Happy mother holding her newborn baby
Acupuncture Confinement Internal Medicine

How TCM Promotes a Healthy Pregnancy & Helps Mothers Regain Vitality After Childbirth

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is popular in Singapore for its holistic and all-natural approach to treating common health conditions. Apart from helping to alleviate pains and other symptoms, TCM treatments are also often complementary to Western medicine and can work hand in hand to encourage wellness.

One such example is TCM treatments that work in tandem with IVF or IUI treatments to promote fertility. However, did you know that the benefits of TCM do not just stop once you have successfully conceived?

TCM treatments can also further support women through different life stages, such as before conceiving, during pregnancy and even after childbirth!

In fact, these treatment methods are perfect for expectant mothers since there is no need to worry about chemicals or procedures that will harm the baby, and any negative side effects that will affect mothers. TCM believes that the treatments, when combined with a healthy daily routine, a nutritious diet, supporting exercises and good emotional health, can help mothers experience a smooth-sailing pregnancy.

But TCM treatments also go beyond the conceiving and pregnancy period – they can help you to regain health and vitality, especially during the first month after childbirth also known as confinement. The confinement period can be said to be the most important month for mothers and must be taken seriously from TCM’s perspective.

If you are pregnant or are preparing for childbirth and wish to find out more about what TCM can do to make the journey easier, here is everything you need to know that will benefit both mothers-to-be and new mummies.

Read on to find out more!

Part 2 – Supporting Women Through Pregnancy with TCM Treatments

Supporting women through pregnancy with TCM treatments

2.1 How TCM Views Pregnancy

It is normal for your body to undergo big changes and experience a plethora of symptoms such as morning sickness and change in appetite during pregnancy. Some women may encounter symptoms that come and go during the first trimester, while others have it harder and have to wait for months before they start feeling better.

While all of these are part and parcel of growing a bun in the oven, seeking TCM treatments when it becomes too uncomfortable for you may be helpful in experiencing a healthy pregnancy and smooth delivery.

Poor health during pregnancy is treated and improved in the same way as non-pregnant women, whereby TCM treatments like acupuncture and herbal medications work to restore the Yin-Yang balance by manipulating Qi movements.

TCM also takes on the concept of paying attention to both the mother and unborn child to prevent a miscarriage (especially during the first trimester) and to ensure the baby gets all the nutrients it needs to grow healthily throughout the entire pregnancy.

2.2 TCM Treatments That Support Women Through Pregnancy

Now that you understand more about how TCM views pregnancy, the next question on your mind would probably be: What are the TCM treatment modalities and how do they support women through pregnancy?

Two of the most common treatments TCM physicians would recommend are acupuncture and herbal medications.

  1. Acupuncture

    Acupuncture for pregnant women

    A common misconception many have is that pregnant women cannot and should not undergo acupuncture treatments, but this is untrue. In reality, acupuncture is an all-natural and non-invasive method that will help alleviate discomforts during pregnancy as long as the right acupoints are stimulated. An experienced and knowledgeable physician will pay extra attention when performing acupuncture on a pregnant woman so that you reap the appropriate benefits.

    Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles through your skin and you should feel minimal to no pain. An ache or pressure may be felt but that is completely normal as the imbalances in your body are being corrected. The treatment is most useful for alleviating discomforts like morning sickness, headache, insomnia, constipation and even stress and anxiety to help you maintain an optimistic outlook throughout your pregnancy.

    While the second trimester is usually the most enjoyable time of your pregnancy, you may still experience discomforts such as heartburn and anaemia. Thus, acupuncture can be performed along a few meridians during the second trimester to stimulate your body to build up blood and Qi as well. Your physician may recommend supplementing acupuncture with moxibustion too, as nourishing the meridians with heat can help to further alleviate symptoms.

    When you are in your third trimester, consider going for both acupuncture and moxibustion treatments as they complement each other to help prepare your body for labour. Specific acupoints can be stimulated to soften your cervix for giving birth and if your baby is in a breech position (which will typically require C-section), the treatments may also help your baby to turn its head downwards for vaginal birth.

    Even though acupuncture has its benefits, it is important to note that it should not substitute Western medical care during your pregnancy. It provides complementary care but you should still visit your gynaecologist regularly to check on your baby’s progress.

  2. Traditional Chinese Herbal Medications

    Traditional Chinese herbal ingredients

    TCM physicians do not usually prescribe herbal medications to pregnant women unless necessary. Should the need arise, the prescriptions will be customised according to your needs and body constitution, as each person’s condition is unique and requires different remedies.

    Other than combating pregnancy-related symptoms like dizziness and nausea, these herbal medications will also restore your body’s internal balance for overall health.

    Herbs that are often prescribed to pregnant women include:

    • Bai shao (root of white peony) – improves blood flow, anxiety and depression

    • Bai zhu (Atractylodis Macrocephalae Rhizoma) – treats reduced appetite, indigestion and tiredness

    • Tu si zi (Chinese dodder seed) – supports the kidney, liver and spleen and improves digestion

    • Xu duan (Radix Dipsaci) – strengthens bones, calms the foetus and reduces swelling

    It is crucial to note that you must never take any herbs on your own accord and should always seek advice from a certified physician at a TCM clinic in Singapore.

