In Asia, the care around pregnancy extends to the health of the mother after the baby is born. From this, you get the idea of the “confinement” period. The confinement period is the full month after the baby is born when the mother is more or less “quarantined” at home and nursed back to full health after the labor of pregnancy and birth.
The ideas behind confinement practices come from TCM (traditional chinese medicine) and its belief that the body can either be “cool” (yin) or “hot” (yang). The period after birth is seen as a period when the body should be nursed back to its “yang”-sufficient state (to bring the body towards energizing “heat” and away from the “cool”). For this reason, women are advised not to wash their hair for the month (dry shampoo helps in the cases of modern women who still abide by this recommendation), and they are also advised to keep away from overly cold temperature and cold showers.
Similarly, the nutrition in confinement meals seeks to bring forth the “heat” in the body, helping to keep the mother from conditions like rheumatism, arthritis, headaches and bodily pain later in life. What is interesting about TCM is that in delayed, sometimes convoluted ways, its founding ideas have been found to coincide with some of the discoveries in modern science.
Whether or not you will be keeping a full confinement month, we have isolated some popular recipes of the confinement meal here for you. Peruse and enjoy!
1. Dang gui and chicken soup
Dang Gui is especially popular in TCM and is meant to help to speed up a woman’s recovery from childbirth. Known also as the Chinese angelica, it is one of the most popular herbs for treating women’s health and illnesses, beneficial for nourishing the female reproductive organs, regulating the menstrual cycle and alleviating the symptoms of chronic fatigue. It is typically thus recommended as part of the confinement meal especially during the first week after birth.
1 free range chicken
6 pieces of Dong Gui
4 pieces of red dates
2 tbsp of chinese wine or brandy
Cook this like you would cook your usual chicken soup. Besides being amazingly nutritious, it also tastes delicious
2. Sheng Hua Soup
The combination of herbs in this recipe is believed to be especially healing for mothers who have gone through a C-section, promoting wound recovery and helpful for expelling excess gas in the body.
Ingredients: (Mind you, this is a herbs-heavy soup and might not taste that great if you are not used to it.)
10g Dang Gui
20g Yi Mu Cao
10g Guang Tao Ren (Semen Persicae)
10g Cao Hong Hua (Carthamus Tinctorius)
6g Zhi Gan Cao (Roasted Licorice Root)
10g Zhi Qiao
10g Chuan Xiong (Lovage Root)
15g Tai Zi Shen
The preparation comes in two steps. First, wash the herbs, soak them in 1000 mL water for about half an hour. Next, boil the herbs with the water you have used to soak it until the mixture has been reduced down to 200 mL. Put this first 200 mL to the side and add another 1000 mL of water to the herbs, boil for the second time until 200 mL is once again left. Mix the two bowls of soup together.
3. Motherwort Herbal Soup
The motherwort herbal soup is also meant for first week of confinement as part of the confinement meal after childbirth. As with the first recipe here, it also contains dang gui, on top of which it also contains the following Chinese herbs: ze lan, yi mu cao and red dates. The soup improves blood circulation and clears blood stasis.
10g Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica)
30g Yi Mu Cao
10g Red Dates
10g Ze Lan
250g Lean Pork
Again, cook the way you would cook chicken soup and leave it to simmer for two hours.