How to Maintain a Healthy Pregnancy (Part II): Second and Third Trimesters
Do you know what lifestyle and diet is suitable during this part of your pregnancy?
The second and third trimester of your pregnancy is from the fourth month to the end. During this stage of the pregnancy your body has many changes physically, compared to the first trimester. Due to this, your lifestyle, diet and exercise all need to be suitable for your body’s changes.
Especially if it is your first pregnancy, you and your family should have some ideas on how to look after your body during this time, in order for you to have a healthy pregnancy and successful delivery.
1. Body changes of the second and third trimester
i) Physically, energy improving
Most pregnant women (80-90%) after the first trimester of pregnancy, begin to get used to the pregnancy and have more energy, feel much better and are able to do more things. Chinese medicine considers this to occur as the body’s yin and yang become more balanced and the foetal energy gets much stronger, compared to the first stage.
Suggestion: By this stage, if your body still feels very exhausted, this indicates that your body has not become balanced and you may have certain organs which are weaker. It is best to see your family doctor or see your experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner to find out the cause to help balance your body.
ii) Appetite increasing
Compared to the first stage of the pregnancy, most pregnant women’s appetite increases. Some women may still crave certain foods but there is nearly no morning sickness or nausea. This indicates that your stomach and digestive energy is good and is suitable for growing a baby.
Suggestion: During this stage, if your appetite is still very poor or very strong (eating too much) this indicates that the body’s digestion system is in disorder. In the long-term, this may cause your body to be unhealthy and/or cause the baby’s body to be unhealthy. It is best to see your family doctor or your experienced TCM practitioner to help balance your body.
If you have a poor appetite: Chinese Medicine considers this is generally associated with stomach and spleen Qi deficiency. This can also cause low iron, low blood pressure and dizziness. Over time, it may affect the blood supply of the uterus and affect the growing of the baby.
If you have a strong appetite: Chinese medicine considers this is generally associated with liver and stomach having too much heat. This makes the makes the intestines overactive. For long-term, over eating may lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. This result may affect the mother’s health as well as the baby’s health.
iii) Body has pain or swelling
From the second trimester, the baby is getting bigger and putting more pressure on your hips, lower back, pubic area and stomach so this is affecting the circulation to these areas. Most pregnant women may experience more or less pain or swelling around these areas. The puffiness also occurs around the lower leg and ankle.
Most pain or puffiness is manageable or only occurs for a short period of time. Usually after doing certain things, can help get rid of the pain and swelling. Suitable exercise, raising legs are examples.
Suggestion: If the pain or swelling is more severe or stays for a longer time than normal, this indicates that certain internal organs or circulation are in disorder. I suggest that you see your family doctor or experienced TCM practitioner.
Chinese Medicine considers severe pain and swelling is associated with stagnation of the blood and Qi, or kidney and spleen deficiency (weakness). Depending on where the pain and swelling is, usually we can find the cause and help. If the pain and swelling gets worse it may cause a very uncomfortable pregnancy and health issues such as high blood pressure, overweight, sluggish labour etc.
iv) Irregular bowel movement and frequent urination
Irregular bowel movement and frequent urination is a common symptoms of pregnancy in the second and third trimester. This is due to the greater pressure/stimulation the baby and uterus is putting on the urinary bladder. Frequent urination at night-time will disturb sleep and affect energy. Sluggish bowel movement also can put more pressure on the uterus and build up toxins in the body. Generally, these two issues can be easily resolved or improved through suitable lifestyle and diet (see below).
Suggestion: If the bowel movement is very sluggish or you have very frequent urination, if you cannot fix by yourself it is best to see your family doctor and experienced TCM practitioner.
Traditional Chinese Medicine considers sluggish bowel movement and frequent urination is associated with heat in the large intestine and liver, or spleen deficiency (weakness).
v) Insomnia or vivid dreams (or nightmares)
Some pregnant women, during the pregnancy experience insomnia or have very vivid dreams. This is usually associated with the body being uncomfortable whilst sleeping and may be due to the size of the stomach and tension/stress from the pregnancy.
Suggestion: If you have very severe sleeping issues and you cannot balance it by yourself, it is best to see your family doctor, psychologist (for emotional issues) or experienced TCM practitioner.
Chinese Medicine considers severe sleeping issues are usually associated with the liver, spleen and kidney disorder.
2. How to reduce or avoid the symptoms above through suitable lifestyle and diet
Generally during pregnancy you can eat what you would like to eat, but the portion of the food should be suitable (not too much, not too little). Eating more vegetables, salads, fruits as well as eating all food groups so you can get appropriate nutrition.
Traditional Chinese Medicine considers:
i) eating less hot and spicy or shellfish (crabs, crayfish) to be suitable for the health of the uterus. If you overeat too much hot and spicy and shellfish, it can cause too much heat in the uterus and may cause the baby skin issues such as eczema, boils or constipation.
ii) eat certain amounts of cooling characteristic foods such as pear, banana, watermelon, celery, chinese cabbage, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, spinach, bitter gourd, sweet potato and orange. These foods can help improve bowel movement and balance the body’s heat (yin and yang).
iii) If you have spleen and kidney weakness with symptoms such as iron or blood deficiency, lack of energy, frequent urination, small baby size. You could try to eat more of the following foods; beef or beef soup, boiled eggs, chinese red dates, goji berries, dark chicken (silken chicken or wu ji), quail eggs.
iv) After about five months of pregnancy the baby starts to grow its bones, the body needs to eat certain nutrients to help these grow such as bone soup such as beef bone soup, chicken bone soup or pork bone soup as well as certain amount soy milk, cheese, soya beans. This can also help those who have cramping in their legs.
From the second trimester we encourage pregnant women to build up their exercise and do suitable housework because exercise is good for the circulation, can help reduce or avoid body pain and to help sleep.
The exercise we suggest is better to be gentle and slow such as a gentle walk and pregnancy yoga for approximately 30 minutes each time, once or twice a day depending on your energy. How to judge if you exercise is too much? If the following day you feel like your energy is good then your exercise is good. If you are very tired its best to reduce the amount of exercise. I suggest exercise should be outdoors in the nice sunshine.
iii) Listen to soft, gentle music to be happy
Listening to soft and gentle music is good for the mother and child and helps to balance the nervous system, liver, heart and is good for sleeping. Avoid emotional issues so that you and your baby are happy.
iv) Sexual issues
Traditionally, we suggest you to avoid sexual activity (intercourse) or it be very gentle.
vi) Raise your legs
Raising your legs, especially after the fifth month as the growing stomach can affect the circulation. Anytime during the day, if convenient, it is best to raise your legs as it helps to avoid swelling.
3. How does Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help to solve health issues during the second and third trimester?
If you have any of the health issues that have been mentioned about please talk to your experienced TCM practitioner, we will do the following things for you.
i) When you come to see us, we check your body through TCM diagnosis method. We do this through looking at your tongue, pulse diagnosis, signs and symptoms to find out the cause of your health issues or the symptoms you may be experiencing.
ii) We will setup an individual treatment plan which relate to your specific causes. Traditional acupuncture or herbal medicine or cupping may be used.
iii) We will give you suggestions for your individual lifestyle and diet to help quickly get rid of your health issues and to maintain your health.
I hope both you and your baby can have a lovely and healthy journey through your pregnancy.