    Remember to follow your physician’s instructions down to a T as well, as excessive doses could cause side effects and insufficient doses will result in less than satisfactory results.

2.3 TCM Tips for a Healthy and Smooth Pregnancy

TCM Tips for a Healthy and smooth Pregnancy

TCM advises that expectant mothers need to nurture (yang tai 养胎) and protect (hu tai 护胎) the foetus throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

Here are some useful tips that will assist you in growing your baby to the best of your ability.

  • Keep emotions in check

    Higher levels of estrogen and progesterone (especially in the first trimester) produced during pregnancy can cause you to feel more irritable and as your body changes throughout pregnancy, feelings of anxiety may creep up as well, leaving you feeling distressed. While this may be inevitable, maintaining a stable and optimistic mood while pregnant is recommended to aid in the balance of Qi and blood. This, in turn, allows the foetus to grow in a healthy environment.

    Doing activities that help you destress such as reading a book, watching your favourite show or indulging in delicious foods may be helpful. Alternatively, try acupuncture as it can ease anxiety by stimulating the body’s natural feel-good hormones and reducing cortisol, also known as stress hormones.

  • Aim to have good quality sleep every day

    Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep promotes optimal blood flow and helps you to feel recharged the next day. But it is not just the number of hours you sleep that matters; the timing you go to bed is equally important! Between 10 to 11 pm is a good rule of thumb to follow, as it is the optimum bedtime for heart health and to allow your body to get adequate rest.

  • Consume a nutrient-rich diet

    Healthy and nutritious foods improve Qi and blood flow to lay a solid foundation for smooth delivery and lactation. The best part is these food items such as sweet potato, walnuts, chicken, lamb, goji berry, carrots, salmon, garlic, spinach and eggs are all delicious so you never have to force yourself to consume them.

    Of course, this list of items to consume is non-exhaustive – there are hundreds of other food ingredients that are beneficial to pregnant women. When in doubt, it is best to consult your TCM physician.

  • Do everything with caution

    When you are pregnant, Qi and blood flow toward the foetus to support its developmental growth. At the same time, your immune system may be compromised and some may even observe fatigue and irregular bowel movements. Hence, it is important to practise caution in everything you do to prevent yourself from getting ill or feeling overly tired.

  • Work hard but rest well

    It is advisable for pregnant women to remain active as it can help to make labour shorter and recovery faster. Additionally, it also prevents complications such as gestational diabetes and postpartum depression. For instance, taking short walks and practising prenatal yoga or Pilates can aid in digestion and sleep but be mindful not to over-exert yourself.

Part 3 – TCM’s Role in Helping Mothers Regain Health and Vitality after Childbirth

postpartum acupuncture benefits new mothers

3.1 How Postpartum Acupuncture Benefits New Mothers

Most expectant mothers understand that it is necessary to keep their body and health in tip-top condition during pregnancy for a healthy delivery, but not many see the importance of taking care of their body even after childbirth.

As much as you would like to heave a sigh of relief after giving birth, continuing to pay attention to your health is essential to help you regain vitality not just to benefit yourself, but also for your newborn.

This is also when postpartum acupuncture comes into play. Your physician will typically recommend this within the first six weeks after childbirth so that you obtain optimal results.

Postpartum acupuncture helps with these common issues faced by new mummies:

  • Insufficient lactation

    Not being able to breastfeed your child is often one of the biggest concerns of new mothers but luckily, going for regular acupuncture sessions may help! Acupuncture helps to balance Qi while boosting blood circulation to remove obstructions in the breast. Specific acupoints can be stimulated to encourage the descent of breast milk to target insufficient lactation issues.

  • Mastitis

    Apart from worrying about lactation, mothers who are breastfeeding often have a lot more on their plate too. For instance, mastitis is a condition in which the breast tissue gets inflamed and causes pain, swelling and redness that commonly affects breastfeeding mothers. This can cause you great discomfort and may even lead to you weaning your baby before you intended to. Acupuncture may prevent and manage mastitis by stimulating acupoints that correlate to the breast tissues and ducts. When activated, energy gets unblocked to relieve pain and swelling.

  • Urinary incontinence

    Postpartum urinary incontinence is actually quite common, with 50% of women who had gone through vaginal delivery more likely to experience the problem. This loss of bladder control is caused by weakened muscles around the bladder and pelvis after childbirth but may go away a few weeks or months later. While it will usually resolve on its own, going for regular acupuncture sessions may help to speed up the process. Like the previous conditions, your physician will stimulate the appropriate acupoints to reduce the amount and frequency of uncontrolled leakage.

  • Fatigue

    Learning the ropes as a new mother can be stressful and tiring but taking some time out to go for regular acupuncture sessions will prove to be beneficial. Acupuncture manipulates certain Qi meridians to calm Yang energy while stimulating Yin energy. When Qi deficiency is no longer present, you feel much more energised and ready to take on any challenges that come with being a new parent.

