Afraid of giving birth? Guided therapy is the ticket to fear-free delivery. A trained therapist can lead you through relaxing, thought-provoking sessions. During these meetings you discover the source of your anxiety and learn how to cope with these issues before the baby arrives. The number of sessions different women need varies-so do not wait until the week before your due date.
Midwives Aid in Natural, Intimate Delivery
Cold hospitals, distant doctors and an increasing desire for a closer relationship with the person delivering the baby are fueling a boom in nurse-midwifery. Qualified nurse-midwives have nearly doubled in number since 1990, to about 7,000, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Studies have not indicated that the services of a midwife lead to easier pregnancies and deliveries, but in deliveries using midwives cesarean and epidural rates are nearly half the national average. And a national study in 1991 found that infant mortality rates for births attended by a nurse-midwife were half the national average (4.1 to 8.6 per 1,000, respectively). Meanwhile, 90% of all midwife-attended births are performed at hospitals.
Costs for a nurse-midwife can vary widely. Expect a bill amounting to about the same costs as a physician’s. Rationale: Certified nurse-midwives, in particular, provide all the basic services provided by the typical OB/GYN office.
More and more, health insurance-and managed-care plans-cover the services of a midwife, so be sure to check with your carrier. Thirty-one states mandate private-insurance reimbursement of midwives. All states mandate Medicaid reimbursement.
Herbs Help Expel the Placenta
There aren’t numerous scientific studies to prove the connection, but midwives who have seen it in action are believers already: Basil tea taken during delivery somehow helps expel the placenta after birthing.
One clue to its effectiveness might be that essential oil of basil, when used in massage on the belly, helps ease muscle spasms of the intestines. The antispasmodic effects may be strong, so it’s wise to use basil moderately.
Note: Some herbalists suggest blue and black cohosh tea as alternatives.
Control Through Diet and Exercise
Gestational diabetes is usually a temporary condition in which the body does not produce enough insulin to handle the increased blood sugar of pregnancy. If controlled, it’s usually not serious, but it must be monitored by a doctor. Signs of the ailment include sugar in the urine, unusual thirst, frequent and copious urination and fatigue.
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be large, but serious problems can occur when excessive sugar is allowed to circulate in the mother’s blood and enter the fetal circulation. Blood sugar abnormalities disappear after delivery in about 97% of women. While some women need to take insulin, others are able to control blood sugar levels through diet and exercise.
Your diet should be planned by your doctor or a nutritionist Women with gestational diabetes might benefit from a chromium supplement of 500 micrograms per day. Chromium helps regulate insulin and prevent high blood pressure.
While noting the potential severity of gestational diabetes, some naturopaths and nutritionists recommend supplementing your obstetrician’s plan with regular, small sips of gentian (root) tincture before meals. Suggested dosage: One-half teaspoonful.
Note: Gentian is considered to be one of the best-known bitter tonics in herbalism today. Interestingly, bitter vegetables, such as endive and radicchio, are also recommended to gestational diabetes patients.
Hemorrhoids- Pregnancy-Safe Remedies
Tea to the Rescue
Raspberry leaf tea is a favorite herbal tonic for strengthening the uterus. But herbalists also recommend the brew for gentle hemorrhoid relief during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t call for drinking the tea. Instead? A raspberry leaf tea enema will help tone the walls of the rectum and reduce the swelling. An herbalist can help you administer this treatment. Or if you decide to go it alone, repeat the procedure daily as necessary.
Sit in a Sitz
A comforting sitz bath containing soothing herbs is a risk-free hemorrhoidal treatment during pregnancy. Add three ounces of dried witch hazel leaves, comfrey leaves and oak bark to enough warm water to cover your lower body. Sit in the bath for 15 minutes with your legs resting on the side of the tub. For a severe condition, take two sitz baths a day until symptoms improve
For relieving the itch and pain associated with hemorrhoids, apply comfrey ointment externally. Comfrey is high in allantoin, which is known for its cell-renewing and healing properties. Premixed, comfrey ointment or salve is available at your health food store. Follow package instructions, and, to be on the safe side, check with your doctor before using this herbal salve.
