Betts, D., Deadman, P., & Heese, I. (2006). The essential guide to acupuncture in pregnancy & childbirth. Hove, East Sussex, England: Journal of Chinese Medicine.
5 Ou, H., Greeven, A., & Belger, M. (2016). The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother. Harry N. Abrams.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.