In preparation for a talk this week on “Baby Steps to Fertility” I was re-reading some of my reference books and came across this short description by Giovanni Maciocia quoting an ancient obstetrician named Xu Zi Cai (493-572 CE). The doctor discussed “fetus education” a key feature of Chinese obstetrics in ancient times. This was based on the belief that various life-style influences from the mother (including diet, work, sexual activity and emotional state) could affect the fetus’s forming constitution – both positively and negatively. Dr. Cai gave detailed instructions on the nourishment of the fetus month by month. For example, in the first month of pregnancy he encouraged the woman to eat nourishing and easily digestible cooked food – he singles out barley because it was understood that it makes the fetus grow normally. Fifteen hundred years later, of course, we know that barley not only is a source of Niacin, selenium and folic acid, but also an excellent source of soluble fiber β-glycan which helps sequester bile acids and control cholesterol and aids in blood sugar regulation. The ancient obstetrician may not have known the science behind barley, but he observed and reported what he knew to be truth.

Four years of medical school, four years of residency and twenty plus years of practice tell me that nourishing our bodies with physical, emotional and spiritual health is absolutely essential for conception and parenthood. I acknowledge with gratitude the wisdom of Zu Xi Cai and all that have gone before me.