How to Maintain a Healthy Pregnancy (Part I): The First Trimester
Do you know how Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine maintains health during pregnancy with lifestyle and diet?
In my many years of clinical experience, I have realised that many pregnancy issues such as miscarriages and problems with the baby’s development, together with the health of both mother and baby after delivery, are due to unsuitable lifestyle, diet choices and other issues.
Chinese Medicine is particularly concerned with the balance of yin and yang, qi and blood during the pregnancy. During pregnancy, the woman’s body changes radically. These changes are especially important for the first pregnancy as this is a new experience for the mother’s body.
Through the different stages of pregnancy, the body may experience numerous signs and symptoms including nausea, vomiting, tiredness, lower back and hip pain, swollen legs, and ankles, insomnia, iron deficiency and leg cramps etc. In this article, I will give great ideas on how to avoid or reduce these symptoms to help the mother with a comfortable pregnancy and to give birth to a healthy baby.
1. What are some changes to expect when you are pregnant?
When you are pregnant, physically your body will have many changes such as your uterus size and shape will change, hormone levels will be different, circulation – the direction of the flow of blood alters and the heart is required to work harder. The body will experience changes to the fatty tissue and muscle.
Traditional Chinese Medicine considers as soon as you are pregnant, the yin and yang, qi and blood need to gain a new balance. To achieve this, certain parts of the body (organs and meridians) needs to work harder such as Ren Channel, Du Channel, Liver, Spleen, Stomach & Kidney in order to ensure adequate circulation to the uterus.
2. Common symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy (first 12 weeks)
Do you have any of the symptoms below? Most pregnant woman will exhibit more or less of the following symptoms:
- Lack of energy
- Poor appetite
- Changing taste
- Frequent urination
- Dizziness (blood pressure lowers)
- Palpitations (anxiety and stress)
From my clinical experience, these symptoms are associated with two reasons:
- The body not adapting to the new pregnancy, usually caused by Liver and Spleen disorders.
- The body is unbalanced prior to pregnancy and the symptoms become exacerbated during pregnancy.
Generally if the symptoms are mild, the body is able to balance by itself. If the symptoms are very severe, this will affect the pregnancy.
3. How to help yourself to reduce the symptoms, avoid miscarriage and maintain balance quickly?
a) Ensure adequate rest
As your body’s circulation changes – with more flow to the lower part of the body to support the uterus, the upper part of the body (eg head) can sometimes get a lower blood supply. This can add to the tiredness and feelings of dizziness.
Suggestion: reduce your workload and speediness. Slow down! Take naps between 1-2 hours when possible.
b) Avoid stress and be happy
Chinese Medicine believes that stress can affect the Liver and the Heart and affect the circulation flow to the uterus.
Suggestion: Listen to relaxing music. Avoid noisy situations, reduce exposure to violent television/movies/heavy music. Expose yourself to the colour green – sit in the garden or a park (the colour green supports Liver function in Chinese Medicine and assists with reducing stress).
c) Reduce the amount of exercise and choose suitable exercises for pregnancy
Strenuous exercise that places pressure on the lower back and requires excessive energy is detrimental during early pregnancy.
Suggestion: Gentle exercise such as slow walking and meditation is adequate especially when you have a lack of energy. Alternatively, ask your health practitioner for specific ideas to suit your individual needs.
Diet is always a big issue for the beginning of the pregnancy as most women experience digestion issues.
Suggestion: Eat less and eat more frequently. Eat what you crave – as your tastes change, eat what your body is craving. Drink ginger, peppermint or lemon tea to assist with nausea and vomiting. Avoid drinking or eating cold foods straight from the fridge and freezer as cold can make lack of circulation around the abdomen and uterus.
The following foods increase the quality of the blood – Chinese red dates, beef soup or beef, boiled eggs, goji berries (for further details please read our diet therapy articles).
e) Avoid intercourse or gentle intercourse
Traditionally, Chinese Medicine suggests that during the early stages of pregnancy, implantation is not very strong and the uterus is sensitive and weak. It is sensitive to pressure and stimulation. This can lead to miscarriages.
Suggestion: Avoid intercourse during the first trimester.
f) Bowel Movements
Keep your bowel movements regular – this is very important in the early stages of pregnancy as the uterus and intestines are both located in the lower abdominal area. Sluggish bowel movements will cause stagnation and pressure on the uterus and affect the blood supply. Straining to pass bowel movements will cause undue pressure on the uterus which can cause miscarriage.
Suggestion: Eating the following foods can assist with regular bowel movements – cucumber, sweet potato, celery, spinach, eggplant, tomato, banana, plums, honey, most green vegetables (for further information please read our constipation health articles).
4. How does Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture maintain your health through the early stages of pregnancy?
All of the common symptoms or individual symptoms we have discussed, are able to be assisted by acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- Usually we will check your body with our Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis method including pulse and tongue diagnosis and questioning to find out the cause of your symptoms.
- We will set up the principle of the treatment (acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine) according to your specific cause to benefit your body.
- We will give you personalised suggestions for your individual case including lifestyle, diet, exercise etc.
Pregnancy should be a time of happiness for the family and expectant mother. I hope our suggestions and help will make this journey even more enjoyable and positive for all involved.