Pregnancy Care in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Shiaoting Jing, L.Ac, Ph.D., OMD (China)
For anyone who missed or would like to watch the original recording of the Pregnancy Care Meeting on our YouTube channel, which also includes Dr. Lim's food and dietary recommendations during pregnancy, you can watch by clicking on the video below. Otherwise, we have provided Dr. Jing's lecture notes in this blog for your convenience.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history and profound experience in pregnancy care. They include “养胎 Yǎng tāi” and “护胎 Hù tāi”, which mean nurturing and protecting the fetus.
Nurturing the fetus is mainly emphasized during the first trimester to help prevent:
A. Morning or evening sickness
B. Early miscarriage (chemical pregnancy, chromosome factor )
C. Habitual miscarriage
Protecting the fetus is mainly indicated after three months of pregnancy up until delivery and is aimed at preventing and treating the following conditions:
A. Intrauterine growth restriction( IUGR) 胎萎不长& 羊水过少
B. Retention of dead fetus 胎死不下
C. Anxiety with pregnancy 妊娠心烦
D. Pregnancy with edema 妊娠水肿（子满）
E. Gestational diabetes
F. Pregnancy with dizziness
G. Pre-eclampsia or PIH( pregnancy induced hypertension).
H. Pregnancy with constipation 妊娠大便难
I. Pregnancy anemia 妊娠贫血
J. Placenta previa 胎盘前置
K. Breech baby胎位不正
L. Overdue pregnancy (past delivery date) 过期不产
In TCM, we believe that human beings are a small cosmos in the universe.
Therefore, we must follow nature and live in balance with nature to keep our systems balanced, both physically and mentally. We must follow the laws of Yin and Yang and Five Elements theory to live well and have a healthier life.
In TCM, we believe that our bodies have 12 organs and 12 channels, plus extra Cong & Ren channels. These channels regularly take turns allowing the Qi (Energy) and Blood (Nutrients) to flow through the body, thus keeping our bodies balanced and healthy.
Pregnancy is a natural physiological process for all women. Simply, if we hope to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, we must follow the natural rules.
1. Mindfulness 端心正念
During pregnancy, a woman should practice daily to have a pure heart, gratitude, positive thoughts, speak kind words, and watch nice things. In this way, the fetus's natural Qi is pure, which is helpful to the formation of good temperament and personality characteristics of a kind person.
2. Meditation and Tranquility (调情志, 施胎教)
The pregnant mother should keep her seven emotions even. She should abandon loneliness, sadness, and worry, and always maintain a stable and optimistic mood. In this way, the Qi and Blood of the pregnant woman can be harmonious, and the fetal elements can be adjusted and consolidated, which is conducive to the growth and development of the healthy fetus.
Calm emotion. According to clinical observation, the emotional state of a pregnant woman has a great impact on fetal activity and development. If the pregnant mother is calm, the fetal movement will be regular. If the mother’s mood is too intense and anxious, the fetal movement will be severe. Such fetuses will also be hyperactive after birth, easy to anger, cry more often, and even affect feeding and sleeping. Because of the close relationship between emotional changes and the limbic system of the cerebral cortex and the autonomic nervous system, it will have a wide range of effects on the fetus.
Timely Fetal Training
The education of the fetus starts as early as the second trimester:
Auditory training. In the second trimester of pregnancy, the development of the fetal middle ear is completed, and the development of the vestibular system occurs before the baby is born. Therefore, pregnant women can start training the fetus' sense of hearing from the 13th week of pregnancy, insisting on speaking to the fetus, reciting poems, singing songs ,or playing audio tapes for the fetus so that the fetus can listen to melodious music or songs, which can arouse their attention.
In addition, the sound of mother's talking and laughing with others, the birds singing in the forest, the chirping of insects, and the sound of gurgling water are all good information to promote the development of fetal hearing and nervous system. A study found that in pregnant women who listened to pleasant music, fetal restlessness reduced and growth and development were good. Conversely, if pregnant women often listened to loud rock music, fetal restlessness increased.
