Postnatal Blues: The TCM Approach
After giving birth, new moms can often feel exhausted, overwhelmed, demotivated, and suffer from a loss of appetite and insomnia – even when the baby is sleeping. They are probably suffering from what is called postnatal blues. The postnatal period refers to the 6 weeks following childbirth. Having to take care of an infant 24/7 whilst trying to recuperate and heal the body from the stresses of pregnancy and childbirth can give mums a rough ride, both physically and emotionally. They sometimes sink into depression.
In the Western medical field, postpartum depression is viewed as the result of an imbalance of hormones, stress and anxiety. Recent studies estimate that approximately 10 percent of new moms will experience postpartum depression. Often, these moms turn to medication to treat their depression and relieve their symptoms. However, more natural options do exist and that is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) steps in. With a combination of herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion and diet therapy, TCM can help moms restore balance in their body and mind.
According to TCM philosophy, right after childbirth, women are particularly vulnerable to suffer from deficiencies of Qi – energy – and Blood, the two vital substances for the body. Indeed, during pregnancy, the mom builds up lots of Blood and Qi for her baby who then leaves the body during childbirth. That is why she tends to feel exhausted, depressed and to have an "empty" sensation. The body is particularly weak and needs to rebuild its balance. Most often, a Yang deficiency is likely to occur, creating an imbalance and a tendency to feel cold in the body. The aim of the TCM treatment is to strengthen the body and help it recover from the loss of Qi and Blood. Using acupuncture and herbal medicine to stimulate the Qi and Blood, as well as moxibustion – a type of herbal cigar – TCM will attempt to regularize the body's heat.
Herbal treatments will focus on replenishing vitality and boosting energy levels, improving the blood flow and favoring recuperation. They will also stabilize emotions in order to release depressive symptoms.
Acupuncture will help the mom to deal with overwhelming emotions, soothe the mind, relax and sleep. Specific acupuncture points will be targeted to stimulate the flow of Qi and Blood, so that the body can easily regain energy and recover from the pregnancy. It will alleviate the pain associated with labor and delivery of the baby. Apart from healing the body and helping the mom find peace of mind, acupuncture is also highly effective for resolving post-partum issues, such as excessive bleeding and hormonal imbalances.
In TCM, there is an ancient tradition named "Yue Zi" (月子) which literally stands for "one month sitting". It consists of keeping the body in a preserved environment, because it is extremely weak after the delivery of a baby. During the four weeks after childbirth, the mom has to fully rest and is not supposed to leave home, to wash, or to eat cold and raw foods. This is a way for the Chinese to restore health and vitality after pregnancy and childbirth. Nowadays, new moms can draw inspiration from this practice without having to implement it so strictly.
According to TCM, a combination of good rest, healthy and warming foods, herbal medicine and acupuncture, will help new moms out of their depression so they can fully enjoy their new lives.
You might also be interested in the following contributions:
- Let's Talk About The Baby Blues - notes from a past talk
- Exercises & Tests For The Immediate Postpartum Period - more star content