What To Eat After Giving Birth

Byline: Julia Jones

Pregnancy is a time of wonder, hope and anticipation. But after that little bundle of joy arrives many mothers find themselves struggling. Postnatal depression and divorce rates are high, and breastfeeding rates are low.  Over 80% of new mothers say they feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

But before I scare you away I want you to know it doesn’t have to be like this. After giving birth women have very special physical and emotional needs, recognised by hundreds of different cultures for thousands of years. Anthropologists Stern and Kruckman found that cultures with low incidence of postpartum mood disorders share a range of protective social structures that provide support and care for new mothers.

Similarly, anthropologist Dr. Dana Raphael studied how humans have managed to keep their babies alive for so long when breastfeeding seems so hard. She found the same pattern occurring in nearly 200 cultures around the world. Ancient communities appreciate a new mother’s needs, not the least of which is your need to be nurtured and loved and cared for in the same way that you nurture and love and care for your baby.

Why hospital food is the worst thing you can eat after birth. And what to eat instead.

One of the key universal features of postpartum care around the world is warm, nourishing comfort foods. Soups, stews and puddings feature on international postpartum menus and are always cooked for the mother, not by her. Different cultures have variations in detail. I cook Ayurvedic food for my clients, based on ancient Indian medicine.

Ayurveda is an elemental science, meaning it is based on the five elements – earth, fire, water, air and space. If you picture a pregnant woman you can see her abundance of earth and water! Childbirth is the biggest and fastest change in a woman’s life. In just a few hours her body loses vast amounts of earth (for example the baby and placenta), water (in amniotic fluid and tears) and fire (through her blood and sweat). Ayurveda emphasises balancing the elements in your body, meaning you need to replace the earth, water and fire that is lost in childbirth.

Even if you normally enjoy eating raw foods, Ayurveda teaches us that different foods are appropriate for different stages of life. Raw foods are suitable for people with strong digestion and lots of earth and fire. New mothers on the other hand are already high in air and space. The qualities needed after birth are sweetness, warmth, oiliness, simplicity and moisture. Soups, stews and puddings, good fats and good sugars will give you the energy you need, but to digest them you will need to add spices and keep meals simple and regular.

An Ayurvedic postpartum diet is like weaning a baby. When you eat after giving birth, start with soft, warm, soupy foods that are simple to digest, gradually introduce more texture and variety, and eventually, as your appetite and energy return you can go back to your regular diet. Sit down to eat fresh, homemade food regularly. If you only do one thing – eat cooked food.

You can see how standard issue hospital food does not fit the postpartum bill as it is often old, cold, dry and heavy to digest.

This is a recipe I suggest instead, as it aids digestion, has instantly accessible energy and builds blood. Rice pudding is a wonderful food for friends and family to bring you in hospital in a thermos, so add this recipe to your birth plan.

Nepali Rice Pudding Recipe

rice pudding

Cooking time 35 minutes
Serves 3—4

Ingredients

  • 5 cups pure water
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • ¼ cup jaggery
  • ¼ cup ghee
  • 2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 2/3 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

Bring water and rice to a boil in large pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally until it begins to thicken. This should take about 20 minutes.

Add the sugar and spices and ghee. You may need to add an extra cup of water at this stage if your pudding is too thick.

Continue to cook slowly; stirring as needed. When gelatinous consistency add milk. Cook for a few more minutes to thicken.

Serve hot, with sugar and ghee to taste. Serve as desired throughout the day.

This recipe is from my book Nourishing Newborn Mother – Ayurvedic recipes to heal your mind, body and soul after childbirth. You can check it out at www.newbornmothers.com.au.

mailchimp size profile picJulia works with pregnant women who want to find peace and joy in motherhood and is the founder of Newborn Mothers. She is an Ayurvedic postnatal doula, recipe book author and creator of a weekly free pregnancy podcast. Click here to listen to her free podcasts.

Not Getting Pregnant – How One Woman Turned Things Around

This is a guest post by Dawnmarie Childs on Not Getting Pregnant – and how she managed to turn things around.

