What an exciting time it is anticipating the birth of your baby, whether it is your first or a new addition to your growing family. We can say with confidence, there are few experiences in life that top the moment your pregnancy is confirmed.
At the Yinova Center in NYC, we offer acupuncture, herbal remedies, massage, and holistic support for you as you prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Happily, we see many of you transition from this “premester” preparatory phase, to your first trimester. When that time comes, we often hear, “We’re pregnant, now what?”
We can continue to work together as your body adjusts to the various changes of pregnancy. Guided by the principles of Chinese medicine and our philosophy of “traditional wisdom for modern families,” I have been inspired to start a blog series offering safe, simple self-help suggestions for the common side-effects of pregnancy. Topics will include everything from the first trimester through to preparing for labor and finally, the postpartum period.
“Why am I always so tired?”
Fatigue is a common complaint in the early stages of pregnancy, with a sudden loss of energy as your body gets used to all the changes. Your body is adjusting to the extra workload of the developing placenta as well as hormonal changes. This fatigue often lasts throughout the first trimester, with a sense of renewed energy starting at about week 13. Toward the end of your pregnancy, in your last trimester, fatigue is often linked to the additional 20 – 30 lbs. gained, lack of sleep due to frequent bathroom visits, or the station of the baby, making it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position.
Your doctor or midwife may suggest an iron supplement early in your pregnancy to improve your hemoglobin levels, which will improve overall oxygenation to your cells and thereby improving your energy.
Based on the result of an involved questionnaire, we can find different patterns that emerge. Your acupuncturist will then select a course of treatment best suited for your particular presentation. You may recognize the names of some of the more common patterns if you have been receiving acupuncture for a while, if not, this may be an introduction. Either way, I’d love to explore the Chinese perspective with you. They include:
- Qi deficiency: fatigue that is worse after exertion and better with rest.
- Yang deficiency: includes some of the signs of Qi deficiency plus sensations of feeling cold.
- Yin deficiency: fatigue, restlessness, and heat signs, like warm flashes or night sweats.
- Liver Qi stagnation: fatigue that is worse with inactivity and stress.
- Liver Blood deficiency: fatigue, weakness, dry skin, pale lips, and poor memory.
Acupuncture is useful at any stage of your pregnancy. If there are obvious reasons for your fatigue, like nausea, anemia or musculoskeletal pain, those issues will be addressed first. We would advise you to listen to your body and slow down if needed. This is not the time to push the envelope on your energy reserves. Small, simple lifestyle or nutritional changes will correspond to increased energy.
- For those of you taking an iron supplement, choose an easily absorbed liquid formula, like Floradix.
- Incorporate iron-rich foods into your diet, like organic eggs, grass-fed red meats, spinach, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruits.
For those presenting with patterns such as Qi deficiency or Yang deficiency:
- Think about how you can reduce your workload.
- Dress warmly.
- Start work later in the morning if possible.
- Go to bed earlier.
- Pay attention to your sleep hygiene: keep your room dark; remove electronics like TV’s and laptops from your bedroom; if outside noise is an issue, use a white noise device.
- Your diet should incorporate Qi and Yang tonifying foods and preparations: limit the consumption of cold and raw foods; lightly steam or roast veggies with rosemary, add a little garlic or ginger to stir-fry; add cinnamon, or cloves to fruit compotes or rice congee.
Yin deficient patients need to support and conserve their Yin energy:
- Seek out activities that are calming as opposed to stimulating, i.e., gentle moving meditations, Tai Chi or prenatal yoga help to center and ground your energy reserves.
- Avoid foods that are too stimulating like caffeinated drinks, pick-me-up snacks with too much sugar.
- Incorporate Yin nourishing foods like banana, mango, dairy, legumes, fish and pork.
- Small frequent meals, rather than less frequent, large meals, keep blood sugar levels stable, minimizing those after meal or mid-day energy slumps.
- Try different kinds of milk to make fruit smoothies, such as almond, rice, hemp or coconut milk as these are less mucus-producing, and nourish the Yin energy.
Liver Qi stagnation fatigue requires us to focus our attention on promoting the smooth flow of Qi. Possibly you are one of those ladies, who, prior to your pregnancy found regular, strenuous work-outs like running suited you best. Now that you are pregnant those work-outs may not be advisable. If you feel the need to release some of that pent up energy and doing nothing makes you feel more tired a brisk daily walk and/or lane swimming are good alternatives. They are both gentle enough and active enough to move the energetic Qi of the Liver, calm irritability, and energize you at the same time!
Liver Blood deficiency ladies need to build Blood (of course we are primarily speaking of the energetics of Blood, through the eyes of Chinese medicine, we are not suggesting there is anything wrong with your blood – using upper case ‘B’ for Chinese medicine and lower case ’b’ for what is commonly thought of as blood).
- Dietary suggestions include already mentioned iron-rich foods.
- Other suggestions: beetroot, avocado, dark leafy green vegetables, kidney beans.
- Smaller, more frequent meals.
- Include plenty of plant based proteins, like quinoa or whole-grain buckwheat.
- Wheatgrass shots are a nice addition to your routine.
- Don’t forget your fluid intake. Always start with water, water, water.
- Another option, pure, clear, and clean broths to sip on throughout the day.
Daily waking activities need to include some downtime. Most likely you will find it is after lunch between 1 and 3 pm, you may feel, as my mother would say, “too pooped to pop.” Energetically, in terms of Chinese medicine, this is the time when the Liver energy is at its weakest (peak time is 1 – 3 am while you’re body is resting & rebuilding Liver Blood). A nap would be ideal, but often not possible for many working people. Please listen to your body’s needs. Put yourself first for now. Schedule a daily 20-minute catnap. Close the eyes, get into a no-fly zone space to replenish your energy reserves.
Remember how incredible your body is. Enjoy, marvel, and embrace the changes your body is going through and bringing forth!