For the first two months of the New Year, I have been having one of the most important experiences of my life: giving birth to and caring for my daughter Sophie. She was born at 3:38am on Jan. 20th, weighed 7 lbs and 8 onces, and was 49 cm long. From reading books and talking to many mothers, I was prepared for the pain of the labour, the excitement of the birth, the sense of pride of becoming a mother, the sleep deprivation of the first couple of months, even the post partum depression. However, the actual experience presented me with many surprises. I was told that once active labour has started, most women do not want to stay in bed, let alone sleep. During most of my labour, the bed was my favorite place and I kept drifting off to sleep after each contraction. After 18 hours of slow labour, our doula finally dragged me out of my comfortable bed, and “forced” me to walk around the house and walk up and down the stairs. This sped up the labour and as we got into the car to go to the hospital I was ready to push. When Sophie finally arrived, I remember myself thinking about those birth scenes in the movie: the mother screams with ecstasy and tears, “Oh, my God! My baby, my baby!” as the baby was brought to her. I was expecting to be run over by the “love truck”, but this did not happen to me. What I felt instead was a sense of intense curiosity when Sophie was put on my chest and started suckling. I was surprised that she was so big! She was almost half a meter long! How could there have been enough space for her in my tummy?
There were more surprises in the next couple of days, which I didn’t expect at all…
I was not able to pee, I was not able to poop, and we felt panic when Sophie cried from hunger and I did not seem to have enough milk. Many Chinese Medicine tricks helped me go through these challenges.
Immediately after delivery, the nurse asked me to go pee. I sat there for more than 15 minutes and was surprised to find that a bodily function that I had taken for granted for my entire life was totally not there! I felt pain, pressure, and a sense of urgency… and yet I just could not pee! I didn’t want to have catheter put in me because I knew that it might cause more pain later and likely other complications. So I tried an acupressure and Moxibustion treatment. A couple of hours later, I managed to pee a little and the next day, I could pee pretty much normally.
According to Chinese Medicine, all the hard work of pushing and straining to get the baby out consumes a lot of Qi, which impairs the normal function of the body. Acupressure and Moxibustion help a body’s Qi to move, and tonify the Qi to restore the normal function of the body. Here is the procedure:
The next difficulty I encountered was constipation. I thought that it would not happen to me because I had never had constipation in my adult life! But here it was, big time! It felt like a second delivery and I cried because of pain. Attempting to have a bowel movement was a daunting activity for almost a week. I tried all the tricks like using stool softener, eating a lot of fiber-rich food, drinking prune juice, etc. and nothing worked. Finally, I tried some herbal medicine and acupuncture and they helped — but it was still very difficult for several days. In hindsight, I wish that I had begun treatments immediately after delivery but my lifetime of “no problem pooping” had led me to be overconfident.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe that two important reasons that women after delivery have bowel movement difficulty are lack of Qi, and lack of Blood and Fluids. If your body lacks sufficient Qi, or Blood & Fluids to have a normal function, then no matter how much fiber or prune juice you take it still won’t work. The way to distinguish the two is how dry and hard your stools are. In one case, your stools might be soft and even quite small, yet you have difficulty pushing them out. You strain and push, you sweat and you feel very tired afterwards. This is caused by the Qi deficiency after the hard work of pushing and straining during labour. The herbs that help this type of constipation are: Huang Qi (Astragulas), Chen Pi (dried orange peels), Xin Ren (apricot kernels), and honey. If your Blood and Fluids are deficient, your stools usually are hard and dry, because the lack of liquid leads to dryness of the intestines. This is often caused by the loss of large amount of blood and fluids during delivery. The herbs that help are those that tonify blood and fluids and also lubricate the intestines, such as Dang Gui, Sheng Di Huang, Bai Shao, Shu Di Huang, Bai Zi Ren.
There are also acupressure points that help with bowel moment:
Tian Shu — 2 inches on either side of the umbilicus (belly button),
Qi Hai — 1 and a half inches below the umbilicus.
Use the pad of the index fingers to press on the above three points, using clockwise rotation movement. You should press with enough force until you feel a bit tender on the points. Press each point for 2 minutes. Do the treatment at least 3 times a day or more often.
The fourth day after delivery, my milk started to come in, yet there was very little. Every time I heard Sophie cried of hunger, I felt very frustrated that I didn’t have enough milk. I tried all of the following tips for inducing milk supply. If you encounter the same challenge, try these tips and that will make your life and the little one’s life a lot happier. And, most importantly of all, be patient and kind to yourself! Your body is developing brand-new talents, and this takes time.
A. Tan Zhong — The point in the middle of the chest between two nipples;
B. Ru Gen — The points about 3 inches directly below the nipples, on the breasts.
Treatment: Press these points with the pad of fingers for several minutes. Do this several times a day.
Lack of Milk
If your breasts feel soft and empty, this means that your body hasn’t made enough milk. Light a moxa stick and hold it above the following points for 15 minutes:
A. Tan Zhong — The point on the chest bone, in the middle of the two nipples
B. Qi Hai — The point about 1.5 inches directly below the umbilicus.
There are several food cure recipes that have been used for thousands of years to promote milk supply. The followings are the most commonly used two, they are very easy to prepare and very effective to promote or maintain a good milk supply:
Pork trotter soup
Ingredients: one pork trotter cut into pieces, one piece of ginger the size of a thumb, 2 tablespoonful of rice wine and salt.
How to prepare:
This makes enough broth for about 3 meals. After you finish the broth, you can make more by adding more water to cook with the trotter. Make sure you also eat the meat.
Tilapia fish Soup
Ingredients: one tilapia fish, one piece of ginger in the size of a thumb, 1 table spoonful of rice wine, salt, 1-2 stalks of green onion
How to prepare:
The tips listed above are those that I have tried and worked for me. There are many other effective Chinese Medicine tips and treatments to help women to recover after childbirth, to improve physical and emotional health. If you are interested in finding out more tips and food cure recipes, please write to Dr. Judy Zhu at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.