It was about a year ago that I last contributed to Nathalie’s blog about my achievements through a raw food diet. I was not getting pregnant. In 2006, I was fat, tired, depressed, anxious, constipated, separated from my husband, and infertile. At least that is what the reproductive endocrinologist told me. “Your FSH is too high. You need an egg donor. There is nothing I can do for you.” He was right. There was nothing he could do for me. But there was something I could do for myself. Never one to take “No” for an answer, I researched what I could do to improve my fertility… and I found raw foods.

I Was Not Getting Pregnant – Was Food to Blame?

While I couldn’t find anything in the human medical literature about food and fertility, I did find a veterinary article regarding heifers and their improvement of reproduction with dietary changes. That, paired with the information in Gabriel Cousens’ Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine, where he reported that hormonal changes can be improved with diet, I decided to give raw a go.

I was strictly raw for three years and in that time, I went from the above with numerous prescribed and over the counter pills, to needing absolutely nothing. My blood sugars stabilized, my anxiety and depression resolved, my cholesterol lowered to about 87, my blood pressure lowered, my weight was in a healthful range, but my FSH continued to rise.

Still looking for answers, I sought other treatment in addition to the raw foods diet. Clear Passages in Florida, through Osteopathic based techniques, helped relieve pelvic adhesions that could interfere with fertility. Colonics improved my bowel health. Supplements helped replace missing enzymes and essential nutrients. DHEA was to help improve “egg quality.” And yoga was added to open the pelvis.

While I was working toward better health, my online friendship turned into romance. Jerry and I were married in March of last year. I moved from one coast to the other to be with him and with his children. Prior to the move, we looked for further answers at a prominent fertility clinic in New York City. After a pelvic ultrasound and lab tests, the prognosis given wasn’t much better. My FSH more than doubled. My AMH was zero. My right ovary was defunct and my left ovary only had one follicle in production. “You need an egg donor,” was the reply that I was given. Jerry was devastated, but I was determined. We enjoyed a lovely meal at Pure Food and Wine and then contemplated the next move.

“I’m going to go back to Clear Passages for a little more work. And then I’m going to see Randine Lewis.” Randine, Osteopathically trained, converted to Chinese medicine after medical school. She holds annual retreats for those who are fertility challenged. Randine put all of my lab data into perspective for me. “Of course your AMH is zero. You are producing only one follicle at a time. The AMH that you do have isn’t measurable. It doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant.” At the retreat, I received acupuncture, an evaluation for Chinese herbal remedies, education regarding fertility, and a lot of support. I left with a renewed hope. I believed that motherhood was going to happen for me.

There Was Hope for Not Getting Pregnant

A few weeks after I returned to my new home, the herbs arrived. They smelled foul. They tasted terrible. After the first packet of herbs, I was knocked out on the couch for two days. I lowered the “dose.” I was getting nauseous. I continued to be exhausted. Something seemed to be very wrong. I felt like I was going crazy. Simple slights made me want to sob uncontrollably. I called my husband at work, very upset. And then it hit us. I was laaaaate (in Dr. Evil ally Frau voice), by 5 days. “Honey, pick up a stick on your way home from work.”

Jerry arrived with the package in his brief case. I ran to the bathroom. The results came back quickly. I wasn’t sick. I was pregnant! Alexander Perry Childs was born the day after my 42nd birthday. He was 7 pounds 7 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long. He is a healthy gorgeous boy who has more than doubled his birth weight at three months and is just growing by leaps and bounds. He is the joy of my life.

How did I get pregnant with the odds against me? Was it the raw foods? The acupuncture? The herbs? The colonics? The yoga?

By the time I met Jerry, my life was in balance. And raw foods helped bring my physical and mental well-being into equilibrium. While there are plenty of pregnancies achieved in dire circumstances, I was only going to get pregnant under ideal conditions. And thankfully, that was so. Motherhood is challenging. I would not have been supported in my first marriage as I am in this union. I also wouldn’t have wanted my child exposed to the medications that I required previously to function. And I likely would have had it more difficult during the pregnancy had I continued my health-less lifestyle I held previously.

And, as a physician, what did I learn from all of this? First of all, don’t treat the lab, treat the patient. Secondly, the body has the inherent capacity to heal itself. Thirdly, western medicine doesn’t have all of the answers. And finally, eat a whole food plant based diet, and you can achieve almost anythingnot getting pregnant is reversible.