Every pregnant woman’s desire is to enjoy pregnancy and childbirth with as little medical intervention as possible. There are a few things you can do to allow this to happen. Chinese physicians have been helping women for centuries to make good choices before, during and after pregnancy to have the most positive experience. Quite a few of these recommendations sound just like common sense (and they are)—yet they are easily overlooked.
Chinese medicine is first and foremost concerned with energy and the ever-changing nature of the material world. This constant flux is described using the concepts of yin and yang, opposing forces that depend on each other, keep each other in balance, and transform from one into the other. This understanding of interdependency and constant change is the underlying principle of the Five Phases of Transformation (wu xing), sometimes referred to as the Five Elements.
All this gives you a hint of why balance and harmony are so vital to health, according to Chinese medicine. We strive for a dynamic equilibrium to sustain life, as captured in the Chinese expression that when yin and yang separate, life ends.
So what does all this have to do with a healthy pregnancy. A whole lot! I meet quite a few highly educated and accomplished women in my practice who are determined to do everything in their power to have a healthy natural pregnancy. They’re often quite surprised when I suggest that less may be more. Especially worrying less can make a big difference to your mental-emotional health. A calm, carefree state of mind allows you to be in the moment and appreciate things for what they are.
One of my suggestions for women trying to conceive or who are progressing in their pregnancy is to prioritize more during this time and be less concerned about things that can wait or do not need to be done at all. That’s especially hard to swallow for high achievers (I know!).
What you eat, obviously, plays an important role around pregnancy since you’re now eating for (at least) two. Try to keep it simple and focus on foods and drinks in their natural state. A wide variety of foods, especially vegetables rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats and other important nutrients, should be the foundation of your diet. Lightly cooked foods are easier to digest, so limit your consumption of raw vegetables and fruit. Reasonable amounts of high-quality animal proteins and fat are desirable but be choosy about the sources. Now is a good time to spend a little extra on organic.
Perhaps the most overlooked subject is rest. Maybe even more important than all the things you “do” are those you “don’t do” so that you can get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day. Just don’t turn into a couch potato! Unless medically required, make sure you get exercise, preferably through a variety of activities such as walking, swimming, biking and yoga. Try to get out into the fresh air several times a week. Continue other sports if you’ve been practicing them for some time before your pregnancy, but be less competitive. If you feel tired or even exhausted after exercising, you’re clearly working too hard. Enjoy yourself!
Spend time with your partner! Now is the time for nest building. There are many things to talk about now, but it’s also good to just be together. Once your baby is here you will have less time for each other.
Lastly, while you’re working with your obstetrician and/or midwife to monitor your pregnancy and develop a birth plan, consider the purpose and usefulness of medical tests carefully when deciding whether or not you want to consent to every diagnostic test or medical intervention available today. After all, pregnancy is a natural state for women and in most cases works phenomenally well unaided and in a supportive environment. Many health concerns that don’t threaten your health or pregnancy can be relieved with natural strategies ranging from acupuncture & Chinese herbal therapy to homeopathy and manual therapy. Look for a provider with experience in working with pregnant women who will be able to determine when medical care is needed.
Common concerns in pregnancy that can be alleviated with acupuncture include nausea and vomiting, rib-side pain, back and pelvic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, reflux & heartburn, swelling of the legs, hypertension, hemorrhoids, malpresentation (breech), insomnia, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, and threatened miscarriage. Acupuncture is also useful to promote labor and relieve pain during childbirth.
A handy little guide to pregnancy and birth in Chinese medicine is available here, and a paperback about natural pregnancy, which lists a few basic homeopathic remedies for self-treatment, can be found here. If you don’t have access to a prenatal yoga class where you live, you can use Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond as a primer.
© 2017 Christiane Siebert