Excerpt of Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy
Below is an excerpt of Stephanie Gianarelli’s book, Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy, An Integrative Approach to Fertility Care.
The First Trimester: Securing and Calming the Fetus
|“The first trimester can be the most difficult 2 – 3 months of pregnancy, as women often suffer from severe nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Although these are all signs of a healthy pregnancy, these symptoms can make it difficult to continue on a daily routine. There are medications that can help with nausea, but many women benefit from using acupuncture, acupressure bands, eating ginger or papaya extract and some from chewing gum. Low blood sugar can be a trigger for nausea, and small, frequent meals can help. Also, there is some mind over matter—if something does not look appetizing, it is better to avoid even trying it during the first trimester.” —Dr. Judy Kimelman, OB/GYN|
In the first trimester, TCM focuses not only on easing symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and fatigue, but on decreasing the risk of miscarriage as well.
The beginning of a pregnancy can be an anxious and stressful time, especially when a couple has struggled to conceive or has had miscarriages in the past. Along with relieving symptoms of pregnancy, acupuncture can help support and calm the anxiety of a newly pregnant woman.
Morning sickness is fairly common in the first trimester, and both herbs and acupuncture can be useful in reducing the nausea and vomiting associated with this early stage of pregnancy. The herbal formulas that are used to reduce morning sickness are safe and have been used for centuries for this purpose.
Arguably the most important goal of TCM in the first trimester is maintaining the pregnancy by reducing the risk of miscarriage. The TCM language for maintaining a pregnancy is “securing and calming the fetus.” For patients who have miscarried in the past, this becomes an especially important part of first trimester care.
|Theresa came to us having lost two prior pregnancies. She experienced the same symptoms with each loss. She began to spot and have cramps around 5 1/2 weeks of pregnancy. She and her husband were taking at least six months to get pregnant each time, so she felt that time was running out. She began fertility enhancement with us, and within two months, she was pregnant again (and nervous). The early weeks went along fine, but when she entered the week of her prior miscarriages, the miscarriage symptoms began. She started to panic and called me. We saw her almost every day for a week. She also took Chinese herbs and did moxibustion (burning of Chinese herbs over certain acupuncture points) at home. After a week, her miscarriage signs went away and she went on to deliver a healthy baby girl. She just returned to the office to start trying for baby number two. —Stephanie|
While TCM works to calm the system and support a pregnancy, it will not prevent the loss of an unhealthy pregnancy (for instance, if the fetus has a genetic issue). If a patient has had miscarriages in the past or is having symptoms that are considered a warning sign in TCM, such as night sweats, then a newly pregnant woman will receive more frequent acupuncture and possibly Chinese herbal medicine to help stabilize the pregnancy.
If the woman starts spotting or bleeding, then the treatment plan is to “calm” the restless fetus and stop the bleeding, as well as send them to see their prenatal care provider.
Fertility acupuncturists treat newly pregnant women with these three goals in mind: reducing anxiety, relieving symptoms such as morning sickness, and decreasing the risk of miscarriage. Frequency of acupuncture treatment during the first trimester depends on several factors, including stage of pregnancy, hormone levels, symptoms, and patient history.