Touch training. Touch training involves the pregnant women lying in bed with her hands on the abdomen and fingers gently pressing on the fetus; as this happens, the mother can feel the fetus moving underneath her fingertips. This method is good to do before bedtime, especially towards the end of pregnancy. However, pregnant women with early contractions should not use this method. This method can stimulate the enthusiasm of fetal movement and result in an earlier ability to stand and walk compared to the untrained infant.
Modern medicine believes that this effect is completed through the fetal nervous system. The development of the nervous system and brain occurs mainly during the growing period of human beings, especially during the fetal and infant periods. The receptors of fetal pressure sense and touch have already occurred and have their functions since the 10th week of pregnancy.
The fetal response to sound occurs around the 20th week of pregnancy, and the ears, eyes, and senses have been improved before birth. This enables the fetus to have a keen sense of the rich information and the physiological and psychological changes of the pregnant woman, especially the senses of touch and hearing, which are the physiological basis of fetal education. In fact, fetal education is a kind of cultivation method adopted in the formation of the fetal nervous system.
Good Quality Sleep
During pregnancy, women should aim for at least 8 hours of good, deep sleep. During late pregnancy, they should take a nap at noon every day. A few weeks before labor, they should increase their sleep time. The sleeping position should be on the left side.
Eat a Nutrient-Rich, Varied Diet
Eating an adequate amount and variety of nutrient-rich foods is crucial to the development of a healthy baby. The purpose of regulating a pregnant woman's diet is to nourish and build Qi and Blood, encourage proper fetal development, and lay a solid foundation for a healthy delivery and lactation. A pregnant woman's diet should be fresh and light, rich in nutrients, easy to digest, and able to moderate hunger and satiety. A pregnant woman should be cautious and avoid foods that are contraindicated during pregnancy. In addition, different stages of pregnancy have different dietary requirements:
During the first trimester (from conception up until 3 months of pregnancy), fetal development is slow, coupled with pregnancy symptoms and reactions. The diet should be less and fine. Pregnant women can choose foods suitable to their own taste. Slightly sour foods and fresh vegetables and fruits are the best choice; avoid eating pungent foods, so as to avoid aggravating the evil resistance.
In the second trimester of pregnancy (4-7 months of pregnancy), the growth of the fetus is accelerated. Pregnant women should eat foods rich in protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Rice, beans, meat, fish, and eggs are rich in protein. Calcium is found in egg yolk, milk, shrimp skin, animal bones, and green vegetables, while phosphorus is found in soybeans, chicken, and mutton. Eating these foods can promote the growth of muscles and bones, nourish the marrow and brain, and contribute to the development of the fetus.
In the third trimester of pregnancy (8-10 months of gestation), fetal growth and development are particularly rapid, and it is also the critical moment of brain development. Pregnant women should eat more high-quality protein, pay attention to the combination of animal protein and plant protein, and eat less salt and alkaline foods to prevent edema.
Foods to Avoid
Pregnant women should avoid hot peppers and other stimulating foods, crab, and other allergic foods; they should not drink alcohol or strong coffee and black tea. They should also stop smoking. Modern medical research has proven that pregnant women who are addicted to alcohol and tobacco are at increased risk for fetal malformations or congenital diseases, abortion, premature birth, or even stillbirth.
Live with caution
(Avoid external evil, avoid excessively hot or cold environments)
After a woman is pregnant, Qi and Blood gather in the Chong Ren channel to raise her fetus, and the function of the immune system (卫气 "Wei Qi") is low. It is quite easy to get sick from exterior pathogens. In order to avoid the cold and heat, we should adapt to the climatic changes that occur in the four seasons.
If the evil spirit (邪气 "Xie Qi") manages to hurt the fetus, it can cause various fetal diseases and even miscarriage. Therefore, we should be cautious in daily life, scientifically arrange work and rest time, get up early, and sleep early.
