TCM Herbs for Mums-to-be

Find out which TCM supplements you can eat without fear if you need help coping with pregnancy issues like fatigue.

From carpal tunnel syndrome and morning sickness to heartburn and various aches and pains — the pains mums-to-be sometimes deal can take the fun and joy out of their pregnancy experience.

Besides taking medication or getting physiotherapy, can consuming Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) help you in stay pink of health during your pregnancy? Do note that when you take TCM herbs without proper supervision, you may have to have to deal with side effects. So, always make sure you seek a trained TCM physician’s advice.

Good news! You’re fine if you take double-boiled soups containing herbs like bak kut teh (肉骨茶) or watercress soup not more than twice a week. Notes Gee Swee Sien, Thomson Chinese Medicine’s TCM physician, “Even if hawker centre foods or those from food courts contain Chinese herbs, their effects will not be overly concentrated, as compared to a TCM prescription.”

“Even if hawker centre or those from food courts contain Chinese herbs, their effects will not be overly concentrated, as compared to a TCM prescription.”

Gee lists the medicinal properties of common TCM herbs pregnant women take:

1. Gingko nuts (银杏/白果)

USES Often added to Chinese desserts, gingko nuts are rich in antioxidants, so this is a power food to guard against chronic and serious health conditions like cancer. Gee states that in TCM, these nuts can relieve cough, as well as prevent frequent urination and a build-up of excessive cervical mucus.

SAFE? It is safe for everyone — including pregnant women — when you only consume five to eight nuts. Gee cautions, “However, when consumed in large quantities — more than 40 to 50 nuts — this will result in nausea and diarrhoea.”

2. Bird’s Nest (燕窝)

USES Gee says that this expensive tonic ― made from the saliva of a male swiftlet ― can boost an individual’s overall immunity. “It also contains phosphorus and calcium, which are essential during the fifth to seventh month of pregnancy, when the foetus is developing very quickly.”

SAFE? Safe when consumed in moderation.

3. Ginseng (人参)

USES This herb lowers your blood sugar levels and prevents issues like gestational diabetes. The herb, which can also boost your body’s endurance and stamina, is also used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. In TCM, the herb is said to enhance one’s qi — or “life-force” — to improve their energy and alertness. Gee points out that ginseng can be help pregnant women who often feel lethargic and short of breath.

SAFE? Safe ― consume just once or twice a week.

4. Fu Ling (茯苓)

USES Relieves water retention — or oedema — and improves one’s digestive system. The herb helps if your appetite is poor or you’re suffering from water retention in the legs.

SAFE? Safe. Simply add 10g to 15g of fu ling in soup or porridge and consume once or twice a week, Gee suggests.

5. Xu Duan (续断)

USES Commonly used to regulate liver and kidney function, it can also help to calm the foetus and it is often used with du zhong (杜仲) for better results.  Gee adds that it’s especially suitable if you get backaches routinely as well as weakness in your lower limbs.

SAFE? Safe when taken as directed by a physician.

“From a TCM point of view, a good digestive system also relieves tiredness and water retention.”

6. Chinese Angelica Root or Dang Gui (当归)

USES TCM physicians often prescribe it to regulate one’s menstruation as it can nourish the blood (补血) as well as stimulate the flow (活血).

SAFE? Avoid consuming this root when you are in the early stages of your pregnancy, Gee cautions. “Since the body constitution of each individual is different, consult your TCM physician if you wish to take dang gui during the advanced stages of your pregnancy.”

Other TCM treatments to consider

If you can’t stomach TCM herbs, give TCM procedures like acupuncture a try ― it’s safe as long as a qualified and trained physician does them, Gee notes.

Acupuncture has been known to boost the health and well-being of a mum-to-be and her growing baby by:

* Improving the blood circulation, energy flow and overall vitality.

* Enhancing the digestive processes and system, which ensures both mum-to-be and baby are getting the necessary nutrition. Gee explains, “From a TCM point of view, a good digestive system also relieves tiredness and water retention.

* Regulating your kidney functions. In TCM, the kidney is thought to govern your body’s ability to grow and reproduce. Gee notes, “A strong and vibrant kidney is vital for a baby’s healthy and joyful growth.”

Credits: Lee Yang Yi

How to get the right confinement nanny

A good confinement nanny can ease your early days with baby — or cause you more stress. We help you choose the right help…

1. Where can I find a confinement lady? 

Confinement nanny agencies can match your family with the right nanny and help find a replacement quickly should yours fall ill. However, you can ask for personal recommendations too from your friends, colleagues and relatives.

Always sign a contract to include full services, charges, breach of contract and responsibility for any accident. You should always request for official receipts for any official payment made. Before picking a confinement lady, ask for her profile and where possible, ask her about child care and confinement to ensure her idea about her duties match yours.