Mineral Oil for Smooth Delivery
Many obstetricians perform episiotomies as a routine matter to make delivery easier. But midwives have long relied on mineral oil to lubricate and soften the vaginal opening, allowing for a smooth and more natural delivery. Using mineral oil instead of scissors not only makes the delivery less painful, but will also speed healing time
Arnica Oil Softens Tissues
Because arnica oil can reduce bruising and swelling, midwives (and some doctors) often use arnica as the oil of choice for softening vaginal tissues prior to childbirth. There are no known negative effects from using this natural lubricant during childbirth, and most doctors will use it on request (although you might have to supply it yourself if you wait until the last minute to ask).
Evening Primrose Oil-Start Early
To prepare the cervix for labor and child-birth, many midwives recommend evening primrose oil to mothers-to-be. By modifying chemicals known as prostaglandins, evening primrose oil ripens the cervix, making it softer and thinner. The body easily processes evening primrose oil, but for it to work, women need to start taking it in the final three or four weeks of pregnancy. A capsule a day of evening primrose oil can also decrease breast tenderness. Be sure to consult your doctor or midwife before using this treatment.
Hot Tub Cure-All
When you’re having labor pains, a hot bath can go a long way. In the late stages of labor, when the walking and position changes cease to provide relief from the pain, midwives often tell women to descend into the Jacuzzi. The warm water relaxes muscles and also facilitates flow of blood. The latter also means that soaking in a hot tub can be a great way to promote healing, in addition to easing aches and pains.
Leg and Back Pain
Back Hurts? Check Your Kidneys
Oh, your aching back. If you’re pregnant, that pain could be from the fetus pressing up against your kidneys, causing stress and strain. Check with your doctor to ensure that you don’t have a full-blown kidney infection. But as long as it’s simply stress on your system, drink the juice of half a lemon in a cup of warm water several times a day to cleanse toxins from the kidneys. Or instead of lemon water, try a nettle tea tonic. Infuse one teaspoon of dried nettles in one cup of hot water for 10 minutes, and strain.
A Five-Herb Combination Approach
This may sound like a lot of “medicine” for someone with concerns about a possible miscarriage, but Chinese medicine practitioners say that An Tai Wan, a five-herb combination, can calm a fetus, relax tightened muscles, reduce premature contractions and counter pain. In brief, all these herbs are said to nourish the blood. In particular, the uterus is said to be “warmed” by increased circulation. Check with your doctor or midwife before trying any herbal remedies; but typically the suggested dosage is seven pills, three times a day.
Astragalus for Lower-Body Strength
To help maintain strength in the abdominal and pelvic region, especially when fears of miscarriage are present, pregnant women may want to explore astragalus capsules. This herb is often prescribed in Chinese medicine circles to boost energy following illness and exhaustion, and is said to prevent weakness in the lower body, including the legs.
Astragalus is available in herb shops (fresh and in capsule form) and Chinese markets, and can be made into a tea. Toss a handful of the herb into a quart of water; simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Typical dosage is three cups a day.
Natural Miscarriage Prevention
If you have suffered repeated miscarriages, there are a few herbal remedies that might help future pregnancies. According to herbalists, extracts of both false unicorn root and black haw root tone and strengthen the uterus. However, these tonics must be taken under the guidance of a professional- and are difficult to find on one’s own. Ask an herbalist or holistic gynecologist for more information.
European Approach Gains Favor
To some mothers-to-be, taking any kind of medication while pregnant seems risky. But to those women who have had one or more miscarriages, and who are at risk for another, a recent study in England offers real hope for a healthy pregnancy.
In the study, 90 pregnant women at risk for miscarriage took low-dose aspirin alone or along with an anticoagulant drug, heparin, through 34 weeks of pregnancy. As a result, those who used both drugs had a markedly higher chance of giving birth, compared with those who took aspirin alone or no drugs. The belief is that the drugs help reduce blood clotting (as with heart patients), which might otherwise lead to miscarriage.
In order not to reject a growing fetus during a normal pregnancy, the mother’s immune system essentially turns off the rejection reaction in the uterus, letting the fetus develop. Studies have also shown that this natural shutdown sometimes just fails to kick in, allowing the immune system to attack the developing fetus. When this happens, the pregnancy does not “take,” resulting in miscarriage.
