The postpartum period is known as the fourth trimester. In the first three trimesters of pregnancy, women are expected to eat healthy and nutritious for nourishing the baby in the womb but in the fourth trimester, a new mother’s diet plan is prepared to keep in consideration her health for life long as well as for recovery of her body which has recently gone through the miraculous and strenuous task of bringing life to the world.
Many foods are prohibited or advised to not eat during the three trimesters like raw papaya, raw eggs, raw meat, unpasteurized dairy products while caffeine-containing products like coffee, tea, cola drinks are advised to be limited. But, interestingly the must and must not eat food list somewhere gets exchanged between the three trimesters and the fourth trimester.
Pregnancy is a natural process and postpartum recovery is just as natural as pregnancy too. It takes its own sweet time but what helps the new mother in this journey of healing and recovery is a wholesome diet. The ancient wisdom of our culture that has been carried forward through the generations by our grandmothers and mothers is incredible and most trustworthy even in the times of advanced medical sciences. In Indian culture, ‘Food Is Health’ and it has remedies for all problems related to pregnancy and postpartum care of new mother and her little one.
When I was pregnant and my due date was approaching near, I and my family began making preparations for my postpartum care. My mother had send boxes of pure home made ghee, dry fruits from a family-owned, trusted local vendor’s store and varied herbs for medicinal laddoos. My mother-in-law prepared those delicious postpartum laddoos and made all efforts to cook fresh, warm meals for me which primarily comprised of these traditional ingredients.
I was advised constantly to eat on tim when the food is warm and never skip my medicinal preparations. And, I used to gorge on those sweet balls of various flavors and lip smacking seasoning of dry ginger and turmeric over my rice, unapologetically without a thought of calorie counting.
My mother-in-law used to remind me every day, “Whatever you will eat now and do now, will impact your well-being for life long.”
Superfoods for the fourth trimester in Indian culture.
1. Carom Seeds– You must have seen this go-to herb in your house is given to your family members by your mothers and grandmothers whenever they have indigestion issues. The digestive system of a new mother is extra sensitive and ‘ajwain‘ helps in easing out constipation, acidity and gas. This magical herb even helps new moms in passing out their first stool post-delivery which, we are not kidding about but is an achievement in itself. Carom seeds also has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. which will keep the infections away from you and your baby.
‘Ways of intake-
Carom water– Boil ajwain in water for 5-10 minutes so that water absorbs all the goodness of ajwain, filter the water, fill it in a bottle and drink this throughout the day.-Ajwain paratha– Use the boiled ajwain from the leftover ajwain pani or take some raw ajwain, mix it with wheat dough and make ajwain paratha.
2. Edible Gum/ Gondh – Gondh is a staple winter food for Indians. Its healing properties, specifically heating properties, are widely used across the country to cure illnesses related to cough, cold and lungs as it helps in keeping the body warm and boosts our immunity. New mother’s whole recovery process is dominated by the food giving heat to the body, especially the uterus in our culture and gondh is an excellent source for it. Gondh also acts as a binding agent as it is a plant extract or a gum. In pregnancy, a woman’s body is bigger than the normal size to accommodate the growing baby. Gondh brings all of them together back to their normal shape like glue (its English name).
Ways of intake-
-Prepare as medicinal ‘ladoos’ along with dry fruits, gud(jaggery), ghee(clarified butter) and other medicinal herbs.
-Prepare as ‘Gondh ka raab’. Roast some edible gum in ghee, pour a cup of water or as required over it, let the gondh dissolve, and add some jaggery. Have it as a liquid, syrup meal.
3. Kamarkas or Butea Frondosa– Kamarkas as its name suggests means a herb that tightens the waist. It belongs to the family of edible gum and is an extract of Palash tree or Tesu tree. It is celebrated as a medicinal plant extract that brings back the shape of the waist or brings the organs back to the previous shape after childbirth. It strengthens the muscles of the waist and it is extremely helpful during periods too as it cures weakness and body pain. Both the ‘gondh’ and ‘Kamarkas’ are given to lactating mothers to increase the milk production for breastfeeding.
Ways of intake-
Prepared as postpartum ‘ladoos’ along with edible gum, makhana, dry fruits and jaggery. –
Prepared as a dry mixture known as panjeeri along with other herbs, ghee, dry fruits and jaggery.
4. Makhana or dry lotus seeds– Makhana is suddenly the new superfood in the health market. Advocated and promoted by celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Divekar as the perfect evening snack as a substitute for packaged popcorn. Makhanas are little treasures of nutrients like calcium, iron and magnesium. A woman’s body works extra hard during the three trimesters and after the delivery with all the loss of water, blood and weight, there is also a major loss of all key nutrients. Makhana is a perfect food loaded with all the essential nutrition the postpartum body needs.
Ways of intake.
-Roast with dry fruits and ghee sprinkle some salt. Or roast only makhanas in ghee, salt and black pepper and store as a snack.
– Makhane ki kheer- Roast some makhana in ghee and cook them in milk till it softens and gets mashed. Add jaggery in the end and mix them.
5. Pointed Gourd (Parwal), Drumsticks (Moonga) and Papaya– These two vegetables and one fruit are in the must-eat postpartum list in my paternal family. My weekly diet used to have them as cooked curry once or twice a week. Parwal is excellent for curing constipation and improving digestion. Drumstick is a wholesome food, rich in vital nutrients from its pods to leaves. It improves the overall stamina, strengthens the bones and is an excellent source of iron and calcium. Papaya is advised to be avoided during pregnancy because of its property of keeping the body warm but it is consumed after the delivery for the same property as it helps in healing the body internally.
6. Dry ginger/sonth -Ginger is widely used in our country for its therapeutic qualities of curing cough and cold. As required, dry ginger is once again consumed for its heat-generating property which helps in removing all toxins and bad blood from the body.
Ways of intake-
– As a spice mixed with hot ghee to season white rice.
– As an ingredient for postpartum laddoos.
7.Sesame/ Til – Sesame, once again a seed that is so stapled to the winter diet of Indians that we celebrate whole festivals around this super seed known as Lohri and Makar Sankranti. Sesame is oil-rich seeds, a great source of antioxidants, Vitamin B, and helpful in lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol. They also reduce bloating which is a common occurrence after labour.
Ways of intake-
– As Sesame ladoos prepared with ghee, jaggery and dry fruits.
– As a chutney.
Things to keep in mind.
- New mothers should always eat fresh and warm food.
- Keep themselves hydrated.
- Drink lukewarm water sip by sip.
- Avoid cold food and cold water.
- Avoid spicy and gaseous food.
Note:- Author of the article is not a certified nutritionist. She shares experiences from her own pregnancy, postpartum recovery, and traditions of her culture.
Always consult your gynecologist before including something new in your diet.