Our advise is that  “If you are selecting a nanny from an agency, list down your expectations so the agency can best match you with a nanny who suits your need and who will be to your liking.”

There are a number of confinement nanny agencies available just by doing a Google Search these days.

2.What will the confinement lady do?

An experienced confinement agency manager recommended that “Couples should look for a confinement lady who is experienced, possesses a good attitude and can maintain a high level of hygiene. Well experienced nannies have at least eight assignments a year. Nannies with good attitude can take instructions well as different mummies have different level of expectations and communicate differently. Nannies should also be able to cook delicious confinement food as this period is critical for mummies to build up strong health and immunity.”

Usual duties include:

  • Bathing, feeding and caring for the baby
  • Cooking special confinement dishes such as traditional chicken soup for the new mum
  • Housework

Once your breastfeeding routine is established, you can express breastmilk so the confinement nanny can help with night feeds. But, if you prefer to do night feeds personally to bond with baby, let your confinement nanny know in advance. Most confinement nannies also have a repertoire of dishes and recipes that they cook for new mums. Get to know what dishes she can cook and her signature ones. Different dialect groups have their own signature confinement dishes so if you prefer to stick to traditional dishes from your dialect group, it might be wise to choose a confinement nanny who excels in these dishes. If there are certain food you are allergic to, also inform your nanny beforehand.

3. How do I transition her into the household?

Living with a stranger is never easy but there are things you can do to help her adjust to your household:

  • Most confinement nannies are not educated and hence won’t be able to understand English. Communicate with her in dialect or Chinese as much as you can. If possible, subscribe to Chinese newspapers and let her have time to watch some Chinese TV shows. This will help her feel less isolated.
  • While most confinement nannies will eat the food that she cooks for you, you could also consider giving her space to cook her own meals.
  • Give your confinement nanny time to call home. You can provide her with a pre-paid phone card.

    4. How to pay the confinement nanny?

  • The deposit (usually a fifth or a quarter of her full fee) as you need to “reserve” her while you are still pregnant. The more experienced and in-demand the confinement nanny, the earlier you have to book her (many women do so in their first trimester).
  • The fee which you will pay once the confinement period is up. It can vary depending on your area. Fees are highest during the Lunar New Year.
  • The ang pow is supposed to be a token sum given at the end of the month as a gesture of appreciation. This is usually left to your own discretion.

Do note that the Ministry of Manpower requires anyone who wants to hire a foreign live-in confinement nanny to apply for a work permit and pay a levy.


Confinement Nanny Secret Recipes

Thanks to Confinement Nanny Wat Lew for sharing this amazing tea! This is a traditional confinement drink called – Rice Tea. It is usually made for mommies who have a “heaty” body constitution in replacement of the Red Date Tea. Or suitable for breastfeeding mommies whose babies have very high jaundice.


Wash and dry the uncooked rice and put into the frying wok. Stir-fried it till light golden, put in some orange peel (陈皮) and ginger. When cooled, store into a tight container. Add hot water when you’re ready to drink!

Confinement Herbal Bath

Nowadays, most Chinese Herbal Bath comes conveniently pre-packed in 30 sachets. If you are thinking of doing your own confinement bath, here is what you need to prepare:

Ingredients : Artemesia argyi (艾叶)  30g  Eucommia ulmooides (杜仲) 20g Ledebouriella divaricata (防风) 20g  Perilla frutescens (紫苏叶) 20g

Function is to improve blood circulation in new mothers

  1. Put the first 3 herbs in a muslin bag and seal
  2. Then put the herbs in a water kettle and bring to boil
  3. After boiling, discard the herbs and pour the water into the bath tub. Add same amount of hot water to fill the tub.
  4. If bathtub is not available, just put in a pail to bath or to wipe your body.

However, please note this prescription is NOT suitable for mothers with fever after labor.

Another grandma’s recipe for post-natal confinement dish is the infamous Pig Trotters in Black Vinegar 

Ingredients :

  • 1 pair of pig trotters
  • 1kg of matured ginger (bentong giner who is the spiciest ginger of them all, a must for confinement cooking)
  • 6 tablespoon of seasme seed oil
  • 4 cups of black vinegar
  • 600g of brown sugar
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 9 cups of water

If you’re a vegetarian, simply just replace pig trotters with (mock meat, mushroom, black fungus and black beans) which tasted heavenly and equally nourishing as well – minus the guilt! 

Our confinement ladies highly recommended cooking with doggie brand sweet vinegar for its sweet taste and Zhe jiang vinegar for its sour taste.



