The age old practice of confinement postpartum dates back over 2000 years ago. Women were made to stay in bed and avoid drafts and cold water so that they can restore their bodies to good health and avoid physical ailments in future. Fast forward to modern times, many Asian women still practice confinement to help with recovery after delivery. Adhering to a 30-day confinement after child birth is believed to help:
- Restore uterine function
- Restore blood loss
- To avoid postpartum depression
- Promote breastfeeding and breast milk supply
- Avoid rheumatism and joint pain
- Improve complexion and avoid hair loss
- Prevent back pain
- Restore prenatal physical figure
But does the rest and consumption of confinement foods really make a difference to a woman’s recovery?
Based on my own experience, I think it makes a big difference to a new mum’s physical and mental health. I have a four year old and recently gave birth to my second. With my first child, I was young, headstrong and naive and didn’t believe that it would make a difference. I didn’t think I needed to rest and recover. I insisted I could and would just bounced back even after cesarean section, which was considered major abdominal surgery. I had the mindset that I needed to prove that I can manage everything on my own. But I was wrong.
Yes, you might be okay at the start. You will have good days and some bad days but you will keep at it. Some days you ate well and some days you ate whatever you can with one hand. At times, you could manage to get some exercise into your routine but most days it seemed impossible. It doesn’t hit you back right away. Over time, the cost of my lack of recovery and not allowing myself to be nurtured by others following childbirth contributed to my postnatal depression and mummy burnout when my son was between 18-24 months. Of course there were other factors involved, I was working on my PhD and treading in uncharted waters of motherhood (determined to raise my kids different to how I was raised). In retrospect though, if I had allow myself to recover initially, I would have been in a better state of health, and would have been able deal with my circumstances better.
Second time around, I was four years wiser (I certainly hope!) and mustered help from my family. I learnt to be nurtured and practiced some of the confinement rules to allow myself to recovery. Having had a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), I stay off my feet as much as I could to reduce the stress on the pelvic floor muscles and ate foods that promoted physical recovery from blood loss and the exertion of childbirth. I was not strictly adhering to the confinement rules because I am abit of a rebel (I NEEDED MY SHOWERS and SUNSHINE!) but I did dressed warmly and avoid cold and chilled food. Four weeks after birth, I certainly felt more energetic and looked more radiant then I did when I had my first.
Motherhood is a tough gig, and nature has programmed us to jump right into the roles as mothers fiercely. But motherhood is a long journey and in the grand scheme of things, allowing yourself the first month after birth for recovery is not taking the easy way out nor does it make you lesser of a mum. It makes you human. And in the long run, it makes you a better mum.