The ten lunar months of pregnancy are clearly a special time in a woman’s life. Despite the multitude of dietary advice offered regarding the nutrients which will be needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy, the best approach, where possible, is to maintain a sensible, healthy diet and to trust the body wisdom that is intensified during this time. Supplements are helpful in some cases, but not necessary if the diet is good and the woman is reasonably well.
Some special considerations may be helpful:
Eating for Two. To overeat during pregnancy is a mistake, especially if this means eating more quick-fix carbohydrates. It is natural to eat more, but quality is far more important than quantity. In particular it is important to eat more dark green vegetables and good quality protein sources. In the later stages of pregnancy it may be easier to eat several smaller meals during the day to help bridge any drops in sugar level.
It is natural for the energy of the Spleen, Kidney and Liver to be slightly lower than usual during pregnancy. Their energy is being drawn on to nourish the developing child. Whilst it is important to maintain their strength, it is not usually advisable to over-tonify as this may result in rejection of the foetus/embryo. For this reason heavy supplementation is not usually advised.
Pregnancy is also a time when the mother detoxifies more strongly than at other times. Drastic changes to the diet may result in too much toxicity being released at once so all dietary change should be gradual, ideally beginning before conception. Avoidance of toxins will occur instinctively in the mother and needs to be honoured. It is helpful to review such things as air quality, water purity and chemicals generally entering the diet. Sudden exposure of the developing child to toxins, e.g., through a spell of heavy alcohol consumption, can be as damaging as lower level, more chronic exposure, so consistent moderation is the best approach.
Following the principles of minimal intervention will obviously lead to avoidance of the use of antibiotics, aspirin, antacids or any other drugs that may be used during pregnancy. Many of these drugs are energetically Cold in nature and may damage the developing child. Cold foods are also to be treated with caution during pregnancy. Caffeinated drinks, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat and recreational or medicinal drugs are all best kept to a minimum. Exposure to extremes of cold, or of heat (such as sauna) are generally to be avoided where possible.
Other kinds of intervention such as scans and electrical monitoring or invasive tests are often unnecessary, and being well-informed and supported by a strong advocate is advisable. Even in techniques as apparently uninvasive as ultrasound, the baby has been shown to move away from the sound waves, suggesting that this procedure is disturbing, at least.
Birth is a time when the mother has another opportunity to detoxify and this is a natural part of the process. During the immediate postpartum stage the cleansing process is supported by keeping to a simple and nourishing diet for a few days. Only when this cleansing process is complete is it advisable to begin the strengthening process to replace the loss of Blood and Qi. Tonifying herbs and a more strengthening diet are begun as soon as the cleansing is complete, to nourish the mother through breast-feeding and the work of motherhood.
Chicken soup is a classic tonic for the immediate postpartum period, fortified with some ginger and the Blood-strengthening herb Dong Quai. During the postpartum period a nursing mother’s needs change again. It is normal and healthy to eat more than usual.
There are a few things to avoid during pregnancy and through the lactating period. All foods consumed by the mother will be passed through to some degree to the child. It is therefore best to keep strong stimulants and alcohol to a minimum. Excessive dairy consumption by the mother is a common cause of colic in babies and excessive consumption of oranges sometimes causes hyperactivity. Otherwise it is best to simply eat widely, generously and to enjoy the food.
Alfalfa is one of the most useful postpartum foods as it encourages the production of quality breast milk and increases its flow. A few herbs are also useful: aloe vera has external applications for postnatal conditions such as torn perineum or labia, for haemorrhoids and vaginal yeast infections (as well as being useful for nappy rash!) Internally it is a useful general tonic and it soothes the digestive tract. Like alfalfa, fennel is a helpful tea for increasing the quality and amount of breast milk as well as being helpful for colic. Raspberry leaf is used before and after childbirth to tone the uterus.
An effective postpartum bath can be made from simmering equal parts of uva ursi, shepherd’s purse, comfrey root and garlic for a half hour or so. This speeds healing remarkably. Internally a tea of raspberry leaf, shepherd’s purse, licorice root, comfrey and false unicorn root is reputed to be a fairly comprehensive healer.