  1. Clean pork trotters and chop into big cubes
  2. Heat the sesame oil, add in sliced ginger and fry till golden brown
  3. Place the fried ginger in a big clay pot and stir in vinegar, sugar and water
  4. Bring to boil and leave to simmer for about half an hour
  5. Add the pig’s trotters and continue to simmer until the meat is tender.
  6. Add the egg about 30 minutes before serving
  7. Best served when warm.
For vegetarian cooking


  1. Put mock meat, mushroom, black fungus in slices
  2. Heat the sesame oil, add in sliced ginger and fry till golden brown
  3. Place the fried ginger in a big clay pot and stir in vinegar, sugar and water
  4. Bring to boil (black beans) and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes till soft
  5. Add the mock meat, mushroom, black fungus  and continue to simmer until the ingredents are tender.
  6. Add the egg about 30 minutes before serving
  7. Best served when warm.

Common ingredients used in TCM soup 

  1. Chinese ginseng 

Benefits (a) Restores strength and energy level after childbirth by improving blood circulation

(b) Revitalizes 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.

DO not use when pregnant, and do not use together with high doses of caffeine or other stimulants.

2. Dang gui 

(a) Commonly used herb in treating many kinds of gynecological problems such as irregular menstruation, painful menses and infertility.

(b) Efficient in treating anemic conditions

(c) Commonly used to relieve pain due to blood stagnation

(d) Important herb for postpatrum period as it aims to increase blood production as well as revive a weakened blood circulation

Note: Please consult a licensed TCM physician before taking any TCM herbs as some herbs may induce uterine contractions.

Confinement period is a time to rest and relax, eat all the good food and build up your immunity.

Credits: Winnie

How to select a wonderful confinement nanny

Confinement nannies don’t come cheap. However, a good one can be a wonderful support during those trying first few weeks. Not only do they help care for your newborn, many nannies will handle night feeds while you sleep, teach you useful tips and tricks, and cook for you and the entire household. If you’ve decided to hire one, here are some tips on selecting the right help.

Explore agencies and recommendations

Confinement nanny agencies offer the convenience of matching your family with the right person from their network. They are also able to find you a quick replacement should yours fall ill. However, always ask for personal recommendations too. Ask your friends, colleagues and relatives if their nanny cared for their baby well, was a good cook and had a pleasant personality.

Suss out her care-giving values and personality

Does the nanny seem patient and nurturing? Is she very strict about certain confinement practices and traditions? It’s natural for two people to have differing attitudes and styles about care-giving and postpartum recovery. But what you don’t want is a nanny that is too forceful and insistent without being sensitive to your needs and wants. Sometimes even the little issues like how many times a baby should be bathed or whether to hand or machine-wash your baby’s laundry can lead to clashes. Discuss some big issues first and agree to communicate openly and compromise.

Find out what her deposit is and whether she needs a work permit

Confinement nannies in Singapore can cost $2,000 upwards for a month and most will require a deposit before the confinement month. An additional token is also expected at the end of her service period but that is up to your discretion. The number of experienced nannies in Singapore isn’t large, leading to an increasing number of competent foreigners making themselves available to mothers in need here. However, do note that the Ministry of Manpower requires anyone who wants to hire a foreign live-in confinement nanny to apply for a work permit and pay a levy.

Finally, be clear about her duties

Your confinement nanny is a caretaker and companion, not a domestic helper. Most nannies will do the confinement cooking, laundry for the infant, and provide general care for the baby. Do not expect yours to help with other chores or look after the other children in the house.

While you interview your nanny, it may be useful to ask whether she has any contingent plans or if she knows of anyone who can replace her should she fall ill during your confinement.

Remember that a confinement nanny is a source of help and assurance. A natural fondness for children is an important quality, but if you ever find that she is too set in her traditional ways and she is beginning to hinder your own recovery, talk to her, or find another nanny.

Credits: Parenting Resources @ Dumex

What to know before hiring the confinement nanny

Image result for new born baby pic
Your baby’s almost due and you’re on the lookout for a confinement nanny. You need one fast but also want to make sure you get the best one. Find out everything you need to know from which questions to ask during the interview to what all hiring one entails.
confinement nanny

Find out what all you should know before hiring a confinement nanny

You’re already into your third trimester and currently considering hiring a confinement nanny once you have given birth. While hiring one is usually a good idea, especially if it is your first child, finding one that suits your needs can be more of a hassle. We have come up with a list to check off before you interview a confinement nanny.

What are your needs?

The first thing to figure out before you hire or interview a confinement nanny is, ‘What are your needs?’ Ask yourself honestly if you even need a confinement nanny. Many mums out there forego the services of a confinement lady because they have their mother’s or mom-in-laws to help around the house. Once you have decided that you need one, figure out if you require her to cook, do household chores and take care of the baby at nights or will she just be there to bathe the baby and massage the mummy and bind your tummy as well? Next would be the duration. Do you need her just for a minimum of two weeks so she can help out while you recover from labour and get used to being a first time mum or do you need her to be there throughout your whole confinement period (30-44 days depending). Once you figure this out, you would be able to pinpoint what exactly you require from a confinement nanny.

