A/Prof Tan Thiam Chye, Dr Tan Kim Teng, Dr Tan Heng Hao and A/Prof John Tee Chee Seng from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital discuss the use of traditonal chinese medicine during pregnancy.
Supplements used in Chinese medicine and their safety
1. Bird's Nest (燕窝 Yan Wo)
(a) Helps to stimulate appetite and aids in digestion.
(b) Provides a unique pre-digested form of protein and nutrients that help speed up recovery from chronic illness.
(c) Facilitates normal body functions such as repair of tissues and immunity.
In general, no documented side effects.
2. Chinese Ginseng (中国人参 Zhong Guo Ren Shen)
(a) Restores strength and energy level after giving birth or severe loss of blood during delivery by improving blood circulation.
(b) Revitalises and aids the recovery process after serious illnesses or major operations by boosting the body's immunity.
(c) Promotes digestion and improves appetite for the mother to produce adequate milk for the newborn.
(a) Do not use when pregnant.
(b) Chinese ginseng is not suitable for all age groups or medical conditions.
(c) It should not be taken with high doses of caffeine or other stimulants. Chinese ginseng should not be consumed by new mothers who experience hot flushes or skin rashes after delivery.
3. Chinese Angelica Root (当归 Dang Gui)
(a) Commonly used herb in treating many kinds of gynaecological problems such as irregular menstruation, painful menstruation and infertility.
(b) Efficient in treating anaemic conditions.
(c) Commonly used to relieve pain due to blood stagnation, e.g. abdominal pains or traumatic injuries.
(d) This is an important herb for the postpartum period, and even during pregnancy, as it aims to increase blood production as well as revive weakened blood circulation.
(a) No major side effects with oral administration.
(b) Pregnant women should consult a licensed TCM physician before using it as it may induce uterine contractions.
(c) May not be wise for women who experience excessive menstrual flow since this herb promotes better blood circulation.
(d) Used in large doses, Chinese angelica can have adverse effects on blood pressure, heart action and respiration.
4. Royal Jelly (蜂皇浆 Feng Huang Jiang)
(a) Protects against infections and increases resistance to diseases.
(b) Accelerates the formation of bone tissue and helps wound healing.
(c) Moisturises dry skin and soothes dermatitis.
(d) Increases endurance and energy levels. It also improves the libido.
(a) Allergic reactions (most common) from oral intake of royal jelly can range from very mild (e.g. mild gastrointestinal upset) to more severe reactions, including asthma, anaphylaxis (shock), intestinal bleeding,
and even death in people who are extremely allergic to bee products.
(b) People who are allergic to bee pollen, honey, conifer and poplar trees should not consume oral royal jelly.
(c) Topical use of royal jelly has been reported to cause skin irritations occasionally.
5. Lingzhi (Ganoderma Lucidum)
(a) Known as "mushroom of immortality", this fungis is a qi tonic. It promotes longevity.
(b) It treats fatigue and enhances immune response.
(a) May cause dizziness and diarrhoea.
(b) No data on its safety on pregnant women. Use as advised by a TCM physician.