It seems Korean mums have a special postpartum recovery secret – and it might be worth copying
There is a reason they call it The Fourth Trimester.
Because let's face it, the pregnancy might be over and you have given birth – but to anyone who has ever lived it, those first six weeks after delivery are intense – on a whole other level.
Postpartum commonly refers to the period starting once your baby arrives and ends when your baby is coming up to the six weeks mark. It is a time of adjustment and healing and literally just trying to figure this new person and new situation and your new body out. You are tired and sore and exhausted. You are leaking from everywhere and emotional and who the heck knows the difference between night and day anymore. It is a time where mums need minding just as much as the baby, and yet so often, especially here in the western world, we are expected to just 'bounce back' once that baby is out – and just get on with things. There are visitors to welcome, baby thank you cards to send out and when is it that you have to move on from maternity jeggings back into your old jeans again?
This is not the way postpartum is conducted in other parts of the world, and I, for one, think we have so much to learn here about allowing space and time for the new mum to rest, heal and gather herself after the intense and life-altering thing she has just done – grown and birthed a baby.
In Korea, for instance, postpartum is viewed as a sacred and honoured time of recovery for the new mum. Saam-chil-il, as the first three weeks following delivery is called, can directly be translated into “three-seven-days”—21 days of concentrated focus on the well-being of the mother – for the sake of both her and the baby.
According to The Korean Times, women in Korea are expected to take it easy after birth, for at least the first three weeks. Most commonly, this means you stay at home with your baby, and no-one is even allowed to visit you. As well as this, there are a long list of rituals and routines to be followed, all designed to aid in the new mum's recovery and help her body – and mind – heal.
Every little detail, including the food eaten and the temperature of the room, is considered during this time.
Traditionally, according to The Korea Herald, new mums are expected to eat a special seaweed soup called miyeokguk, which is said to aid in both postpartum recovery and milk production.
Seaweed, of course, is known to be really nutritious, and this is of particular importance during the postpartum period. Full of fibre, iron, calcium and iodine, this warm broth makes for easier bowel movements, energy support and blood health, calcium for your bones, and iodine for baby’s brain development.
Another important part of postpartum care, Korean style, is making sure the new mum is kept warm.
Heat, Koreans believe, promotes healing, as opposed to cold air, which chills the joints and separated ligaments from childbirth, which again can disrupt the healing process.
As a result, rooms and homes are kept very warm during this period, and mothers are encouraged to just 'sweat it out.' Even foods and drinks are not to be served ice cold, as again, this would shock the body and disrupt the healing that is taking place.
Thirdly, Korean mums are getting lovely massages to help with their post-birth recover.
According to TheEverymom.com, new mums in Korea are hiring in professionals or enlisting family members to give them a daily blood-circulating massage, often done with hot towels, to ease and heal sore and tense muscles.
Sounds like heaven? I know.
The good news? You don't have to move to Korea to indulge in a little 'Saam-chil-il' once you give birth. Luckily, there are many ways to replicate their postpartum care in your own home. Fancy not leaving the house for the first few weeks? Let people know you are planning on taking it easy to begin with – remember, this is YOUR postpartum, you get to make the rules. Limit – or stop completely – any visitors, tell them there will be time for visits later, when you have recovered. Take this time to really rest as much as possible, and get to know your new baby – and the new you.
Eat warm, soft and nourishing foods that will heal you and give your energy. If you have got family members who can and want to cook for you, let them. You have deserved to be pampered a little, mama.
Oh, and you know that blood-circulating massage? The perfect favour to ask your other half – I mean; you have just made him a baby!