5 min|Dr. Karen Lam
Navigating Fertility and MotherhoodWellness
Fertility + Motherhood
When I was asked to write this month’s blog on fertility and motherly love, I thought to myself “Where do I begin?”. There’s so much to say about these topics as I have a huge passion for both. Trained as a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, my mind immediately began formulating the acupuncture points and supplementary formulas one might use for helping with fertility. My mind began swirling with all the things I would say to a person who was on the journey to motherhood and my heart began to fill with warm fuzzy feelings.
But let’s get serious for a moment...
According to Stats Canada, the trend is that fewer babies are being born and the average age of first-time mothers is older, with the average age at 30 years. Couples today are seeking fertility treatments from fertility clinics in large numbers as roughly as 1 in 6 couples in Canada experience infertility. Many of these couples also seek supportive and complimentary help with Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4-month period compared with Western medical fertility drug therapy or IVF. A recent acupuncture study shows significant improvement in conception rates, with the outcome being half the time of those who did not use acupuncture. There is indeed a lot of interest in using Chinese medicine and acupuncture in improving ones’ chances for fertility.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Way
The mother shall not be exposed to any undesired feelings or situations so that she may be calm and happy - that calm and happiness transferred to the child in the belly. The mother is physically, and spiritually, the vessel into which the unborn child is placed, and so her state of health in every way is of the greatest importance.
According to TCM, the child inherits constitutional Qi from its' parents. This Qi is really an individual’s energy foundation—it cannot be changed and it is finite in amount.Stored in the kidney, its quality and quantity are determined by the Qi of both the mother and father (and the Qi of their respective ancestors); the nature of the mother’s pregnancy; and the time, place and circumstances of the child’s birth. This type of Qi determines the child’s basic constitution (physical and mental) and governs his or her growth and development.
Prepare for Pregnancy
- Reduce stress
- Get more sleep in the evening and take short naps if needed
- Reduce the time you use wireless devices
- Eat healthy foods such as seasonal vegetables and hormone-free fruits when possible
- Avoid cold and raw foods
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Eat wild caught fish
- Visit an acupuncturist and assess your energy level
- Reduce stress
- Reduce exposure to environmental toxins including a reduction in cell phone use
- Cut back on your workload
- Sleep earlier in the evening and take naps when tired during the day
- Send peaceful messages to your baby
- Listen to classical music
- Relax in nature
- Eat healthy foods, such as seasonal vegetables and hormone-free fruits when possible
- Avoid cold, raw foods (incl. salads) and beverages
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
TCM views childbirth as a “gateway,” a door into a uniquely different and potentially enhanced state of health and being. A woman’s body and mind are undergoing tremendous changes at these times. Once a child is born, a woman’s body is very open. After childbirth, a woman can be weakened, but if particular care is taken, it can also be an opportunity for her to be strengthened.
A great emphasis must be placed on taking very good care of the new mother.The month-long period after birth is called “zuo yue zi” (literally, “sit this month”). During this time, the new mother should relax and do as little as possible. Because the mother is the primary source of nourishment for the child, she should be nurtured so that she can provide the very best care for the child.
In China today, there are many post-partum centers that cater to this “sitting in month” where the new mom and infant go to rebalance their Qi and gain strength before re-entering the normal world. This trend is quickly catching on in North America with post-partum centres cropping up in NYC.
Things to do after delivery
- Avoid as much cold and raw foods as possible
- Avoid catching a chill overheating
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of fresh water
- Eat highly nutritious foods that are easy to digest
- Use herbal supplements to support rebuilding your blood and Qi
Women are often given herbs after childbirth to build their Qi and blood. There are classical herbal formulas that address these conditions by stimulating the circulation of Qi and blood. It’s not uncommon for women to undergo strong emotional changes after their child is born. These herbal formulas can also help stabilize the emotions along with other medications in cases of post-partum depression.
There are no words to explain what it is like to be a new mom or a dad. It’s like running wildly through a forest and you come to a sudden stop at a cliff’s edge, adrenaline pumping at first, then the awe of what has happened and the overwhelm of your situation.
The warm fuzzy feeling of your heart expands to gigantic proportions, much like the Grinch when his heart unfroze that fateful Christmas morning. That is motherhood. Welcome to so much joy and a lifetime of worry. Cheers to lack of sleep and triumphant magic first times with your child.