The Golden Month : Postpartum Care
TIP : The Golden Month : Postpartum Care
I find that newly pregnant people spend a disproportionate amount of time planning, training, and otherwise obsessing over their upcoming birth- a relatively short moment of time in your perinatal life. I urge you to consider redirecting some of that energy towards planning for a supported postpartum, specifically planning for your first 40 days after birth. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this 4th trimester of pregnancy is called your “Golden Month”. The utmost importance is placed on this season of your life as it can, if done well, eliminate and heal past diseases and deficiencies and if the birthing parent is not supported or certain conditions are not met, it can cement ongoing health concerns and even create new ones. Yikes!
In China, as well as in many other traditional cultures, following your birth you are expected to rest, recover, and bond with your baby. Ideally an older relative, mother, or auntie moves in with your family and does all of the household chores, prepares nourishing foods, and provides frequent massages to the mother. Amazing right?
Not many of us have trusted relatives near by or the means to hire a full time postpartum doula. But using the principles and resources below and with a little planning and meal prep we can fashion a pretty supported Golden Month.
10 Basic Tenants of The Golden Month :
- Complete physical rest. You heard me. I know you want to show your new baby off at your coffee shop or grab brunch with your friends. But don’t for the first 40 days. Stay home, relax and luxuriate. If you are feeling the need to move, walk first in your home and only go on small walks near the end of your Golden Month if you are fully bundled from wind and cold (see #3). Consider hiring additional help if possible, such as a house cleaner, part-time night doula, or ordering meals from a postpartum service (see below). Call on your circle of support, friends, and family to see if someone could take the dog for her walks this month or scrub your toilet. Use a website like Mealtrain.com to advertise to your community what meals, chores, and services you need help with.
- Emotional rest: keep calm and happy. The Golden Month is not a time to rewatch your favorite dark humor Netflix series or obsess over the NPR app. Keep your exposure to emotions as light as possible to support your internal landscape. Strong emotions are as much a disease factor as anything else in TCM. You can be a full citizen in the drama of life after this month.
- The dangers of COLD. Avoid cold, drafty, and windy places. Avoid cold foods. Avoid cold water. The body is particularly open and vulnerable post birth to cold and wind. Your uterus, which was recently a hot house, is now open and susceptible to drafts. In TCM, cold and wind are considered the root of many diseases such as arthritis and digestion problems. Don’t sit on cold surfaces. Don’t drink cold or iced beverages. Don’t let you hair stay wet after a shower. Your Chinese or Irish or Italian or Mexican grandmother would tisk tisk tisk at such things.
- Eat Qi, Blood, and Essence rich foods (see below). These rebuild the vital substances taken from your body to both grow the baby and birth the baby. These vital substances are now needed to heal your body and produce milk. It is a never-ending cycle of giving! Welcome to parenting.
- Avoid greasy, raw, cold, and spicy foods. Our basic health is dependent on our ability to extract nutrients from food. Greasy, raw, cold, and spicy foods hinder our digestion.
- Eat only cooked foods that are warming in nature and use herbs and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, onions and garlic to warm your meals. If you do have raw or cold foods, try to eat them in community with cooked or warm foods (think soup and salad) or drink a big cup of warm lemon water or herbal tea with those meals.
- Eat soups and broths daily. Soup gets its own line. Soup is the perfect food, as it is warm, nourishing, and easy to digest. Bone broth especially nourishes Qi, Blood, and Essence.
Note: These next 3 are specifically what an acupuncturist can offer you in the postpartum. If you don’t have one already, consider starting a relationship before you need it. Most acupuncturists have full practices and it takes a few weeks or more to be seen by one as a new client. If these aspects of care are important to you or if you have had a previously hard postpartum, than preplan for this relationship.
- “Mother Warming”. We use an herb called Moxa or mugwort to warm the pathways of conception post birth to preserve your essence and health. Moxa drives out any lingering cold in the uterus and “closes the gates” that may still be open from birth, helping you to feel more yourself, less scattered and leaking essence.
Chinese Herbs. Various herbs in a traditional formula can address postpartum symptoms, help with breast milk, healing the body from root to branch.
Acupuncture can be particularly useful for mastitis, insufficient milk flow, depression, anxiety, insomnia and hemorrhoids. But many new parents find it a useful tool for feeling themselves again and for supporting strong postpartum healing.
- Qi, Blood & Essence Rich Foods
* Beef, Lamb, Pork, Eggs, Black-Skinned Chicken, Oxtail
* Organ Meats (Liver, Heart, Kidney, etc.. can be in dehydrated pill form)
* Oysters, Cod, Whitefish
* Tomatoes, Yams, Beets, Spinach (cooked)
* Plums, Cherries, Raspberries, Lychees, Black Grapes or Grape Juice, Go Qi * Berries, Logan Berries, Chinese Red Dates, Mejool Dates
* Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Black Soy Beans, Corn, Lotus Seed, White Rice, Glutinous White Rice
* Ginger, Chives, Cinnamon, Garlic, Black Soy Bean Paste, Black Sesame Seeds
* Milk products (cow, goat or sheep)
- Book Resources :
* The First 40 Days, The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou
* Nurture: A modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood- and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen
* Nurturing the Family: The Guide for Postpartum Doulas by Jacqueline Kelleher
- Bay Area Food Delivery:
Mealbaby.com and Mealtrain.com (to arrange for people to bring you food)
Dr. Nikki Cerone-Fancher is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in the Mission Dolores neighborhood of San Francisco. She specializes in supporting clients through the major seasons of life (childhood, menarche, fertility, pregnancy, birth, lactation, menopause and beyond…), helping them to grow, adjust, and adapt. Nikki values humor and humanness above all else.
Learn more at newmissionacupuncture.com or email :