As a result of this research, several doctors are now looking to immunology to solve infertility problems. Many couples have been successful in conceiving after receiving immunesystem treatments such as IVIg, a gammaglobulin preparation typically given to pregnant women who are Rh negative. Using Mg in this way to help prevent miscarriage is a nontraditional use of the drug.
Other immune treatments may be used instead of IVIg. If you have had two miscarriages, multiple failures using in vitro fertilization (IVF) or previous immune problems such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be a candidate for this immune-system treatment.
A Chinese Medicine Tea
As an alternative to pregnancy pillows or your mother’s soda-cracker remedies, you might take a tip from Chinese mothers-to-be, who brew fresh ginger tea to treat waves of morning sickness naturally.
Simply place a few slices of raw ginger in a cup, and steep in hot water. This is among the safest of effective herbal remedies, so you need not worry about side effects as you might with stronger herbs.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea is not the same as raspberry tea. Often, commercial preparations of the tea are fruit-flavored, sweetened beverages that don’t contain the healing powers of the plant.
For years, pregnant women have observed the easing of morning-sickness symptoms when they drink raspberry leaf tea regularly. (Some even claim it helps to ease childbirth.) The purported benefits of the leaf, as well as peppermint tea, are that they help to relax muscles of the uterus, and thus ease waves of nausea.
Fennel Seed’s Calming Influence
Known to be a strong, yet gentle natural medicine, fennel seeds can help calm the waves of morning sickness that appear on their own particular schedule. Among the most handy of remedies, fresh fennel seeds can be kept in a small plastic bag for periodic munching-no need to steep into a tea. As a bonus, you can use the extra seeds when morning sickness fades, as the herb also helps promote the milk flow of nursing mothers.
This acupressure treatment for morning sickness really hits the spot. Place your right index and middle finger in the hollow between your collarbones. Press fingers against the ball of the right clavicle, using firm pressure. Continue to apply pressure for a minute or so and repeat as needed when nausea hits.
Sepia Settles the Stomach
Sepia, otherwise known as cuttlefish ink, is a popular homeopathic remedy for morning sickness-particularly the type where the thought, smell or sight of food makes you nauseated. Dissolve a 30C or 60C tablet in your mouth when you feel sick to your stomach. Make sure that your stomach is empty or that you have not eaten within the last 30 minutes before taking the tablet. You may repeat the dose every hour as needed. After four doses, if no improvement is noticed, you need to look for another treatment or homeopathic solution.
Meadow Saffron Tempers Morning Sickness
Are you in the early months of your pregnancy? Do you wake up in the morning and can’t bear to be near food? Take a 30C tablet of colchicum, derived from meadow saffron, every two to three hours until the stomach settles. If three doses of colchicum doesn’t put a stop to nausea or vomiting, try another morning sickness remedy instead.
Nux Vomica Knocks Out Nausea
No more nausea, thanks to nux vomica. Derived from the poison nut, nux vomica is a homeopathic remedy for all types of stomach ailments, and it is gentle enough for morning sickness. Take a 30C tablet every two to three hours. As with other homeopathic remedies, if there’s no marked improvement in your condition after three doses, seek an alternative treatment.
Tiny Dose of Ipecac Calms Queasiness
For ages, ipecac syrup has been swallowed to induce vomiting. But according to homeopathic principles, a minute dose of something that causes your symptoms may relieve them. That’s why ipecacuanha, a tiny dose of the toxic ipecac root, will soothe an unsettled stomach and morning sickness.
According to homeopaths, ipecacuanha is very effective for women who suffer from severe nausea and vomiting. Take a 30C or 60C tablet every hour as symptoms persist. You may take up to four doses. Be sure your stomach is empty before dissolving the pill in your mouth.
A Sour Morning Remedy
Try this natural remedy for morning sickness. As soon as you wake up in the morning, drink one cup of warm water mixed with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly whether this trick works for you.
Control Morning Sickness with Biofeedback
Biofeedback is an unusual treatment to combat morning sickness, but it has proven successful for some women. Electrodes attached to your body will measure breathing rates, blood pressure and perspiration levels. These sensors feed into the computer monitor which allows you to watch your stress levels rise and fall. After 5 to 10 treatments, you can learn to relax and control breathing rates, among other body functions, So that nausea subsides.