The living environment of pregnant women should be quiet and elegant, which is conducive to stabilizing the mood of pregnant women and making the fetus live in peace.
Work and Rest Appropriately
In the early stage of pregnancy, due to the poor appetite of pregnant women, they should not do anything too hard or tiring. They should limit themselves to doing general housework and avoid lifting heavy objects or weightlifting. They should avoid night work and heavy physical labor, and should avoid jumping or strenuous exercise. They should often go out for a walk, breathe fresh air, and get more sunshine.
In the second trimester of pregnancy, a pregnant woman should not be too idle. She should engage in easy physical labor and moderate exercise such as Taijiquan, Qigong, stretching, prenatal yoga, and prenatal Pilates, etc., which are conducive to digestion and sleep. However, vigorous or risky sports such as horse riding, bicycle riding, and running should be avoided.
In the later period of pregnancy, the pregnant mother should take it easy, but it is not recommended to lie down and sleep for long periods of time. You can often take a walk and do appropriate activities while waiting for the time to come.
Pregnant women should abstain from sex, especially during the first and last trimesters. During pregnancy, the Chong and Ren channels consolidate with pure energy -Qi and Jing -and Blood to nourish the fetus. Sexual activities can damage the Chong & Ren channels, Kidney Qi and cause early miscarriages. Many clinical reports have shown sexual activity during the last trimester may cause premature delivery or induce puerperal infection. Therefore, it is very important to be strict and careful about sexual intercourse.
Schedule Regular Acupuncture Treatments and Pregnancy Checkups with OBGYN
Month By Month Pregnancy Recommendations Based on TCM Channel Theory
In TCM Gynecology, we have a special method called "raising the fetus month by month." Each month corresponds to a different channel, in the following order:
First Month: Liver Channel
In the first month, the fetus is nourished through the Liver channel, and therefore this channel should not be needled. Pregnant women should rest to cultivated Ying Jing to nourish the fetus and should avoid situations that make them feel anxious or fearful. They should also avoid anything cold. Slightly sour foods are recommended.
Diet: should be well cooked, easy to digest; Green colored vegetables (green cabbage, Chinese broccoli, spinach, broccoli) are highly recommended; raw, cold foods, and alcohol are prohibited.
Second Month- Du Mai, Gallbladder Channel
In the second month, the Gallbladder channel nourishes the fetus. Therefore this channel should not be needled. A pregnant woman should avoid pungent, spicy, and drying foods. Sexual activity and excessive physical work should also be avoided, so as to prevent the development of joint pain all over the body.
Diet: Avoid greasy food like meat; eat more soybeans, sesame, walnut, fish, shrimp, and sour fruits like bayberry, kiwi fruit, pomegranate, orange, and green apple .
Third Month: Heart Channel
During the third month, the Heart channel nourishes the fetus, and therefore this channel should be needled. This is the best time period to start training the fetus. Pregnant women should keep a happy mind, listen to pleasant, relaxing music, hear pleasant things, and speak gentle words. This will help the fetus grow properly, be healthy physically, and possess an affable personality and good looks later on. It is recommended to eat more barley to promote brain development.
Fourth Month: Triple Jiao Channel and Blood Vessels
During the fourth month, the fetus is nourished through the Triple Jiao (aka Triple Warmer) channel. During this period of time, the fetus begins to absorb Essence from the mother’s Kidney channel (original Jing) to form its blood vessels. Therefore, the pregnant mother should always keep a calm and peaceful mind.
Diet: Avoid greasy foods and soups. For example, chicken soup is not the best choice. It is recommended to be eating more grains, especially rice. Rice is more cooling in nature and will help clear the Blood, strengthen the fetus' ears and eyes. Also, one should eat more nut types of food. Should be mindful and avoid catching cold.
