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Chinese Soups And Teas That Benefit Your Body During Pregnancy

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Traditional Chinese medicine can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy

Let’s face it – it’s not always easy being a woman! Our unique physiological characteristics can be characterised into four major stages in our lives – menstruation, pregnancy, birth and lactation. If you’re in the pregnancy stage, you have a beautiful new baby to look forward to, but the physical and hormonal changes you’re dealing with can be extremely challenging.

With a holistic approach to health, traditional Chinese medicine and recipes can be extremely beneficial to lowering risks of disease and uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy. While short-term cures are useful, the key is aiming for a long-term, healthy lifestyle. Why not take some time to pay attention to your body’s signals, while noticing the effects of certain foods and medicine on your body?

Read more: Pregnancy Nutrition: Where To Get Prenatal Vitamins In Hong Kong

Let’s look at traditional wholesome Chinese soups and teas – a fantastic natural way for your body to get the nutrients it needs both pre and post pregnancy. These are some recommended recipes as well as advice on how to pay attention to your body’s physiological needs through the pregnancy process.

Pre Pregnancy

Begin to take note of the condition of your menstrual cycle from menstrual cycle length and duration, to colour, texture (thick or watery), and volume (heavy or light). In addition, pay attention to any accompanying symptoms such as menstrual cramps, blood clots, swelling, back pain, breast swelling, etc. Our menstrual cycles are closely related to whether or not we are able to conceive.

Here are two increasingly common factors that are affecting women’s chances of becoming pregnant today:

  1. A hectic urban life filled with stress and emotional burdens impairs the lung’s conveyance and dispersion functions, thereby affecting the circulation of qi and blood and causing irregular menstruation. This makes it more difficult to conceive.
  2. “Career women” who choose to delay marriage and having children may have a decreased amount of kidney qi, also making it more difficult to conceive.

While it is impossible to turn back time, we can control the amount of stress we are experiencing. Being able to express and vent our emotions in a healthy way is also helpful in improving the quality of our menstrual cycle and chances of conception. I recommend drinking rose tea (which helps the liver to rectify qi and regulate menstruation) up to one week before your expected period. This tea is especially soothing for those under a large amount of stress.

Early Pregnancy (1 to 4 months)

Your body goes through a lot of changes during early pregnancy to adapt to the growing foetus. During the first three months, your baby’s size will not increase too much, so there isn’t a need to immediately begin eating more. In contrast, you may experience perfectly normal pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, dizziness, motion sickness and general nausea, so it is recommended that you eat small, frequent meals instead. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, you may consider seeking advice from a doctor or a registered Chinese medicine practitioner.

Herba Taxilli (Sang Ji Sheng) and Egg Sweet Soup

Benefit: A simple sweet soup remedy to nourish the blood and protect the foetus.

Ingredients:

  • 30g herba taxilli (improves liver and kidney function, nourishes and protects foetus)
  • 15g eucommia bark (Du Zhong, improves liver and kidney function, nourishes and protects foetus)
  • 1 egg
  • Crystal sugar

Preparation method: Rinse all ingredients thoroughly. Boil the egg and remove the shell. Pour 1 litre of cold water into the pot, add ingredients, and cook over high heat until it is boiling. Switch to low heat and cook for one hour, adding crystal sugar to taste. Drink this tea once a week.

Read more: 19 Labour And Pregnancy Apps For Every Expectant Hong Kong Mama

Mid-Pregnancy (5 to 8 months)

From the fifth month onwards, the foetus becomes more stable and its growth accelerates. As your baby grows, your intestines become increasingly crowded. This can lead to bloating, affect bowel movements, and even cause constipation. If you are experiencing hard and dry stools, or other heat-related symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, canker sores or pimples, you should try to avoid eating foods that are hot in nature, including peanuts, curry and spicy food. Also, as more qi and blood is concentrated on nourishing the foetus, it is important to pay attention to the Chinese spleen and liver to enhance blood and qi production in order to better nourish the tendons (which means you are less likely to encounter leg cramps).

Herba Taxilli (Sang Ji Sheng) Red Dates Snakehead Fish Soup

Benefit: A simple soup that helps nourish qi and blood, and reduces the occurrence of leg cramps.

Ingredients:

  • 1 snakehead fish (nourishes the body)
  • 30g herba taxilli (improves liver and kidney function, nourishes and protects foetus)
  • 10 Chinese red dates, seeds removed (reinforces qi to promote the production of bodily fluids)
  • 1 slice ginger
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation method: Rinse all ingredients thoroughly. Pan-fry cleaned fish with oil, ginger and spring onion on both sides until slightly golden, then pour 2 litres of water into the pot. Add all ingredients and cook over high heat until it is boiling. Switch to low heat and cook for an additional 1.5 hours. Add salt to taste.

Read more: Pregnancy Hair: Dos And Don’ts From A Hairdresser

Black Sesame and Fig Congee

Benefit: A simple sweet congee that helps to soothe the intestines and relieve constipation.

Ingredients: 30g pine nuts, 1 tablespoon black sesame powder, 6 figs, 1/3 cup white rice.

Preparation method: Rinse all ingredients and finely slice figs. Pour 1 litre of water into a pot and add pine nuts, figs and rice. Cook over high heat until the water boils. Then switch to low heat and cook for 30 minutes, or until the congee reaches a desirable consistency. Finally, add black sesame powder.

Late Pregnancy (1 month before due date)

Ancient Chinese wisdom states that “cold” foods are preferred for women in late pregnancy, but it is important to re-emphasise that traditional Chinese medicine believes in syndrome differentiation and treating each illness with the appropriate remedies and medication. Our bodies are unique and also change during different periods of our life. Women with a weaker constitution should avoid eating too much “cold” food during the entire pregnancy. This includes cold foods that are often recommended for women in late pregnancy, such as watermelon, grass jelly and ice cream. Enjoying these foods once a week is acceptable, depending on your body constitution. To prepare for labour, it is also helpful to drink one cup of rice tea or mild-natured soup every day this month and to engage in mild cardio exercise such as walking or swimming.

Read more: Pre And Postnatal Fitness Part 3: Safe Third Trimester Exercise

Red and White Rice and Coix Seed Water

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons red rice
  • 1 tablespoon white rice
  • 1 tablespoon coix seed

Preparation method: Rinse all ingredients thoroughly. Pour 1 litre of water into a pot, add ingredients, and cook over high heat until it is boiling. Switch to low heat and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. The tea is ready once the water turns a milky white colour. Consume only the water and do not keep overnight. This tea is suitable for the whole family.

Rice tea is easy for the Chinese spleen to break down and absorb, thus it makes a great remedy for your body to recuperate from any illness, especially diarrhoea or simply after a long day.

Our bodies are all unique and react to different illnesses and foods differently. Even the “best” postpartum diet plans may not be suitable for everyone, so pay close attention to how your body reacts to different types of medicines and diet plans. Watch out for any signs of allergies and it’s always best to consult a traditional Chinese medicine doctor who can assess your body type.

Read more: Breastfeeding And Lactation Consultants In Hong Kong

Editor’s note: This post was first written by Cinci Leung on 1, October 2016 and given a minor update on 13, November 2019.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of vivi14216 via Pixabay, image 2 courtesy of Mareefe via Pexels, image 3 courtesy of Mona Mok via Unsplash, image 4 courtesy of dabok2014 via Pixabay, image 5 courtesy of Pixabay via Pexels.

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