As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, the first thing that came to mind was pregnancy. Of course, that’s almost all that’s been on my mind in the last few months! diapers, cribs, breast-feeding, nannies, burp cloths, stroller vs slings…
Doing a little bit of research for myself, I looked into my book on Chinese Medicine and Gynecology. I found a most-interesting section on pregnancy care according to the chief doctors of the Qing and Song Dynasties, and as far back as the Six Dynasties period (493 AD – 572 AD). If you have ever read any of the old, translated texts on Chinese medicine some of this will sound familiar. What you usually find are some helpful suggestions; some interesting ideas; and some things that will make you laugh out-loud in their quaintness.
Here are some of the gems I found:
1. Most acupuncturists can tell you (in fact, all acupuncturists should know this or they are not very good acupuncturists) there are certain pressure points to avoid during pregnancy: the web of the hand, the inside of the lower calf (about 3 inches above the ankle), and the outside of the ankle right by the Achilles tendon. These points stimulate movement in the uterus and may cause miscarriage.
2. This is a fun trick that I can’t wait to try out on someone: from behind, call out the pregnant lady’s name. If she turns to the right, it’s a girl; if she turns to the left, it’s a boy!
3. If a mother experiences frequent urination and a bearing-down sensation, she should eat black-boned chicken soup. I didn’t even know there were “black-boned chickens…”
4. In the third month, the fetus’s shape and sex are still changing. If the mother wants a son, she should practice shooting arrows; if a daughter, she should handle jewelry.
5. In the fifth month, the fetus’ temperament is developing. Therefore, it is recommended to sleep long hours, bathe and change clothes frequently, stay away from strangers, and be exposed to sunshine. She should balance sweet with sour foods and bitter with salty foods. She should eat wheat, beef, and lamb.
6. In the sixth month, the fetus begins to receive from the mother the Qi of her Lungs. The woman should take light exercise and not stay indoors all the time. She should go to the countryside to look at horses and dogs running. She should eat the meat of wild animals to make the fetus’s sinews and muscles strong, its skin luxuriant, its body strong and its back and spine firm. The mother should eat sweet food, but not in excess.
7. During the seventh month, the fetus receives essential Qi from the mother’s Liver to form its bones. She should exercise and encourage circulation by flexing and extending her joints. Her bedroom should be dry. She should avoid cold foods and eat rice. The fetus is nourished this month through the mother’s Lung channel which should not be needled. The mother should not speak in a loud voice or shout, not wear too thin clothes, and not bathe too often.
8. In the eighth month, the fetus begins is nourished through the mother’s Large Intestine channel. She should not overeat.
9. “When the melon is ripe and falls off the plant” is when the baby will come. No induction necessary.
After childbirth, Chinese medicine has other recommendations. Most modern acupuncturists recall learning in school that after birth, a woman has lost a significant amount of Qi and Blood and therefore should eat nutritious foods such as eggs, mutton, chicken, beef, and carrots and avoid excessive heat or cold exposure. She should get plenty of rest and preferably stay indoors for one month.
The primary herbal formula prescribed after birth contains nourishing and blood-invigorating herbs such as Dang Gui, but also some unusual ingredients such as white wine and baby urine. I suppose they found some medicinal qualities about them at the time. The wine I am up for trying; the urine…um…no.