You see it all the time in Hollywood movies: boy meets girl, they get it on and faster than you can say ‘Bugaboo stroller’, they’re knocked up. It’s enough to make any aspiring mum-to-be wonder why preparing for pregnancy even matters. Aside from perpetuating the somewhat dangerous myth that conception happens in the blink of an eye, the reality is that sex during a very small window of ovulation—and the stars practically coming into alignment—would need to happen before falling pregnant.
Even prenatal vitamins such as Elevit advise women to begin taking the supplements at least a month before conception.
“Contrary to popular belief, conception does not always follow sexual intercourse. In fact, even a timed intercourse during the women’s ovulation window period only gives rise to successful conception 30 to 40 per cent of the time, and this probability decreases drastically with age,” explains Zhou Jing, who has specialised in Traditional Chinese Medicine and fertility acupuncture for the past seven years says. In short, as it could take months of… practice before conception actually occurs, take advantage of this time to preparing for pregnancy—in mind, body, and spirit.
Zhou, a TCM physician at Thomson Chinese Medicine recommends checking with your gynaecologist to perform an ultrasound on the uterus to ascertain if there are any “medical issues like endometriosis or PCOS that may likely hinder the conception process.”
“In the presence of certain gynecological issues like endometriosis or poor egg reserve, the chances of the conception will be further obliterated and many women do not realise until quite far along in their fertility journey, as these issues are usually not obvious. Therefore, it is really important to do related blood tests or scans to ascertain the condition of the womb and ovaries even before trying to conceive,” says Zhou.
“‘The more I push the more likely I can conceive’—but actually it is the reverse. Conception is a bit like falling to sleep. The harder you try, the harder it becomes. It is a process of allowing. Being not doing!” says Manning.
When should I start to prepare for pregnancy?
“Women can start to prepare for pregnancy three to six months prior to conceiving by taking oral supplements like folate and vitamin D which are essential for the conception process and also for fetal growth,” says Zhou.
“Furthermore, it is observed that the prolonged intake of hormonal drugs like birth control pills may affect regular menstrual cycle in some ladies. It’ll be good to get off the birth control pill some time before actually trying to conceive and monitor the menstrual cycle for a few months to see if there may be any issues present,” Zhou advises.
What can I do to prepare my mind and body for pregnancy?
There’s no shortage of health and wellness spas and services that cater to pre-natal and post-partum mamas here in Singapore. But what if you’re planning to get pregnant and priming your body for conception? As it is, doctors recommend mamas-to-be take folate or folic acid even while trying to conceive to help their baby’s brain and spinal cord. But some who have been on the pregnancy track for months or those looking to conceive via IVF, treatments such as acupuncture, pelvic-focused workouts, fertility yoga, and womb care come to the fore.
“The path of fertility for many women is punishing,” says Manning. Many “marry late, they expect conception to be easy, but for many reasons their menstrual cycle has been neglected, ignored, wished away, suppressed, contraceptive pill managed. It is not a healthy cycle.”
So what do all these treatments have in common? They aim to promote blood flow to the uterus, essential for a thickened endometrial lining that’s essential for implantation, while de-stressing and lowering cortisol in the body.
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Acupuncture and TCM
“Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) always emphasises on holistic health and total wellbeing, which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy egg quality and womb environment for a healthy conception and complications-free pregnancy,” explains Zhou. “TCM’s focus on nourishing the kidney meridian system in the area of fertility is similar to the concept of anti-ageing and anti-oxidative stress used around in modern medicine.”
“Acupuncture is a treatment modality of TCM which uses specific acupoints in the body to elicit the movement of energy and blood flow, prompting the body to recruit neurotransmitters and regulate hormones for self-healing. Doing acupuncture regularly can help to promote timely ovulation of the egg and improve blood flow to the womb for increased chances of conception.”
TCM can also involve customised medications, cupping, and moxibustion to undo tension, warm the uterus, and stimulate circulation.
Aside from weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) acupuncture appointments, Zhou shares the importance of maintaining a “a healthy routine like sleeping early, eating at regular mealtimes; keeping stress levels in check and exercising moderately to have a healthy endocrine system to support good follicles. As for diet, it is helpful to consume lots of high quality proteins such as eggs and animal proteins, and healthy fatty acid like nuts such as Brazil nut and walnuts, and seeds.” Zhou also cautions hopefuls to avoid alcohol and caffeine “as much as possible.”
“From a TCM perspective, we should always aim to keep our body warm to be able to successfully conceive and nurture a growing baby. Avoid cold drinks and raw food, and aim to keep our feet warm with some socks or footwear even at home.”
Thomson Chinese Medicine, 290 Orchard Road, Paragon Medical Centre #18-11/12, Singapore 238859
Enquiries: 6352 5800
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Uterus care and hormone rebalancing treatments
Many may know it as the go-to destination for postnatal care, however treatments that help prepare one’s body for pregnancy are also on the menu at Schöne mama.
Grounded in the principles of TCM, each treatment is geared at activating chi, targeting relevant acupressure points to help promote blood circulation to the uterus, and manage fertility and lifestyle-induced stress. Founded in 2005, the Chinese post-partum recovery and health management agency has three centres in Singapore that cater to women at various stages of their lives: from those looking to boost their overall health to women preparing for conception, pregnant mamas and even mothers who have undergone childbirth years ago but still experience the ramifications of pregnancy including sore joints or back pain.
