Traditional After-Birth Care Theory and Nutrition


By Valerie Lynn, Author, The Mommy Plan

Valerie Lynn

Valerie Lynn

In May 2007, I returned to the U.S. after living in Asia for ten years. That same month, I gave birth to my son, Jordan. I quickly realized that in the United States specific, structured care for mothers after delivery didn’t exist – and still doesn’t today. I’ve asked myself why this is the case many times over the years. Care during the first six weeks post-natally is deemed as a crucial healing period to at least three billion people around the globe. Why is this period not deemed as equally important in my own country, where we have at least 4 million births per year? I attribute this to the medicalization of birth and the diminished role of the midwife, beginning in the early 1900s. Our heritage of after-birth care has been lost. There is no longer an understanding of the transition of a woman’s body back to a non-pregnant state and the intense healing process that goes on in those first few weeks.

The Humoral Theory of Medicine
All after-birth traditions, practices, and guidelines are based on one of the oldest scientific theories in the world, the Humoral Theory of Medicine. According to this ancient theory, there are four conditions in the human body: hot, cold, moist, and dry, and they must remain in balance. The Humoral Theory of Pregnancy states that a woman’s body is out of balance and in a hot state while pregnant, as her body primarily functions as an incubator to support a growing and developing baby. The hot state is due to additional sources of heat, such as: raised level of hormones, baby’s body heat, the placenta and amniotic fluid, as well as a 50% increase in the volume of blood. All of these factors combine to raise a mother’s body temperature throughout pregnancy by 1-1.5°F. In fact, the first scientific pregnancy test was an elevated temperature for two weeks outside of the menstruation period.

When a baby is born, a mother’s body temperature drops the same amount, 1-1.5°F below the normal body temperature. The decrease is due to the loss of heat sources, namely the baby’s body heat, the placenta, amniotic fluid, and blood, along with exhaustion from labor. At this time the mother’s body shifts into a cold state and the Humoral Theory of Medicine can be applied to the post-pregnancy period, when the body is again out of balance.

Sustaining & Raising Body Temperature
Traditional post-pregnancy recovery guidelines emphasize the importance of raising a mother’s internal body temperature at a consistent pace over the six weeks after delivery. Therefore, all guidelines surrounding a mother’s diet and beverage intake, personal care, and activity during this time are based on the notion that, due to the mother’s body being in a cold state, the remaining heat must be protected and maintained, ensuring no body heat escapes. In addition, a post-baby body has specific nutritional and energetic temperament needs than when it was in a pregnant state, which can be met by consuming nutrient dense healing foods.

Heaty foods are Healing Foods
A traditional after birth diet, whether from Asia, Latin America or elsewhere, is one where food is used as medicine to help accelerate the body’s natural healing capabilities. Since a mama’s body is in a cold state after delivery, only heaty foods should be consumed. The word ‘heaty’ refers to the capacity of a particular food, herb or spice to generate a “hot sensation” and warming within the body. This is not to be confused with food being overly spicy, a taste sensation that provides a sharp spicy taste and causes sweating. That sort of heat is not good for a mama’s recovering body.

Foods deemed as having a cold temperament should not be consumed during the healing period after delivery, as this may delay the natural increase in body temperature and shock the body’s digestive system. In turn, this could interrupt the healing process, lower body temperature further, and prolong the recovery process.

Most vegetables are considered to have a cold temperament and theoretically shouldn’t be consumed at this time. However, the coldness may be counteracted by the way the vegetables are prepared. For example, adding fresh ginger root while cooking makes vegetables “warm,” thus acceptable to eat and good for recuperation.

A nutritious, wholesome, and natural diet should always be encouraged. However, even good foods can be trouble for the digestive system during the immediate post-pregnancy period due to the unique state of a mama’s body after delivery. Some of the traditional foods to avoid are nutritious and healthy such as broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower. Please take note that it is only during the post-birth recovery period, when the body is in a weakened state, that specific foods should be avoided; by no means are they permanent recommendations.

Post-pregnancy Dietary Plan
After childbirth you should continue to eat well. One hour after the placenta is birthed the body begins its transition back to a non-pregnant state. Over the first six weeks postpartum a mama’s body goes through an intense internal workout as a significant amount of healing takes place. Pregnancy is approximately 259 – 280 days or 37-40 weeks, and in just 42 days or six weeks, (medically speaking) the physical shrinkage of the perinatal organs is back to normal and most of the loss of retained water, fat, and gas takes place. This healing time equates to 15% of the total amount of time spent in a pregnant state. With this in mind, don’t you think a post-pregnancy dietary plan is just as important as a dietary plan during pregnancy? Three billion people around the globe do.

By avoiding foods that interfere with the healing process you allow your body to have a stronger and more balanced recovery in a shorter period of time.

Don’t Underestimate Traditional Post-Pregnancy Care
The childbirth industry is in transition as more mothers are searching for ways to help speed up their recovery after childbirth. The United States is one of only four countries in the world that does not require employers to provide paid maternity care. Women therefore need to return to work as soon as they are able. Western countries are no longer underestimating the effectiveness of traditional post-pregnancy care, but trying to understand them. As women across the world are embracing more natural products and services into their lifestyles, western mamas are searching for natural ways to recover from childbirth. Post-pregnancy care that facilitates healing at a faster rate is becoming increasingly valued in modern cultures where women must resume their normal lives within weeks after delivery.

Valerie Lynn is American’s first Post-pregnancy Wellness Coach and founder of the Post-pregnancy Wellness Company. She is introducing an entirely new paradigm regarding after birth care in the United States based on Eastern influences. Her book, The Mommy Plan, Restoring Your Post-pregnancy Body Naturally Using Women’s Traditional Wisdom, is gaining global recognition in the child birth industry as she has explained core tenants of traditional after birth guidelines surrounding a mother’s diet, activities and personal care during the first 6-8 weeks after child birth. Valerie is the International Country Coordinator of Malaysia, for Postpartum Support International (PSI); and is on the Board of Advisors for the After Birth Project, a documentary-in-the-making on the lack of after birth support in the United States and the social effects. Valerie is the first foreigner, in Malaysia, to be university strained in traditional after birth care and is a practicing Traditional Postpartum Practitioner. She offers training in traditional after birth care, herbal body treatments, massage and abdominal wrapping, and is the Sole US distributor of a unique traditional Postnatal Care Set.


46 Responses to “Traditional After-Birth Care Theory and Nutrition”

  1. Jill Says:

    This is such a great article filled with wisdom. I immediately sent it to many expectant moms who would realy resonate with these tools. Great work, Valerie. I can’t wait to take one of your workshops in person!

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