The Budget

We aren’t going to lie, hiring a confinement nanny is going to be expensive, especially if she will be with you for a solid month. The going rates range from $50 – $100 a day and could set you back more than $2,000 if you take her for the full month.
confinement nanny

Check out some questions we suggest you ask when interviewing a confinement nanny

The Search

The best way to narrow your search for a confinement nanny is to ask around and get recommendations from friends.

Recommendations usually mean that the nanny has been tried and tested and reviews have been positive. It would make you more confident of hiring her.

If none of your friends or relatives know of anyone, you can also check out motherhood and local forums such as cozycot, singaporemotherhood and mummysg for more info on the local confinement nanny industry.

The interview

Here are the top five questions new parents should ask when they interview a confinement nanny:

  • How many years of experience do you have as a confinement nanny?
  • Are you able to guide new mums on how to handle the baby? (bathing, breastfeeding, changing nappies etc)
  • Do you offer post-natal massages as part of your service?
  • What are your charges?
  • What food will you cook for the mother during the confinement period?

Credits: Wafa Marican

Things to consider before hiring a confinement nanny

A confinement nanny is someone who will help a new mother with the care of her baby in order to ease her transition process from a pregnant woman to a new mother. Here’s what to consider before you hire one.

I didn’t hire a confinement nanny when I had my son. I was blessed that my Mum happily took on the job because it was her first grandson. She helped me look after my son while cooking delicious meals and handled the washing.

I had time to rest and recover from my birthing wounds while she had ample quality time with her grandson before returning to Malaysia. Mum stayed with us for over a month.

Would I do the same self sacrificing act when it’s my son’s turn to be a father?

Unfortunately, my cooking skills are a far cry from my Mum’s and I really don’t like hand-washing countless layers of nappy cloth! I think I would happily hire a confinement nanny for him and his wife. Alternatively, I’ll source around for good tingkat services for delivery of confinement food.

Role of a confinement nanny

To me, a confinement nanny is someone who will help the new mother with the care of her baby in order to ease her transition process from a carefree childless woman to a mother of a bundle of joy and often, frustratingly enough, unstoppable tears!

Apart from this primary duty, the confinement nanny would be expected to cook nutritious confinement dishes to revive the health of the new mother as well as tend to some household chores related to the care of the baby such as washing the baby’s clothes and milk bottles.
Therefore, before you begin your search for your confinement nanny, ask this searching question and answer it honestly:

“Do I really need a confinement nanny?”

If your mother, mother in law, god mother or any other close relatives are willing to help you out during the first few months of your child’s birth, then there really isn’t a need to hire a confinement nanny. More so, if you currently have a domestic helper who can assist with the cooking and cleaning.

It’s easy to find tasty confinement food recipes on the internet although I am confident that your mother / mother in law has a few secret confinement recipes in their family cookbook as well.

However, if your mother/mother in law is unable to assist you due to health or work reasons and you do not have anyone else you can turn to, do seek the assistance of your friends who had previously hired confinement nannies for recommendations on good nannies.

This is a better approach versus going to an agency direct as your friends would have had first-hand experience of having the particular nanny work for them and they can fill you in on her efficiencies, manners and even quirks. That way, you will be well informed of your potential confinement nanny.

If your friends have never hired any confinement nannies before, all is not lost. You can join motherhood/parenting forums online and post a query on “Wanted: Confinement Nanny”. Many mothers have journeyed on this road that you are traveling on and would only be too happy to share their experiences.

Professional confinement agencies

If posting on such forums yield no positive results, you can look around for professional confinement nanny agencies.

Charges range from between $2,400 – $4,500 for a confinement nanny, depending on experience and when you need their services. Prices surge during the end of year holidays and Chinese New Year Period. The nanny is also given an additional $500-$1,000 for buying marketing.

Once you have decided which agency to engage, do request for testimonials and references by other mothers who have hired the particular confinement nanny who has been offered by the agency to you.

You can also request to meet the confinement nanny in person, preferrably at her home and interview her. It’s good to see her in an environment where she is comfortable in so that you can pick out snippets of her true character.

You can discuss the exact scope of work to be undertaken by the confinement nanny in order to avoid misunderstanding in the future.

Please check with the agency for the exact terms and conditions of your engagement of the confinement nanny. Will the agency give you a replacement confinement nanny if things don’t work out? Are there any cancellation or hidden fees?

The key thing to achieve is that both you and your confinement nanny know what is expected of each other. As long as you have a realistic expectation that your confinement nanny is not your domestic helper as in she certainly has the right to refuse your request to water the plants in your garden and she is clear of her scope of work (or your preference to a particular style of cooking), it will be much easier for you to resolve any conflicts if and when they arise.

Finding a suitable confinement nanny takes patience, time and research. So, start early, be realistic and be flexible. I wish you the best of luck!

Credits: Jenny Toh, theAsianparent