Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Acupuncture, diet and post-natal recovery

Although acupuncture treatments for fertility are pretty well-known now, and the benefits of this treatment are extremely well-researched, we hear less about post-partum acupuncture -- treatments for the new mother AFTER the baby is born. These treatments – combined with a healthy diet – are extremely important in helping the mother regain her strength and energy. I emphasize to all of my fertility patients that the goal isn’t simply to ‘get pregnant’, or even to deliver a healthy baby, but to do that and to be healthy enough to enjoy this new life and support your new family.

I recently completed a course on acupuncture and fertility, and here is an excerpt from the notes on that class, taught by Debra Betts a well-respected acupuncturist in New Zealand.

The Road to Recovery
Adequate rest to ensure complete recovery from childbirth is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Pregnancy can be challenging to the body, and labor certainly is. A basic idea in TCM is that it will take a woman at least a month to fully recover from childbirth, an idea not necessarily widespread in Western society. Though partners or relatives are usually available to help for a week or two, many new mothers are left to their own devices (and a newly busy and sleepless schedule) after that. The demands of modern society and the pressures of our work world often prevent partners from helping more, and prevent some Moms from feeling comfortable asking for more help.

It may be an appealing idea that “super moms” will be fit and ready for action within a week or two following birth, but this is not the reality for most women. While they may be able to cope, (and will be rewarded by plenty of verbal feedback on how well they are doing), several months later it is often hard to shake off the tiredness and exhaustion. Breast-feeding can exacerbate this situation, particularly if the new mother isn’t getting adequate nutrition.

Remembering that the ideal is a happy new Mom who is able to enjoy her new family duties, weekly acupuncture treatment starting from 2 weeks postpartum for a total of 3 weeks to promote stamina and an efficient recovery can be recommended. This is also a good time for evaluation for more serious problems that may result from a difficult labor or more severe exhaustion. Acupuncture can also be useful at this time to balance emotions, aid perineal healing and help with any breastfeeding problems.

There is also a long documented history in traditional Chinese medicine of women taking dietary remedies to encourage lactation and to promote their recovery from childbirth with an emphasis on building blood and energy. Specific foods are seen to be especially valuable, for example:

Foods that improve Qi (energy) include;
Oats, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms (button and shitake), yams, dates, grapes, Kidney beans, tofu, beef, chicken, tuna, egg, jasmine tea and spices such as; basil, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, and thyme.

Foods to build blood include;
Corn, beetroot, all dark leafy greens, mushrooms, apricots, avocados, dates, kidney beans, sesame seeds, chicken, mussels, eggs and soy milk as well as the obvious iron rich foods such as red meat and spinach.

Byron Russell

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