SingaporeMotherhood | Pregnancy
Boost Fertility, Safeguard Pregnancy & Have a Dragon Baby with TCM!
Amid Singapore’s declining fertility rate, many couples here still wish to conceive. And soon, so that they can give birth within the auspicious Year of the Dragon. After all, a ‘dragon baby’ is believed to bring good fortune and live a life of nobility and longevity. Hence, more couples are turning to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), or harnessing a hybrid East-West medicine approach to boost their fertility.
TCM offers a holistic and all-natural approach to treating common health conditions, while helping to alleviate pain and other symptoms. But did you know that TCM treatments can also support women from conception to birth? We hear from Eu Yan Sang’s TCM Senior Physician, Lin Jia Yi, on which TCM treatments can help increase the chances of conception and safeguard your pregnancy, ‘dragon baby’ or otherwise.
1. We know that stress can affect reproductive health. But what can TCM do?
In TCM terms, stress is a significant factor that causes an imbalance in the body’s qi — the vital energy or life force circulating throughout the body. Stress-induced qi imbalances can disrupt the delicate harmony necessary for optimal reproductive health. This results in irregular menstrual cycles, poor egg quality, and reduced sperm count.
Then you have fertility-related conditions such as endometriosis, fallopian tube blockages, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and premature ovarian failure (POF). Guess what? These are often traced back to imbalances in the kidney, spleen, and liver — systems that govern the regulation of qi.
The spleen is considered the primary ‘factory’ producing qi, while the liver ensures its smooth and even flow. Meanwhile, the kidneys play a major role in successful conception. Common imbalances TCM identifies include qi deficiency in the spleen, stagnation of qi in the liver, and deficiency of qi or yin and yang in the kidneys.
So, how does TCM address these imbalances? Certified TCM practitioners first assess each patient’s constitution holistically. Then we tailor treatments and herbal prescriptions to restore balance to that individual’s reproductive system, spleen, liver, and kidneys. Through this, TCM seeks to enhance fertility by tackling the root causes of qi imbalances and promote overall wellbeing.
2. How does TCM work in tandem with Western treatments to boost fertility?
Couples struggling to conceive often turn to assisted reproductive therapies (ART) such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). IUI mainly guides sperm to the fallopian tubes to increase the chances of fertilisation, whereas IVF involves fertilising an egg outside the body and then implanting the resulting embryo in the uterus.
TCM treatments, particularly acupuncture, is a popular method to support these procedures. It can boost IUI success by enhancing blood flow to the ovaries and helping to relax your uterus, thus making it more receptive. It also treats potential uterine spasms post-IUI. Moreover, acupuncture helps reduce stress and anxiety, fostering a more conducive environment for conception.
In the case of IVF, acupuncture can target specific acupoints to improve blood perfusion to reproductive organs. This helps enhance follicle development, stimulate egg production, improve egg quality, and eventually support successful egg implantation.
I’d like to share the success story of one of my patients, 35-year-old Koh Kai Ting*. After two failed IUI attempts, she opted for IVF and consulted me to supplement it with TCM. Over three months, we had acupuncture sessions weekly to regulate her menstruation, and twice a week during critical stages of IVF, such as egg retrieval and embryo implantation. She not only gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but even had a second child two years later!
3. When trying to conceive, it takes two to tango. Are there TCM treatments suitable for males too?
Definitely! Acupuncture plays a crucial role in addressing male infertility too, especially for men facing erectile dysfunction and poor sperm quality/quantity. We specifically select acupoints to restore and enhance kidney function. This helps improve blood flow, sperm quality, and sperm count. I also strongly encourage couples to receive TCM treatment together. That way, your TCM physician can better support your TTC (trying to conceive) journey with a more holistic view.
I was once consulted by a husband-and-wife pair, Serene and Timothy Lim*. At 34 and 36 years old respectively, they had been struggling to conceive for over a year. A gynaecological examination revealed that Serene had PCOS, while Timothy had low sperm quality, characterised by low motility and poor morphology.
