Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pregnancy: Concepts and Practice

Health in traditional Chinese medicine is conceptualized as optimal balance between various forces, elements in, and characteristics of our bodies. Forces include blood and Qi (pronounced “chee”, our life force). Characteristics include heat/cold , dryness/moisture, brightness/dimness and movement (upward/downward). Additionally, each of our organ systems is associated with one of the traditional Chinese elements of earth, fire, metal, and water. Our skin, for instance, is associated with metal. Treatments in Chinese traditional medicine include Chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture. The goal of any treatment in traditional Chinese medicine is to restore optimal balance after it has been disrupted.

Traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy: Treatments

In traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy, a pregnant woman is thought to have stagnation in the flow of blood and Qi through her body. Acupuncture is thought to help release the available blood and Qi to flow freely through the body and thereby alleviate painful symptoms associated with pregnancy and childbirth such as nausea, heartburn, headaches, constipation, hemorrhoids and backaches.
Moxibustion, a practice to the body and stimulate the flow of blood and Qi, involves burning dried mugwort (artemisia vulgaris/ common wormwood) leaves over the acupuncture points in the body. Moxibustion has been shown to result in decreased numbers of breech births and Caesarian sections. Acupuncture is available from holistic health centers as well as in centers of integrative medicine in traditional hospitals.
The Chinese herbal remedy, Po Chai (“Stomach Curing Pill”) is thought to relieve the nausea of morning sickness. Po Chai includes Bai Zhi/Angelica root (Angelica dahurica), Mu Xiang/Costus root (saussureae radix), Bo He/mint leaf (mentha folium), Chen Pi/citrus peel (citri rubrum exocarpum), Ju Hua/Chrysanthemum blossom (Chrysanthemomi flos), Tian Ma/orchid, Shen Qu/leaven (Gastrodia rhiz), Fu Ling/Hoelin mushroom (poria cocos), Hou Po/magnolia bark (magnolia cortex), Huo Xiang/patchouli (Agastach Pogostemi), Bai Zhu/white Atractylodis, Gu Ya/rice sprouts (oryzae germinantus), Yi Yi Ren/Job’s tears (coicis semen) and Ge Gen/Kudzu root (pueraria radix).
Chinese remedies to prevent miscarriage are selected according to the particular imbalance thought to be threatening the miscarriage. The four main remedies are Shou Tai Wan/Fetal Longevity Pill, Tai Yuan Yin/Fetal Origin Decoction, Bao Yin Jian/Yin Safeguarding Decoction, and Sheng Yu Tang/Sagely Cure Decoction.
These traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy remedies’ ingredients overlap greatly, but it is the mixture of the ingredients that is thought to be integral to the efficacy of the remedy. The ingredients of the traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy remedies to prevent miscarriage include, but are not limited to, angelica root, ginseng, peony root, white atractylodes, citrus peel, licorice root, and skullcap.
Herbal remedies for traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy can be purchased online or at Asian grocery stores. Information can also be obtained by consulting with a professional Chinese Herbologist.

Traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy: Benefits and Cautions

In traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy, acupuncture does not have the depressant side effects for either mother or baby that epidurals and pain medications commonly used in Western medicine do have. Additionally, if acupuncture is obtained in a traditional hospital, immediate treatment can be given for any complications that arise during acupuncture. It is vital that pregnant women, who may wish to try herbal remedies involving traditional Chinese medicine and pregnancy consult with their health care provider. Ginseng, one of the ingredients some of the formulations to prevent miscarriage, has been linked to birth abnormalities in rats. Angelica root, another such ingredient, is thought by some Chinese and Western authors to actually promote miscarriage. Many sources recommend avoiding angelica root altogether during pregnancy or if pregnancy might occur.

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