Planning For A Healthy Baby: A Chinese Medical View

Healthy parents make healthy babies.  Perhaps no time during our lives are we more concerned with our optimal health then during pregnancy.  But many moms and dads are now realizing their preconception health may effect a baby that’s still just a spark in their eyes.  Chinese medicine, which includes the 5 branches of acupuncture, nutrition, massage, herbalism, and meditation, has a long history of advising for optimal health before conception.  

For optimal health preconception, we start with the regularity of the menses.  Ideally a woman will have a 3-5 day menstrual cycle every 28-30 days.  Irregularities to the menses, including early or late periods, heavy periods, or pain before, during or after the period is viewed as an imbalance in Chinese medicine.  These imbalances may delay or inhibit conception or lead to discomfort during a pregnancy.  Correcting these imbalances preconception is ideal.   
Causes of menstrual cycle imbalances can be emotional such as:
Worry:  Inhibits the flow of Qi, causes the blood to stagnate and key conception meridians to become blocked
Anger:  Also impedes the free flow of Qi, may cause painful menses
Fear: Causes Qi to sink, may lead to difficulty conceiving or miscarriage
Joy: Causes Qi to rise, may cause irregularities in cycle
Chinese medicine is originally from Daoist concepts and continues to use nature to explain imbalances in the human body.  We look at pathogenic factors from nature that are not ideal for the preconception woman and may cause irregularities to the period. 
 
Causes of menstrual cycle imbalances can be due to pathogenic factors such as:
Cold:  Coagulates the Qi, causes stagnation of blood, can lead to painful periods or lack of periods
Damp:  Affects key meridians involved with conception (Chong Mai and Ren Mai), may cause very light periods, lack of periods or painful periods
Heat: Quickens the blood flow, may cause heavy periods
In my acupuncture practice, I work to eliminate the pathogenic factor using acupuncture, herbs, meditation and nutrition to regulate the menses preconception.  Home care is often diet modifications and meditation advise to calm the emotions.  Recommendations are always customized to the patient, specific to their imbalance.  
 There is ancient advise, dating back to the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 BC) about health during the menses that is particularly important to follow when preparing to conceive.  
  • Avoid alcohol- this causes the blood to be reckless and irregular
  • Avoid sex during the menses- may cause stagnation of Qi and blood
  • Avoid cold and damp exposure to the uterus, this means avoiding swimming and carefully drying off after bathing
  • Avoid vigorous exercise- may deplete the Qi, making us too weak to conceive
Preparing for conception for 3 months and implementing acupuncture, meditation, optimal nutrition and avoiding negative influences such as smoking, stress, alcohol, drugs, toxic chemicals and minerals, and pollution, is ideal.  
References
West, Zita, 2001, Acupuncture In Pregnancy and Childbirth, Taos, N.M., Redwing Book Company. 
Kerry Jenni L.Ac. is a graduate of Bastyr University’s Masters of Science in Acupuncture program and a licensed acupuncturist in practice at Integrative Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Montpelier and Williston.   She is passionate about using Chinese medicine help women achieve pregnancy naturally or in integration with assisted reproductive therapies.  For more information: wwwintegrativeaom.com