By senior physician Zhong Xi Ming, Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre @ Paragon
The body goes through major changes throughout your pregnancy and experiencing slight discomfort is part of the process. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine gynaecology, Yin and blood in the body focus on supporting the baby’s development during pregnancy. This results in imbalances within the body that leads to various discomforts and symptoms.
To ease your discomfort, TCM treats the problem at its root and harmonises the imbalances you feel. Thus the first thing that a TCM practitioner will do is understand your body’s condition before formulating a treatment plan. Depending on your needs, the treatment can include herbal medication, acupuncture and tuina (Chinese massage therapy).
During the First Trimester
Though your pregnancy may not be visibly obvious, you are probably already feeling the effects of your pregnancy as your body is actively prepping to host your baby for the next nine months and this involves hormonal changes, increased blood volume and other physiological changes to accommodate the baby. With these changes, you may experience nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, lack of energy, dizziness and insomnia.
During this trimester, you should be taking plenty of nutrients to aid the healthy development of your baby. However, this can prove to be difficult as you will experience nausea, vomiting and appetite loss. TCM considers these symptoms to be caused by the strong upward Chong-Qi resulting in Qi disharmony in the stomach. Thus stomach and spleen deficiencies, liver and stomach disharmony and phlegm dampness are all possible reasons for severe morning sickness.
Mild symptoms of nausea and vomiting are part of a normal pregnancy but if they become severe, they can result in dehydration and serious complications that may endanger your pregnancy if left untreated. TCM treatment works to harmonise the Qi in your body and suppress rising Qi to ease nausea and vomiting. Herbal remedies may be prescribed by your TCM physician to tonify the stomach and spleen, harmonise the liver and stomach or clear phlegm dampness, depending on your condition.
Another way to reduce nausea and vomiting is through the use of fresh ginger, which is a warm herb. Try sipping fresh ginger tea for your ‘morning sickness’ and stay away from oily, fried, spicy foods. Take a light, healthy and nutritious diet and have small, frequent meals instead. Other symptoms you may experience in the first trimester may also ease when you are able to eat well.
During the Second and Third Trimester
In the second trimester, most of the discomforts you’ve been experiencing in the first three months will likely ease as your body adapts to your pregnancy. Most women enjoy this stage of pregnancy. Do note that most women gain the most weight in the second trimester. However, not to worry as most of it is water weight.
The last trimester will likely have you feeling exhausted and any symptoms you experience during the second trimester are likely to persist as you await the arrival of your baby. Carrying so much weight can be taxing on your hip and back area; it will also affect your body’s circulation. Thus backaches and swelling are common issues that mums will experience during the second and third trimesters.
According to TCM, backaches can be the result of a Qi deficiency in the liver and kidney systems, exacerbated when the blood and Qi flow to the womb during a pregnancy. Thus TCM treatments involve nourishing the liver and kidney systems, and strengthening the back to alleviate the symptoms. Always seek advice from a registered licensed TCM professional before taking herbs or undergoing treatments such as acupuncture or tuina as there are herbs and acupoints that must be avoided as they can affect a pregnancy.
However, in the late second trimester and third trimester, severe backaches can be an indication of pre-term labour. Therefore, it is important to determine if your backache is simply due to the added strain on your back or an indication of something more serious. If you experience backaches accompanied by abdominal pain and/or bleeding, consult your doctor immediately.
Your belly may not be the only thing getting bigger late in the pregnancy. During the fifth or sixth month of your pregnancy, you may also notice mild swelling around your body, especially at the ankles and feet due to fluid retention and increased weight. Based on the part of your body that’s affected, you could be experiencing spleen deficiency, kidney deficiency or Qi stagnation. With the appropriate TCM treatments to strengthen the spleen and kidney systems or promote Qi flow, your discomfort can be eased.
Swelling during pregnancy can also be reduced by limiting your salt intake, avoiding standing for long and keep your feet raised as much as possible. Beware of sudden swelling, especially in the hands and face as it may be a result of pre-eclampsia. Other signs include high blood pressure, headaches and vomiting, so seek medical attention immediately should such a situation arise.
While changes in your body during pregnancy should be expected, you should not have to suffer. Take care of your diet, lifestyle, seek help when necessary and enjoy your pregnancy.
Zhong Xi Ming is a senior physician at Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre @ Paragon. She received her Graduate Certificate in TCM from Hubei University of Chinese Medicine Faculty of Medicine in 1984. Eu Yan Sang combines the best of east-west healthcare practices with the 33 TCM clinics and 2 integrative medical centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Malaysia.