How to treat postpartum mothers with Korean medicine

How to treat postpartum mothers with Korean medicine

“Postpartum wind” is a typical condition recognized in Korea when women experience various aftereffects of giving birth, such severe chills even in hot weather, joint pain and lower back pain, among others. Unlike the common notion that “wind” means stroke in Korean, actually it covers a wide range of symptoms such as numbness, pain, paralysis and any signs that appear all of a sudden. Postpartum wind may appear later on in the mother’s life if proper care is not taken after labor, therefore thorough prevention is essential.

The Dongui Bogam (the famous Korean medical text from Joseon era) says, “Insufficiency causes heat, which is the cause for wind.” Postpartum wind originates from insufficiency syndrome. If postpartum edema (swelling) is neglected, heat arises from insufficiency and may lead to postpartum wind.

A pregnant woman gains around 12 kilograms from the weight of the fetus and amniotic fluid. After delivery she loses about 5 kilograms of amniotic fluid and blood and approximately 3 kilograms of weight from diuretic effects. But if one does not return to the original body weight in six months and still has swelling, she is likely to suffer postpartum wind.

The cause of postpartum edema is insufficiency. Pregnancy and childbirth brings about an enormous loss of the mother’s blood. Especially after childbirth, the quantity of blood is insufficient and the function of making blood is diminished. This means the body lacks proper circulation. This leads to congestion of fluid, or “dampness” in Korean medicine, which means postpartum edema and obesity. In the obstetrics and gynecology chapter of Dongui Bogam, it says, “one is prone to congestion when pregnant and insufficiency when giving birth.”

To tend to this condition, herbal medicine to remove congested blood and lochia (postpartum discharge) must be used. When discharge from the uterus after the placenta is detached remains in the body, it causes postpartum edema, lower back pain, joint pain and other symptoms of postpartum wind. After removing the congested blood, herbal medicine to supplement qi (energy) and blood must be taken. The supplementing medicine contains high-quality deer antler. Deer antler is a medicine that acts as a hematopoietic booster. Deer antler is especially effective for aplastic anemia, leukemia, anemia after surgical bleeding and postpartum anemia. Supplementing herbal medicine after childbirth regenerates hematopoietic function and regenerates blood to sufficient levels.

Postpartum obesity patients may worry that taking herbal medicine will make them even fatter. Taking herbal medicine after childbirth does not make one gain weight. Rather, it is essential to take supplementary herbal medicine after childbirth to lose weight. Edema may remain years after giving birth if proper procedures are not taken. In this case, dieting does not help to lose weight and the body often bloats. Herbal medicine after childbirth can be taken years after childbirth to treat this case.

Postpartum edema and obesity cannot be treated by the same methods. The general weight-loss herbal medicine acts by making the patient sweat or excessively discharge urine and feces. If such methods are undertaken when the body is not properly healed from childbirth, it will drive the body into a more insufficient state and quicken the aging process. The patient will lack energy even more and edema may worsen. Dongui Bogam says, “never treat the mother after giving birth by making her sweat.”

The proper procedure of caring for a woman after childbirth is taking herbal medicine to remove congested blood followed by herbal medicine to supplement qi and blood. When these steps have not been taken, one must follow the procedure even years later according to the instructions from a doctor of Korean medicine.


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