The Chinese viewpoint on preconceptual care

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Eastern thinking has always maintained that a woman should take special care of herself during her periods and after childbirth. She should avoid heavy physical work and overexposure to cold and damp. This care extends not just to physical considerations but to her diet and emotional state as well:

• worry will inhibit Qi from flowing

• anger gives rise to Liver Qi stagnation (see Imbalance of the Liver in the next section)

• fear will cause Qi to sink, which may result in miscarriage

• joy may lead to irregular menstruation.

(The effects of emotions on pregnancy are considered in more detail in Ch. 5, p. 75.)

The ancient Chinese considered the uterus to be vulnerable during menstruation, during pregnancy and postnatally, susceptible to Cold, Damp and Heat. Certain rules were therefore advised. First, no alcohol should be consumed during periods as this may cause the Blood to be reckless. Second, sex during a period can cause stagnation of the Qi and Blood and so should be avoided. Third, the uterus should not be exposed to cold or dampness during menstruation, so swimming should be avoided and care should be taken to dry the body and especially the hair thoroughly after bathing. Finally, strenuous exercise during a period can deplete the Spleen Qi and so should be avoided.

The ancient Chinese considered that, at the age of 7, the Kidney Qi starts to flourish. Menstruation then usually starts around the age of 14 and continues at monthly intervals until the age of 50.

Having regular monthly periods depends on normal functioning of the Chong and Ren channels. As the Sea of Blood, the Chong Mai, or Penetrating (Thrusting) Vessel, is where the Qi and Blood of the 12 channels meet. It originates in the Uterus and emerges in the perineum. It then ascends centrally to the throat where it meets with the Ren Mai and then curves around the lips. The Ren Mai, or Conception (Directing) Vessel, is referred to as the Sea of all the Yin channels and presides over the Uterus and fetus. It originates from the Uterus, emerges in the perineum and then runs up the anterior midline and meets with the three Yin channels of the foot (the Liver, Spleen and Kidney channels) at the points CV-2, 3 and 4. It then ascends further to the lower jaw, where it penetrates internally to encircle the lips, with a branch to the eyes.

The Du Mai, or Governing Vessel, originates from the Uterus and emerges in the perineum. It then ascends along the posterior midline and meets with all the Yang channels at GV-14. It further ascends to the vertex of the head, then descends along the anterior midline to the lips and mouth. It ends inside the upper gum at GV-28, where it links with the Ren meridian.

The Ren and Du Mai circulate in endless cycles, maintaining a level of Yin and Yang balance in order for menstruation to occur.

Figure 1.1 The internal organs and menstruation. (Reproduced with permission from Maciocia 1998, p. 16.)

Figure 1.1 The internal organs and menstruation. (Reproduced with permission from Maciocia 1998, p. 16.)

Ren Mai Woman

The relationship between the three channels and the internal organs in menstruation is shown in Figure 1.1. The Liver stores the Blood and provides Blood for the Uterus. Either heavy or scanty periods may be signs of Liver Blood deficiency and therefore of possible fertility problems. Normal periods and good fertility also depend on the state of the Heart and Kidneys. If the Heart Blood is deficient, Heart Qi does not descend to the Uterus.

It is very common for women with infertility problems, with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) pregnancies or who habitually miscarry to have some form of Kidney deficiency. For conception to occur, the Governing Vessel, 'the Gate of Life', needs to be strong, to allow the Essence and the Blood to form.

The role of the different organs in relation to the Blood, Uterus and Qi is as follows.

• Kidneys: store the Essence and influence reproduction

• Liver, closely linked to the Blood

• Spleen, makes the Blood

Figure 1.2 The uterus and internal organs. (Reproduced with permission from Maciocia 1998, p. 9.)

Figure 1.2 The uterus and internal organs. (Reproduced with permission from Maciocia 1998, p. 9.)

Heart Uterus Kidney Channel Connection

GOVERNING VESSEL

PENETRATING

VESSEL

£

DIRECTING

VESSEL

GOVERNING VESSEL

• Heart: governs the Blood

• Stomach: connected to the Uterus via the Penetrating Vessel This is illustrated in Figure 1.2.

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