Giving birth to a baby inflicts a lot of stress to a woman’s body. Excessive bleeding, sweating, backaches, abdominal pain all contribute to exhausting the body and weakening bones and muscles. The body is thus easily susceptible to cold and chills, and needs a period of restoration for the body to return to full health.
The aim of the confinement period is to give the new mother lots of rest, proper nourishment with a healthy diet that will help restore a mother’s uterus back to its original size, and to condition her body so that it is restored back to its original healthy form or even stronger than before.
During pregnancy, the mother’s body goes through various adaptive changes to accommodate the development of her baby. These changes include muscle cell hypertrophy and hyperplasia in the uterus, increased cardiac output, increase in the size of the kidneys, thickening of the walls of the ureter, decrease in muscle tonicity and decrease in intestinal mobility. Other parts of the body, such as the endocrine system, skin, bones, joints and ligaments also undergo changes.
After childbirth, the reproductive system will slowly restore back to its original condition. Lesions in the uterus and vagina will heal, the uterus will involute, the diaphragm moves downwards to its original position, cardiac output resumes its normal volume, and the skin, joints and ligaments that were stretched during pregnancy will now return to normal.
The speed of these recoveries are wholly dependent on how well the mother is taken care of during confinement and the diet she consumes. If she has the right diet and has plenty of rest, the faster she will recover to full health.
Confinement practices are traditionally completed in 28 days, 42 days or 84 days. The most common practice today is 28 days, for practical reasons. These 28 days are split into four weeks and each week has different functions of recovery.
Childbirth takes a toll on a mother’s body, especially if the experience is traumatic. So during the first week, the main roles of confinement are to keep the mother’s body warm, dispel wind, replenish blood, heal postpartum wounds, avoid blood clots and discharge lochia.
Mothers may start experiencing hormonal imbalances as during the 9 months of pregnancy, the body is accustomed to the high levels of hormones excreted. This week is important for balancing the hormones, repairing internal organs and tissues, and removing excessive body dampness.
This is the growth spurt week for the baby. We focus on replenishing mum’s Qi, regulating blood circulation and strengthening muscles.
Mothers should feel that they have regained their pre-pregnancy energy levels or exceeded those levels. However, taking care of a newborn does drain a lot of energy (and sleep, of course!). So in this week, the focus is on boosting energy and reinforcing health.