Classical Chinese Medicine & Pregnancy

Classical Chinese Medicine & Pregnancy


Classical Chinese Medicine has a long history and huge pharmacopoeia of 養胎 (“Nurturing the Fetus”). For example Sun Simiao, the 7th century Chinese medicine physician, compiled an enormous and comprehensive encyclopedia titled Essential Prescriptions for Every Emergency worth a Thousand in Gold (Bei ji qian jin yao fang 備急千金藥方), in which an entire volume is dedicated to the 10 months of pregnancy. In it, it is documented the month-by-month development of the fetus and herbal formulae that will support the growing fetus and the pregnant mother. It also indicates which meridian channels are being formed in the fetus (drawing from the mother’s meridian channels), and should therefore not be treated with moxa or needles.

This is a valuable perspective, as in our modern-day materialist-reductionist (what cannot be seen or measured does not exists) perspective, we are overly-focused on the physical development of the fetus. This results in having a lot of knowledge and information from that perspective, but not enough from the non-physical, energetic perspective of the development of the fetus’s subtle bodies.

Being ill-informed, we may miss some easy and common-sense interventions that can keep the mother and fetus happy and healthy and mitigate against unnecessary biomedical interventions.

Here are some excerpts from the classical text:

“The first month of pregnancy is called “beginning embryo”... The foot jueyin vessel (liver channel) nourishes the fetus. You must not needle or burn moxa on this channel. The liver channel governs the sinews and the blood.”

“In the sixth month of pregnancy, the foot yangming vessel is forming. This is the Stomach channel and this governs the fetus’ mouth and eyes. During this time of pregnancy, the mother’s body tends to feel slightly taxed. Do not retreat to quiet places, but roam outside. Balance the five flavors and eat sweets and delicacies, but do not overeat.”

“In the tenth month of pregnancy, the five zang organs are complete and six fu organs are equally connected. The fetus has absorbed the qi of heaven and earth in the dantian (located in the lower abdomen). Merely await the time and give birth. Take medicines to make the fetus slippery.”

There are also herbal soup recipes for helping women with postpartum recovery. For example, the use of Mutton Decoction (Yangrou Tang 羊肉湯) can assist mothers who experience deficiency in their five organ networks after delivery. She may feel weak, look emaciated, is panting and has shortness of breath. The postpartum recovery phase is an important time window for the recovering mother to gain the greatest amount of healing and recovery.


Yangrou Tang Recipe


Mutton (fat removed) 144g
Danggui 3g
Guixin 6g
Shaoyao 12g
Gancao 6g
Shengjiang 12g
Chuanxiong 9g
Gan Dihuang 15g


Cook the meat in 1 litre of water until water is reduced to 0.5 litre. Add the herbs to it and reduced the water to 0.25 litre. Discard the dregs and divide the soup into 3 doses.

Photo by  Pablo Heimplatz

Apart from serving women in all stages of pregnancy care. Classical Chinese medicine can also be helpful for gynecological health in all stages, from menarche to menstrual-related issues such as amenorrhea, menorrhagia, irregular periods, as well as for menopausal symptoms. Many women have also found classical Chinese medicine to be helpful for fertility health. Consult with one of our practitioners at TWC today for all your women’s health and gynecological needs.

For mamas-to-be, stay tune for upcoming prenatal qigong class taught by Dr. Michelle Yan, DSOM, LAc. Through awareness, movement and sound, we will focus on the acupuncture points and channels that cultivate a woman's qi during pregnancy and enhance our capacity for connecting with the baby, labor and lactation.

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