Homeopathic Treatments Can Help
An abrupt drop in two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, has a lot to do with the postpartum depression experienced by many mothers after giving birth – not to mention the added stress of suddenly having a new baby in the house and life never being the same again.
To treat postpartum depression, eat foods high in vitamin B6, such as blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, soybeans, brown rice, veal, lamb, salmon, tomatoes and bananas. For additional protection, take supplemental magnesium and up to 50 mg daily of vitamin B6.
Various homeopathic remedies may also help:
- For mild depression, unpredictable moods and weepiness, use pulsatilla.
. If you’re irritable, tired and weak, try Kali carbonicum.
. Use ignatia if you’re weepy and sighing.
. Try natrum mur if you want to be alone and feel like crying all the time.
. Start off with sepia if you’re feeling weak, tired, sad, hungry, indifferent and have brownish facial discoloration.
With any of these homeopathic remedies, take two doses of a 6C or 30C potency every 10 minutes to one hour, depending on your symptoms. Follow the instructions on the label.
. Other Mild Antidepressants
Nerve tonics evena and oat straw act as mild
antidepressants, will help ease anxiety and soothe body and mind, and are safe for breastfeeding mothers. Take two or three teaspoons of tincture per day, or three to six capsules. You might also try licorice or Siberian ginseng, both of which target the adrenal glands-often stressed during pregnancy and childbirth. Both herbs help energize. Either drink several cups of one of these herbal teas daily, or take two or three teaspoons of a tincture of one daily. Remember to eat nutritionally sound foods and continue with your prenatal vitamins.
Arnica Eases Aches and Pains After Childbirth
Whether you’ve chosen natural childbirth or had a C-section, you’re probably experiencing a fair amount of pain after the delivery of your baby. A homeopathic dose of arnica can help alleviate soreness resulting from the birth. But check with your doctor before taking a homeopathic pellet-particularly if you are breastfeeding-for dosage instructions and to make sure it’s safe.
Herb Slows Contractions
Among its many uses, valerian in capsule form can be used as a sedative to slow premature contractions during pregnancy, or if you simply need more time to get to the hospital or wait for the midwife and birthing coach to arrive in your home.
Herbalists, naturopaths and others attest to the fact that valerian can soothe the nerves of the uterus, while reducing the pace of uterine contractions. Typical suggested dosage is two capsules, but check with your health professional well ahead of the due date to make sure valerian would be appropriate for you in this instance.
A Two-Step Hint: Medicine and Mushrooms
The common but nagging skin splotches (called melasma) that occur during pregnancy don’t always disappear after childbirth. In recent years, dermatologists have recommended a prescription of Retin-A, along with a skinbleaching cream that contains hydro quinone. Together, these medications have worked rather well, although using bleaching creams at home can be tricky, and can sometimes make dark spots worse.
But kojic acid, a new, perhaps gentler and safer bleaching agent made from mushrooms, has begun to gain favor among dermatologists and patients who have used it so far. It won’t replace the Retin-A part of the treatment; but it appears to be safer to use than hydroquinone, as it won’t bleach normal skin tone by mistake. As a bonus, it is antibacterial. Have your doctor check into it if it hasn’t been recommended for your condition.
Citrus Solution of Sorts
A good way to prevent or minimize stretch marks during and after pregnancy is to use orange blossom essential oil as a soothing massage. When you add a few drops of orange blossom oil to a pint of sunflower oil, you’ve made a handy massage oil that can be spread, gently, directly onto the belly. It should help keep your skin supple and firm.
Fighting Back Against Stretch Marks
Until recently, the only advice dermatologists could give about stretch marks was to prevent them by moisturizing well, especially during pregnancy. However, if you had stretch marks already, there wasn’t much you could do-until now. Anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin A derivative Retin-A (an antiwrinkle and anti-acne prescription product) may be able to remove stretch marks.
Important: Do not use if you are pregnant.
Salt? For Swelling?
A minute dose of the homeopathic remedy natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride or salt) will relieve swelling and water retention in puffy ankles. Take 30C every few hours as needed. Pregnant women can rely on this treatment for shrinking swollen ankles and lower legs. Begin the therapy during the third month, but don’t take the tablets after your eighth month. And double-check with your doctor before taking any alternative remedy.