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Nurturing the Garden: How Chinese Medicine Can Support Fertility, Pregnancy and Beyond

By Vladi Starkov LAc, DMQ

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have longstanding traditions of supporting women in all stages of motherhood: pre-conception care, every phase of pregnancy, and post-partum care. I’d like to share some insights from my clinical practice as well as some time-tested wisdom, to explain how these ancient modalities can supplement and enhance the care provided by an MD or a Licensed Midwife.

Preparing the Garden: Pre-Conception Care

Having worked in the field of fertility for over 6 years, I’ve seen hundreds of couples go through this journey. Some already had exhausted trying naturally and were considering or already in the midst of receiving care from ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies, such as IVF). While most couples don’t think about getting care until they’ve already been trying, the period of 3-6 months before attempting to get pregnant provides an opportunity to greatly strengthen the odds. That time frame allows the mother to prepare the soil, just like you would tend to a garden bed. Much like you would uproot old weeds growing in a garden, we seek to remove that which might prevent life from coming in: fibroids, cysts, hormone imbalances, endometriosis, PCOS, infections, and anovulation are some of the physical symptoms that can be healed.

To improve the odds of a healthy and successful pregnancy, it’s also essential to look at what’s happening emotionally and energetically: TCM sees the uterus as the second heart, where unresolved emotions and grievances go for long-term storage and can impede pregnancy. This can include unresolved old trauma, previous abortions and miscarriages. The process of clearing out the uterus, or what TCM calls the “Baby Palace” is highly personalized. Depending on a client’s needs, it may include a cleanse, herbs, Medical Qigong (TCM’s energetic system), massage, and acupuncture. However, sometimes we do not have the luxury of spending these months in preparation for conception, so some of these techniques may be used alongside trying naturally or ART methods. It’s important to meet the patient exactly where she is and work with her timeline.

Cultivating the Garden: Support During Pregnancy

TCM and Ayurveda provide specific guidelines for each stage of pregnancy, indicating what herbs and foods to consume or avoid. While I customize this for each patient depending on her constitution as well as what symptoms she might be having, one example is breast-milk composition, baby’s perfect food: it is composed of more fat, then protein, then sugar. This means that it is important to consume foods rich in fat and protein during pregnancy and go with less sugar. This also helps to curb nausea, stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent pregnancy-diabetes and weight gain.

TCM can be helpful throughout the pregnancy, addressing symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue, hemorrhoids, growing pains, low back pain and high blood pressure. A specific acupuncture point will help turn a breech baby, and others help prepare the body for labor and shorten labor time. This wise and knowledgeable medicine supports the body to heal and create optimal conditions for a growing fetus.

Postpartum Care: Restoring Balance

The first 12 months after childbirth may bring an even more challenging time than pregnancy itself, as the new mom shifts from the experience of pregnancy to the highs of oxytocin bonding with the baby and breastfeeding, as well as the lows of not enough sleep and hormones crashing. This is an especially important time to support the mom with simple self-care practices, acupuncture and herbs. I highly recommend that new moms get 3 weekly treatments, starting at 2 weeks after birth, to improve recovery and bring back energy. Then, monthly treatments for a full year ensure that mama will make time for herself. While sometimes a challenge for new mommies to juggle how to come in after baby arrives, it’s incredibly beneficial: we address issues such as breastfeeding problems, baby blues, balancing self-care, scars from a C-section, recovery from any tearing, issues with hemorrhoids, sexual vitality, fatigue and much more.

As you can see, TCM contains numerous treasures for supporting mamas. Rather than attempting to become an expert yourself while going through the powerful journey of becoming a mother, get in touch with me or find another experienced practitioner who can support you every step of the way. Give yourself the gift of being nurtured as you become a healthy and happy mama!

Vladi Starkov is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and natural health practitioner in Sonoma County who comes from a lineage of women healers in Bulgaria. She holds extensive training in the areas of pain, women’s health, fertility, Ayurveda and psycho-spiritual emotional balance. To learn more about how Flourish Integrative Health can assist you in your journey with IVF and fertility, visit www.flourishintegrativehealth.com, email info@flourishintegrativehealth.com or call 707-205-1224.