The Best Herbal Supplements and Confinement Food to Take Post-Pregnancy

This article lists the confinement food and herbs to take weekly after childbirth to help the body heal while strengthening immunity.

Confinement food jujube in a bowl as soup or tea with dried jujube, red dates, ginger, and brown sugar on the side

Becoming a mother is something that many women look forward to, but it can take a lasting toll on their bodies. It is why the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice of confinement after labour is an important part of post-partum care, focusing on new mothers’ recuperation. This includes specially prepared confinement food, herbal supplements, extended rest, and physical care. 

Also known as the period of “lying-in”, “sitting-in”, or “doing the month”, confinement starts after delivery and usually takes four to six weeks. Mothers experience great changes to their bodies during pregnancy and after birth as they care for their newborns. Getting the rest and nutrition they need is important so they can focus on caring for their baby and resume daily activities. 

Benefits of Confinement

Asian mom dressed in white happily looking at her newborn baby
Confinement is an important period for women’s bodies to recover quickly when done right.

In TCM, confinement is designed to help mothers heal, strengthen, and restore balance to their bodies. “This includes healing of perineal wounds, shrinking of the uterus, lowering of the diaphragm, heart recovery, and restoration of loosened skin, joints, or ligaments,” explains TCM physician Tiang Sack Sing. 

For some, the practice has negative connotations that stem from a misinterpretation of its purpose making these confinement myths uncomfortable and impossible to follow. But for many, “sitting the month” is a nurturing and effective treatment for healing the body’s imbalance. It also helps prevent potential illnesses. Mothers can benefit from well-deserved rest with specially prepared confinement food and herbs to help them recuperate and boost their immunity. 

Confinement Foods and Herbs for Healing 

Today, modern options for confinement include confinement centres, hiring a confinement lady, and Chinese confinement food packages. But their purposes remain the same – to help with the recovery of your body and prevent illnesses, increase lactation, and minimise the occurrence of post-natal conditions in the future. We list the best food and herbal supplements below during each week of your confinement. 

Chicken soup with goji berries in a bowl beside dried herbs in a wooden box
Mild-flavoured soups are easy to digest and won’t tax your stomach’s digestion process.

During the first week of confinement, your focus is on healing the uterus and expelling Wind and Cold. According to Physician Tiang, “It is necessary to expel Wind and stimulate blood circulation so that the uterus can contract well. The smooth expulsion of pathogenic cold and lochia (vaginal discharge) is conducive to the recovery of the uterus and overall body functions.” She recommends taking a Sheng Hua decoction (生化汤) to help eliminate vaginal postpartum bleeding and So Hup pills (苏合丸) to help expel pathogenic Wind in the body.

Light, bland meals are ideal for mothers at this stage since they don’t tax the stomach and intestines. This helps prevent Damp-Heat due to a sluggish stomach, which isn’t conducive to nutrient absorption and slows down body recovery. 

Boiling herbal medicine soup packs that are mildly flavoured and lightly nourishing can help nourish and regulate qi and blood. Try a Spleen-strengthening soup containing Chinese yam, (huai shan, 淮山) and a revitalising soup with Astragalus root (huang qi, 黄芪). Astragalus root helps invigorate the immune system, heal wounds, and maintain overall wellness while Chinese yam can help improve digestive functions

Week two: Qi and blood-replenishing herbs 

During the second week, it is important to stimulate blood circulation and improve lactation. “A gradual increase of Chinese herbal medicines that tonify qi and blood also helps prevent postpartum depression,” advises Physician Tiang.

Herbs that you should take include: 

  • Astragalus root – to boost immunity 
  • Codonopsis (dang shen, 党参) – to help with Qi Deficiency by boosting digestion and helping a weakened body 
  • Angelica sinensis (dang gui, 当归) – to nourish blood and restore the body’s natural balance. 

These ingredients can also help richly nourish qi and blood, restore physical energy, and stimulate breast milk secretion. 

Week three: Muscle and bone-fortifying meals 

Week three is all about nourishing Kidneys, strengthening the muscles and bones, and keeping the uterus warm. Your physical energy, blood, and qi are gradually recovering.

Strengthening the muscles and bones needs blood and qi to support tendons and ligaments. This helps mothers regain their mobility, restoring the traction strength of the joints, pelvis and hip contraction as well as muscle tension – much needed after carrying a baby for nine months and then going through labour.  

“During this time, you can start taking some herbal soups that nourish the Kidneys and strengthen the muscles and bones,” suggests Physician Tiang. Look for soups containing eucommia (du zhong, 杜仲) as one of the ingredients, such as Eucommia Tendon Strengthening Soup (du zhong bu yao tang, 杜仲补腰汤) and Eucommia Eight Herbs Soup (ba zhen du zhong tang, 八珍杜仲汤). The herb is considered a tonic that promotes a strong skeletal structure and flexible joints.

“You can also start taking Bak Foong pills (白凤丸) after the 14th day to help warm the uterus and replenish qi and blood,” Physician Tiang adds. This can help improve the health of your womb and maintain its vitality. 

Week four: High collagen and vitality-boosting ingredients

Dried jujubes next to a cup of tea
Jujube tea can help strengthen immunity, which is necessary for the last week of confinement.

In the last stage of confinement, food should increase vitality, repair skin and hair, and improve mental acuity. Look for traditional Chinese medicine soup packs for nourishing blood, Kidneys, and hair such as Herbal qi restoring soup (壮腰培元汤), Ten Herbs soup (十全大补汤), and He Shou Wu Hair Nourishing soup (何首乌润发汤).

Nutrition for bones, muscles, Spleen, and stomach should also be continued. “Consume collagen-rich pork knuckles to help stabilise the toughness of bones and ligaments,” says Physician Tiang. Fattier cuts of beef and chicken on the skin can be used to replace pork.

“Drink more codonopsis jujube tea and brown rice tea to help strengthen the Spleen and stomach and nourish qi and blood during the whole postnatal period,” she adds. “This can effectively help your body to recover and ensure adequate breast milk secretion during confinement.”

TCM Physicians’ Tips: Make the Most of Your Confinement Period

Nutrition is only one aspect of confinement, which requires a synergistic approach that includes physical care. TCM physicians emphasise heightened personal hygiene, the use of herbal baths when washing your hair or taking a shower to prevent exogenous Wind from invading the body, staying warm and protecting against Cold, and avoiding stress to prevent postpartum depression and help your recuperation. 

Confinement is a critical period where a woman’s body is given the chance to rest, recover, and get stronger. Well-balanced confinement food and herbal supplements that work with the healing cycle of the body is important. It helps mothers recuperate and also protects against potential illnesses as they regain their vitality.

References

  1. Pacific College of Health and Science. The Maternal Tradition Of “Sitting the Month”: Traditional Chinese Medicine Postpartum Care. [Online] Available at: <https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2021/09/28/the-maternal-tradition-of-sitting-the-month-traditional-chinese-medicine-postpartum-care> [Accessed 10 July 2022]
  2. Science Direct. 2004. “Doing the month”: Confinement and convalescence of Chinese women after childbirth. [Online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0160798778900030> [Accessed 10 July 2022]
  3. Eu Yan Sang International Ltd. 2019. Everyday Botanica: A Fresh Perspective on Chinese Herbs. [Offline] [Accessed 12 July 2022]
  4. Science Direct. 2019. Angelica Sinensis. [Online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/angelica-sinensis> [Accessed: 10 July 2022]
  5. Dynamic Chiropractic. 2014. Eucommia Bark Helps Maintain Strong Bones. [Online] Available at: <https://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=56897> [Accessed 13 July 2022]

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