Fifth Month: Spleen Channel and Qi
During the fifth month, the fetus is nourished by the Spleen channel, which should not be needled. At this time, the fetus begins to receive the essential Qi of the heart from the mother to establish its temperament, and limbs are formed. In order to cultivate the fetus' Qi, the mother should try to sleep longer, change clothes often and keep warm, take warm baths, and expose herself to the sunshine.
Diet: Eat a variety of foods, but do not get too full nor too hungry, either. For meat eaters, organic beef and lamb are highly recommend. Avoid dry, spicy foods.
Sixth Months: Stomach Channel and Sinews
During the sixth month, the fetus is nourished by the Stomach channel, which should not be needled. During this period, the fetus begins to receive from the mother the Qi of the lungs which form the fetus' sinews (it is called "grow fetus sinew time"). Also, in the sixth month, the fetus' mouth and eyes are completely formed. Therefore, outdoor gentle exercise, yoga, stretching, or going to the countryside to look at horses and dogs running will make the fetus’ sinews and muscles strong and later on have good spine and body shape.
Diet: should eat variety of foods and must control the quantity.
Seventh Month: Lung Channel and Bone
In the seventh month, the fetus is nourished by the Lung channel and should therefore not be needled. During this time, the fetus receives essential Qi from the mother's Liver to form its bones. Also, the fetus' skin and hair have developed completely. Therefore, the mother should be doing more exercises to encourage the circulation of Qi and Blood by flexing and extending her joints. She should also refrain from speaking loudly or shouting and should not wear clothes that are too tight-fitting.
Diet: Should avoid cold, pungent, spicy and salty foods. If you want your baby to have beautiful skin, try eating more white rice, lily, yam, white fungus, lotus root, and icy pear.
Herbals tea: In this period of time, if the mother experiences a bearing-down sensation, cold limbs, abdominal fullness, shortness of breath, and backache, she should drink a special herbal tea such as Cong Tai Wan to help.
Eighth month: Large Intestine Channel
During the eighth month, the fetus is nourished by the Large Intestine channel which should not be needled. During this time, the fetus begins to receive essential Qi from the mother’s Spleen, which promotes the growth of its skin, and in this time, the nine orifices of the fetus are completely formed. The mother should avoid emotional upset and practice bathing exercises to maintain her Qi flow which will promotes a moist and lustrous skin in the fetus.
Diet: Should eat more crude fiber such as from pumpkin, corn, oats, celery, grapefruit, etc. The pregnant would should also eat more naturally diuretic foods like watermelon, wax gourd, and white radish. Should avoid overly greasy foods and excess meat.
Herbal teas: During this time period, if the mother experiences general aching, dizziness, and blurred vision, she should take an herbal remedy called Shao Yao Tang.
Ninth month: Kidney channel
In the ninth month of pregnancy, it is the Kidney channel which nourishes the fetus and should not be needled. In this month, the fetus begins to receive the mother’s Essence which promotes the growth of all of its skin, the six Fu organs, and all the hundred sections. The pregnant mother should avoid living in or going to damp places and wear comfortable clothing to prepare for a good delivery.
Diet: Foods which are slightly sweet and nourish the Kidney Yin/Jing should be eaten, such as black sesame, black bean, laver, mushroom, sea cucumber, black jujube, etc.
Herbal tea: If the mother experiences diarrhea, a feeling of pressure from the fetus, and breathlessness, she should take the herbal remedy called Ban Xia Tang.
Tenth Month: Urinary Bladder Channel
During this month of pregnancy, the Urinary Bladder channel nourishes the fetus. Therefore, needling the Urinary Bladder channel will help induce delivery. During the 10th month, all five Yin organs are formed to completion, and the six Yang fu organs are free from obstruction. The mother should concentrate her Qi at the lower Dan Tian point (which is three inches below the belly button) to promote the physical and spiritual growth of the fetus, waiting for the natural process of ripening and falling.
Herbal tea: In this period, Sheng Hua Tang should be prescribed to all mothers to help them completely recover after giving birth.