  • Postpartum depression

    Like urinary incontinence, postpartum depression is also common with approximately 1 in 10 women experiencing it after giving birth. Although symptoms can range from mild to severe, it is never a good idea to simply let it be or wait it out to see if they improve. Some ways to deal with postpartum depression include practising skin-to-skin contact with your baby to promote relaxation and slowly reintroducing exercise to boost your energy and relieve stress. You may also wish to consider supplementing these tips with acupuncture as it increases serotonin levels which will improve your sleep and mood.

Apart from resolving common issues mothers face after birth, postpartum acupuncture also promotes relaxation and reduces stress, heals and rejuvenates your body, and helps your body get back into balance.

After all, you only deserve the best after nine months of bearing a child and going through painful labour!

3.2 The Importance of Confinement Herbs

Going for regular acupuncture sessions after giving birth is not all! The first month after childbirth is equally vital and it will be extra beneficial if you consume confinement herbs during this period. This short one month is when your body requires the most care and nutrition to help you regain health and vitality as well as combat ageing.

Qi, Yin and blood deficiency are common in women after giving birth and can result in fatigue, low appetite, constipation, excessive night sweats and many more. Thus, confinement herbs are designed to help new mothers recover quicker and better, and to correct any postpartum imbalances so as to prevent long-term side effects.

Most confinement herbs aim to assist new mothers in regaining energy in three stages:

  1. Uterus recovery

    The first six days after delivery is the optimal time to focus on uterus recovery. Lochia is observed for about 2 weeks after delivery. During this time, the discharge usually becomes pink or brown, then yellow or white, and becomes less until it eventually stops. Your uterus will slowly return to its normal size too. Confinement herbs will help to assist in the recovery process and improve your overall health.

  2. Digestive wellness and breastfeeding

    Next, confinement herbs also ‘warm’ your body to dispel dampness and improve your digestive functions. This is essential during the next seven to 21 days after giving birth to improve the absorption of nutrients that help to form a solid foundation for a steady supply of breastmilk.

  3. Vitality booster

    For the remaining few days till one month is up, the confinement herbs will continue to keep your body’s constitution balanced all while strengthening the joints and muscles, nourishing the blood, and reinstating hormonal balance for overall vitality. All these help to combat ageing after giving birth.

Consult a TCM physician for a comprehensive confinement herbs list or opt for Thomson Chinese Medicine’s 28-Day Confinement Herbal Care programme to save yourself the hassle of gathering information and purchasing the herbs yourself.

The confinement herbs are prescribed after a personalised consultation with our physician after childbirth. They are helpful in speeding up postpartum recovery and regaining health and vitality. The herbs are also conveniently packed in sachets so all you need to do is mix them with water before consuming them. Cordyceps capsules and Mammgation-duce capsules are also included in the programme to improve lactation and strengthen your body constitution and energy levels.

3.3 The Do’s and Don’ts After Childbirth, According to TCM

The do’s and don’ts after childbirth, according to TCM

TCM also believes in a set of do’s and don’ts during the confinement period after childbirth to aid in the healing process. When done right, mothers will experience quicker recovery and fewer bodily pains years following childbirth as well as age at a slower rate.

Here are some useful tips that will help to make your confinement experience an enjoyable one:

  • Avoid cold foods and drinks

    Your body and immune system get weakened after giving birth, which is why TCM advises against consuming cold foods and drinks that may impede your digestive functions. Instead, warm your body with foods like ginger and sesame oil, and incorporate confinement herbs into your diet to expel any ‘coldness’.

  • Stay home as much as possible

    Avoid leaving the house as much as possible during confinement is recommended from TCM’s perspective so that you get sufficient rest and prevent external pathogens from causing you to fall sick.

  • Pay attention to confinement meals

    Nutritious confinement meals help your body replenish the nutrients that it had lost during childbirth and to aid in expelling the ‘cold’ in the body to speed up recovery. You can also consider referring to a confinement herbs list for items you can include in your daily meals for extra nourishment.

Read up more on postpartum care tips here.

While you equip yourself with the knowledge of what you should and should not do during confinement, you need to take note of the foods you can and cannot consume too.

For instance, caffeine, spicy food, citrus fruits, seafood, dairy products, and oily and salty foods are not recommended. Instead, load up on turmeric, black pepper, oats, salmon, pork liver, almonds, and vegetables as they are all safe and highly nutritious foods to consume during confinement.

Let TCM Treatments Support You Through Pregnancy and Even After Childbirth

TCM treatments are something to consider if you are looking for an all-natural alternative to support your pregnancy and help you regain health after childbirth.

Acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal medications are different types of effective TCM treatments but all have one ultimate goal – to help pregnant women and new mothers feel their best. At the end of the day, a healthy body is a foundation for a fulfilling life with your newborn.

Before you go ahead and book your appointments, always make sure you visit a reputable TCM clinic in Singapore with experienced and knowledgeable physicians who will provide the right advice and appropriate treatments.

Get in touch with us here at Thomson Chinese Medicine to find out more about our services, or simply to book an appointment.

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