TCM treatments and pregnancy: Here's what you need to know
Practitioners believe that acupressure massage and acupuncture, as well as consuming certain Chinese herbs, can help prime a woman's womb for conception. CNA Women asks the experts.
With the stresses of modern living and a pandemic to boot, getting pregnant isn't easy for some.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors believe getting a womb primed for conception might help. And this is after you consult your gynaecologist to make sure there aren't more serious medical issues such as fibroids or fertility problems.
“Chinese medicine pays close attention to the regulation of internal body temperature,” said Julie Low, a senior physician with TCM healthcare provider Oriental Remedies Group. “A body that is too ‘cold’ will struggle to provide adequate energy for proper organ functioning, which will affect the body constitution and overall well-being.
“Hence, in TCM, a healthy womb is one that is considered ‘warm’ enough, with good blood flow to supply the foetus with nutrient-rich blood and maintain a highly nurturing home for it,” she added.
Low explained that a lack of warm energy, then, would cause the womb to be less conducive for conception, a condition which TCM practitioners term Cold Womb Syndrome or gong han.
She said: “The coldness – a result of lifestyle habits – impedes blood circulation to the womb. From a biomedical standpoint, it means the uterine lining is not receptive to progesterone, a hormone that helps the uterus lining develop during pregnancy.”
Telltale signs of Cold Womb Syndrome include dark red menstruation, blood clots, painful menstrual cramps, cold limbs, lower back pain, low sex drive and frequent urination at night.
In TCM, a healthy womb is one that is considered ‘warm’ enough, with good blood flow to supply the foetus with nutrient-rich blood and maintain a highly nurturing home for it
Dr Goh Chye Tee, Director of NTU Chinese Medicine Clinic, describes a healthy womb simply as one that can perform its main physiological functions.
“It needs to store and discharge menstrual blood regularly, and be able to cultivate a foetus from conception till birth. To do so, there needs to be a smooth flow of qi (energy) along two main meridians – Chong and Ren, and the kidney, stomach and spleen have to function well to provide the necessary prenatal and postnatal essence for procreation,” explained Dr Goh.
Irregular menstruation, bad menstrual cramps and difficulty in conceiving are all symptoms of a less than healthy womb, he said, and these may lead to a higher risk of miscarriage due to the womb’s inability to nurture the foetus.
HOW TCM MAY HELP
These are some ways to “strengthen” and condition your womb, using TCM techniques.
1. NOURISH WITH HERBAL FOOD
After menstruation, you may want to take tonifying herbs such as angelica root (dang gui) and Chinese yam to replenish qi and blood, which are essential to a healthy womb, said Dr Goh.
He also recommended nurturing the womb with Eight Treasure Soup, which consists of four herbs that boost qi and four for blood.
2. AVOID COLD AND RAW FOOD, ESPECIALLY A FEW DAYS BEFORE MENSTRUATION
“This is to reduce unnecessary stress to the visceral system, in particular the stomach and spleen, which in TCM perform the functions of producing and supplying nutrients to the uterus and foetus,” said Dr Goh.
He added that fried and spicy food should also be avoided, if not given a total miss.
3. REDUCE TOXIN EXPOSURE
Cook more meals at home instead of buying takeouts. “This will reduce exposure to BPA in plastic containers, which has an oestrogen-like impact on the body and may affect fertility," said Low.
She added that you may also want to avoid eating the types of fish which are known to have high mercury levels. These include swordfish and certain species of tuna.
4. GOOD SLEEPING HABITS
Try to hit the sack by 11pm and clock in at least six to eight hours of good quality sleep. “This is to enable the body to carry out maintenance and recuperative work including liver detoxification, cleansing of body tissue and enhancing brain functions, all of which are actively performed between 11pm and 3am,” said Dr Goh.
5. TRY ACUPUNCTURE
It can help improve overall health, and may even promote qi and blood flow to the womb to boost fertility, said TCM experts.
6. MASSAGE ACUPRESSURE POINTS
Low recommends pressing down on the following acupressure points for one minute each time. But pregnant women or women who have just completed embryo transfer in IVF treatment should avoid acupressure massage, she cautioned:
- San Yin Jiao, found four fingers above the inner ankle. This acupoint is said to regulate various organs including the kidneys, which in TCM are essential for fertility, and can also relieve menstrual cramps as it may help with pelvic disorder, Low said.
- Tai Chong, which helps to calm the mind and reduce anxiety for a healthy and successful pregnancy. To locate the acupoint, place your finger between the big and second toes and move up the foot until you reach the bone.
- Yin Ling Quan to treat water retention. In TCM, Low explained, the acupoint is said to help with managing chronic yeast infection which can affect fertility. To find it, follow the inner part of your shin bone up to the curve just below your knee.
7. STAY WARM
Keep the body warm and avoid cold environments as much as possible. “Try not to spend long hours in air-conditioned places and keep the soles of your feet warm by wearing socks,” Low advised.
8. GET REGULAR EXERCISE
This will help to improve muscular and skeletal functions, relieve stress and promote the flow of oxygen and blood within the body.
GET YOUR MAN INVOLVED, TOO
“The Oriental Remedies Group’s white paper on fertility notes that nearly half of all fertility issues are attributed to men. Like women, some simple changes to men’s lifestyles and diets can improve the chances of conception,” said Low.
Besides boosting their libido by adding zinc-rich foods like oysters and red meat to their diet, minimise alcohol and smoking as these can affect sperm quality.
Do note that these TCM practices are no guarantee that you will get pregnant. You should still consult your gynaecologist for medical advice if you're trying to conceive.
CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at] mediacorp.com.sg.