Postpartum Advice from an Acupuncturist

Nyssa spoke to the wonderful New York-based acupuncturist Laura Marcove Hoffman about the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese medicine during the Fourth Trimester. Read more about Laura's work here and here

"If you’ve had acupuncture before, you’ve most likely heard lots of talk about yin and yang. In Chinese Medicine, the ultimate goal is finding the balance between the two. 
Everything in life can be broken down to yin or yang. And to make things a touch more complicated, there is always yin within yang, yang within yin, and yin and yang intertwined with each other. Generally, women are said to be more yin. Men, more yang. During pregnancy, however, women become a balance of the two states. This is only possible during this time. We create life. We nourish. We are carriers of the male yang and our own yin. That said, majority of pregnancy is still very much yin. We go inward and create. But labor and delivery is one of the most perfect examples of active yang power.
After pregnancy, we become yin again, and it almost always feels wildly jarring. Some common post partum symptoms, among many, are hair loss and night sweats. These are all signs of deficiency. After going through the mind boggling, magical process of pregnancy and delivery, the body has to be some level of deficient. It is therefore essential that during this period we add yang back into our bodies, and to support our natural yin. Post partum needs to be about conserving energy, recovering, and keeping warm. The concept postpartum recovery, where the woman does little else but recover and bond with the baby, is not unique to Chinese Medicine. In fact, it’s common in most cultures throughout the world. It is mainly unique to western culture that women are expected to immediately return to work, to exercise, and to feel just like themselves again in a short six to eight week period. Traditional Chinese Medicine honors the post partum period as a transition for mothers to get to know themselves as their new selves in their new roles. 
Fortunately, it’s slowly creeping into western consciousness that this jump to “snapping back” not best for the mother (or baby for that matter). It’s a hard awakening, as societal pressures tend to strong arm women into feeling guilty for slowing down. But when it comes to recovery, there is nothing that tops the act of taking it easy. In Chinese Medicine, this involves warmth, in the form of foods, such as stews and soups and teas, and also physical warmth. We should rest, with minimal exertion. When we do rigorous exercise, we sweat. Too much sweat causes a deficiency in the body. In the delicate post partum state, the last thing we want is to add more deficiency to a body that has already done a super human job. 
A woman’s pregnant body goes through more changes and does more work than most people are even capable of imagining. This is the time to thank it, by adding as much ease as possible. The focus is about your body healing, and getting to know both yourself as a mother and this new baby you brought into this world. The less you can move around, the better. Try to shed the notion or guilt that you ought to be DOING. A woman in the post partum period really ought to be treated with as much honor, respect, and care as when she was pregnant. And it’s important that a woman during pregnancy keeps this in mind as well. Be as grateful to your body as you were while you were pregnant."