By Cindy Mai of Root+Spring
During pregnancy, it’s often stressed to mothers that they should take special care of their health, because it directly affects the development and growth of the baby. However, in traditional Chinese medicine, maintaining a woman’s health is also greatly important in the postnatal period. Just like the special attention mothers-to-be take during their pregnancy, the care a woman receives immediately after childbirth is often thought to impact her health far into the future.
this image from telegraph.co.uk
In Chinese medicine, the postpartum period refers to the four months following labor and delivery, the first month being of utmost importance to be thoughtful of nourishment to the body. It isn’t until the end of the fourth month after delivery that the yin and blood are considered “replenished” again, and the womb fully recovered.
In addition to hormonal and body changes, during pregnant a woman’s blood also almost doubles in volume in order to encourage the placenta and the developing fetus. However, labor is called labor for a reason: as beautiful as childbirth is, it takes a toll on a woman’s body. Blood loss during delivery can deplete the mother’s qi and blood. And because breast milk is formed from the same substrate as blood, breastfeeding is comparable to a constant loss of blood. For these reasons, women are often qi and blood deficient after their labor. The overworked spleen, temporarily worn out from replenishing blood, can result in poor digestion, poor appetite, and possibly poor breast milk production. Difficulty falling asleep due to qi deficiency is common as well. The resulting fatigue and sleep deprivation can be a cause of several postpartum health concerns. It cannot be said enough that supporting the middle burner and tonifying qi and blood with healthful food and herbs immediately after childbirth is highly recommended.
There is a superb Chinese herbal formula that is by far, the standard nourishing recipe to give to new mothers after giving birth. It has been taken for thousands of years and is considered a staple in China and Taiwan, usually taken for one to two weeks immediately following childbirth. This herbal medicine is called Sheng Hua Tang, and literally means “generating and transforming decoction” or “giving birth” decoction.
As the name suggests, Sheng Hua Tang aims to help generate and transform the body. Sheng Hua Tang’s primary action is moving and warming the blood in the body, contracting the uterus to return it to its normal state, promoting discharge of the lochia (vaginal discharge of old blood, mucus and uterine tissue which occurs for 4 to 6 weeks following labor), warming the meridians, and dispelling pain. It is a great formula to also strengthen the health and immunity of the new mother.
Sheng Hua Tang vitally ensures that the uterus is clean, clear, and warm after childbirth. A healthy uterus will have a positive impact on the breast milk and can prevent a host of postpartum health concerns.
Sheng Hua Tang is almost always consumed as a nourishing soup by adding chicken, pork or beef bones to create a bone broth. Additionally, it can also be consumed as a tea (vegan approved!). Just omit the meat and mushrooms, and add sweetener instead of salt in the below recipe. Chinese herbs are great and versatile in that way.
This herbal soup is most effective when consumed during the week immediately following childbirth, up until one month.
Recipe for Postpartum Recovery (Sheng Hua Tang)
Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
this yummy image from superfoods-for-superhealth.com
- 1 root + spring’s Postpartum Recovery herbal mix
- 2 1/2 pounds of chicken, pork bones, or beef bones
- 4 slices of ginger, each at least a quarter inch thick
- 5 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried
- 6 – 8 cups of water
this image from authoritynutrition.com
- Lightly rinse herbs under running water.
- Optional: Some Chinese people believe par-boiling the meat for ten minutes first helps to remove any residual fat and toxins the meat. If you’d like to include this step, simply cover the meat with enough water in a pot, bring to a boil for ten minutes, and remove. Rinse the meat. It is now ready for Step 2.
- In a pot, combine herbs, meat, ginger, mushrooms and water.
- Bring to a boil before covering and simmering for 1.5 hours on stovetop, or 3 hours in a slow cooker.
- Salt to taste.
- Consume this soup regularly for the first two weeks after labor. Do not consume after one month past labor, or while pregnant.