They opted for TCM treatments, taking TCM medication regularly for nearly three months, then supplementing their treatment with acupuncture sessions in the final month. By incorporating TCM in the fertility journey of both parties, they soon became parents of a healthy baby boy.
(See also: UPDATE ON MALE FERTILITY IN SINGAPORE)
4. On that note, what TCM herbs and treatments would you recommend to support pregnancy?
A woman’s body undergoes significant physiological changes during pregnancy. TCM herbs can help strengthen the body to cope, while boosting energy levels and restoring internal balance.
TCM herbs to support pregnancy include Chai Hu Shu Gan San (柴胡疏肝散) to soothe the liver and facilitate the flow of qi. Other herbs to nourish the kidney and overall yin are Chinese dodder seeds (菟丝子, tu si zi), eucommia bark (杜仲, du zhong), goji berries (枸杞子, gou qi zi), Solomon’s seal (黄精, huang jing), teasel root (续断, xu duan), and donkey-hide gelatin (阿胶, e-jiao).
We may also incorporate additional herbs like silk tree bark (合欢皮, he huan pi), lily bulbs (百合, bai he), and lotus seeds (莲子, lian zi) to calm the nerves. White atractylodes rhizome (白术, bai zhu), poria (茯苓, fu ling), aged tangerine peel (陈皮, chen pi), common yam rhizome (山药 shan yao), and glehnia root (北沙参, bei sha shen) also protect the spleen and nourish the stomach.
TCM treatments are also recommended throughout pregnancy. Acupuncture not only supports kidney function and enhances blood flow, but also helps to alleviate all the pregnancy aches and pains. In addition to acupuncture, moxibustion is also commonly used to correct foetal position.
5. Can we incorporate TCM foods into our diet to enhance our pregnancy?
Like trimesters in Western culture, TCM classifies pregnancy into three distinct stages, each characterised by specific symptoms and requirements.
During the early stages of pregnancy (1 to 3 months), a healthy diet and ample rest are crucial. Recommended herbal preparations include ginger and brown sugar tea (黑糖薑茶, hei tang jiang cha), Codonopsis and red dates tea (党参红棗茶, danɡ shen hong zao cha), and pure chicken essence (滴雞精, di ji jing). These help in strengthening the body, regulating qi and blood, and increasing the haemoglobin index.
In the second stage (4 to 6 months), we advise pregnant ladies to avoid stimulating foods like chilli and pepper. They should also reduce consuming raw and cold products, and increase their protein, iron, and calcium intake. TCM superfoods such as bird’s nest (燕窝, yan wo), ginseng (人参, ren shen), and sea cucumber (海参, hai shen) help nourish the kidneys and overall yin energy.
In the third stage (7 to 9 months), it’s best to avoid excessively salty, sweet, or greasy foods. Recommended TCM herbs include snow fungus (雪耳, xue er), which can also help nourish yin and kidneys. Of course, maintaining a well-balanced diet with grains, protein, vegetables, and fruits is crucial for baby’s healthy development throughout pregnancy.
6. Finally, is it safe to combine TCM herbs while taking prenatal supplements from my gynae?
It is safe for pregnant mamas to consume prescribed TCM herbal medication while taking prenatal supplements. However, it’s a good idea to take them about two hours apart to avoid any drug-herb interactions.
Keep in mind that it is crucial to consult with a TCM physician before incorporating herbal medications into the pregnancy diet. Also, remember to let your gynaecologist know that you are receiving TCM treatment concurrently.
May you have the ‘dragon baby’ that you’ve been wishing for!
*Pseudonyms have been used to protect the confidentiality of the patients
Senior physician Lin Jia Yi holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from Nanyang Technological University, as well as a Bachelor in Medicine from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. A registered TCM physician with over 10 years of experience, senior physician Lin currently practises at Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre at Orchard Paragon and Woodleigh Mall, and Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic at Serangoon NEX.
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