Each treatment begins with a pore-opening herbal steam bath, $88 before GST. You’ll then be led to a treatment room where your therapist will use specially blended TCM oils as she kneads, twists, and undoes blocks in your body. It’s important to note that the uterus care massage, $250 before GST, actually focuses on the meridian or acupressure points in the legs that are connected to the uterus: and not a mere massage on the belly itself. Similarly their hormone-rebalancing treatments, a holistic option for those wanting to detox their bodies either from their lifestyle or between rounds of IVF medication, focus on the upper back and offers a strong massage particularly on the kidney points in the lower back. And for added support and circulation on the uterus and belly itself, a moxibustion mud mask, $398 before GST, designed to warm up and remove any ‘dampness’ from the womb.
Your therapist will consult and create a program based on your needs so it’s vital to note that a standard top-to-toe body massage is likely not on the cards if you’re looking to thicken your endometrial lining, rebalance the body while being on fertility medication or rectify what TCM practitioners describe as a ‘cold womb’.
Schöne mama, 10 Eunos Rd 8, Singapore Post Centre #02-116/117/118, Singapore 408600
Enquiries: 6513 0777
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4-in-1 womb treatment with moxibustion
“Good blood circulation is essential for womb health as this helps bring nutrient-rich blood to reproductive organs and leads to the healing of previous scar tissue, encouraging the breakdown of old adhesions which increases your chances of conception,” explains Wendy Liu, founder of cult womb massage care facility, Highlander Aesthetica. A veteran in the field with over 17 years experience, the trained massage therapist set up her practice in 2019 in hopes of restoring and comforting women on their birth journey.
Priced at $299 per session, the 4-in-1 Womb Treatment reportedly “helps to improve fertility, heal miscarriages, dispel colds and strengthen the womb. We provide a safe and conducive environment for you before, during and after your pregnancy. A healthy mother for a healthy baby,” says Liu. “Massage therapy helps you to relax and alleviate high levels of stress hormones known to make conceiving difficult like cortisol and induces positive hormones, oxytocin, which may have been lacking before and play a pivotal role in reproduction.”
Liu explains that regulating blood circulation and improving womb health “can be achieved through fertility massage and moxibustion as it helps to dispel toxins built up and heal scar tissues, and this can lead to reduced menstrual cramps and regulated period cycles.” Consistent womb massage can also help to support women facing reproductive issues. Many of Liu’s clients are unfortunately no stranger to painful periods, “irregular menstrual periods due to lifestyle, stress, and PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome which decreases the ability to get pregnant significantly.”
Liu shares that the treatment is especially helpful for women who have undergone multiple pregnancies or previous abortions. The 4-in-1 womb treatment which includes moxibustion, the warming of the body using TCM herbs and heat lamp, is a stimulating, hands-on massage over the uterus. Clients are advised to visit once a week and avoid therapy during their period.
Highlander Aesthetica, 321 Alexandra Central #02-16, Alexandra Central Mall, Singapore 159971
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Fertility and the very act of sex on a schedule or IVF stimulations can be trying on your body and mental health. To better manage the stress, fertility yoga aims to calm the mind, support and regulate the endocrine system, stimulate the reproductive system whiles encouraging blood flow.
While exercise and movement of any kind helps keep you healthy, mindfulness-based fitness such as fertility yoga and a Breath Movement Hormones class from Be Natural Fertility Wellness is just the ticket for gentle movement including stretching, visualisation, and quiet reflection.
“Yoga is about learning to be truthful and honest with yourself. To be. To be exactly where you truly are. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to withdraw. It is a safe space,” says Sarah Manning.
“Fertility yoga postures the inner leg meridians linked to the kidney, spleen and liver,” explains Manning.
She shares that fertility yoga helps with the “movement and opening of the hips, groin and pelvis.” After many hours of sitting, this is vital for increasing “the circulation of blood, lymph, and qi.” Compounded over many years, this “stagnation from when women were girls at school desks” is what Manning believes to be the root cause of pelvic and uterus issues faced by many women today.
As “we have extra wide hips, unlike men, this stagnation is massive. Think of a bucket the size of your hips and imagine how much stuff is just sitting there. And if you add to this poor posture and air not reaching the diaphragm” this leads to more stagnation according to Manning.
Fertility yoga helps with addressing compression of the body, “stretching and opening the belly, direct stimulation of all organs in the belly including the ovaries and womb,” says Manning. It can be tailored around your menstrual cycle and helps to “balance the yin and yang aspects of your life when there’s “so much outward focus, stimulation and business, and not enough introspection, calm and stillness.”
An invitation to listen to your “intuition and inner wisdom”, fertility yoga also engages the lungs and incorporates “breathing exercises with specific emphasis on slowing the breathing and hence, heart rate, thus addressing adrenalin, cortisol and sympathetic nervous system overload.” An overload which often leads to “stress, bracing, inflammation, poor digestion, poor sleep, thyroid or menstruation issues.”