Pregnancy is an exciting time, but let’s face it, it is also really exhausting, and getting that diet right can be another hurdle many women struggle with. Chinese Medicine has much to offer during pregnancy, including diet recommendations for nourishing Qi and Blood in the body for optimal health, and preparation for the road ahead. These nurturing foods are also valuable for those trying to get pregnant, experiencing fertility problems, and new mothers who are recovering from labour and/or breastfeeding their new child.
It is essential to nourish the Blood during pregnancy due to the demands of the growing baby, and in preparation for childbirth. Incorporating small amounts of meats and poultry into the daily diet, and particularly stocks and soups made from bones are superior for this purpose. Small amounts of meat which have been marinated before cooking or stewed in casseroles for a long time are very nourishing for the Blood (Lyttleton 2004, p344). Egg yolk, legumes, grains, dark leafy greens, black sesame, almonds, kelp, apricots, kidney beans, dates and beetroot also help support the Blood during pregnancy.
Pregnancy also places a great drain on the body’s energy stores, and if you experienced Qi deficiency prior to pregnancy (like 99% of us in the West) this can be exacerbated during this time. Signs of Spleen Qi deficiency include fatigue, bloating after eating, and loose stools. To support Spleen Qi, food should be lightly cooked and balanced in flavour and nature. A diet should contain some foods with sweet (e.g. root vegetables and grains which usually form the base of a meal), some with bitter (e.g. rocket or watercress) and some with pungent (e.g. garlic, onions, coriander, chives) flavours. Foods particularly good for nourishing Qi are oats, rice, potato, sweet potato, yam, dates, cherries, grapes, and tofu.
Avoid excessive cold foods and liquids in the diet during pregnancy, especially iced drinks and ice cream, as difficult as this can be. Eat foods that have been cooked or warmed as much as possible, as cold raw foods tend to dampen the digestive fire and make the body work too hard. We can get away with eating a moderate amount of raw food in our diet in Australia, particularly in the Summer, due to our balmy climate, but if you are wanting to support a weakened digestive system, particularly during pregnancy when there are so many extra demands placed on the body, this is definitely something to be aware of.