Pregnancy is not a disease process that requires medical intervention. Three out of every five of pregnancies in the world will be managed by unqualified personnel, friends and relatives, com-monsense and nature.
In the West, due to a lack of nutritional understanding, toxins being knowingly or unwittingly introduced into the body and poor physical preparedness, pregnancies can be uncomfortable and problematic although are safe in comparison to other countries. Problems in these other countries occur mainly due to malnutrition, poor sanitation and negligible emergency services, although pregnancies are generally treated in a more natural manner. As usual, neither the highly-developed countries nor the poorest nations have an ideal situation. The most comfortable and successful pregnancies will have a blend of the best from both. There is a need to mix the high technology of modern science with the intuition and experience of traditional medicines.
DISCOVERING A PREGNANCY
Provided that you are trying, expecting or happy to become pregnant, the revelation is a time of mixed emotions and feelings. The joys of having conceived are tempered with the anxieties of something going wrong. In a first-time pregnancy the fear of the unknown is tempered with the spirit of adventure. The physical symptoms of early pregnancy usually mingle with a profound sensation of well-being. But not always!
Most couples discover that they are pregnant when an expected period is missed. A woman may or may not feel: nausea mood changes aches and pains swollen feet and hands
At some point in the day nausea is caused by reaction to human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), a chemical essential for the survival of the fertilized egg.
Ginger: as biscuits (two or three eaten before rising from bed in the morning); as tea (quarter-inch thick, chopped fresh in hot water); as juice (quarter-inch slice with apple, liquidated).
Avoid low blood sugar: eat small healthy snacks at regular intervals .
Massage works wonders.
A drop of rose oil on your collar.
Sesame oil rubbed into the feet for five minutes before washing it off.
Keep your blood sugar levels up with healthy snacks.
Practise or learn a suitable meditative technique. Self-hypnosis is useful before, after or at delivery.
Aches and pains
Aches and pains are caused by hormonal effects on ligaments, even this early on in the pregnancy.
Comfortably hot baths with chamomile, lavender or rosemary essential oils.
Vitamin B6 (50mg daily) and copper (2mg daily) for up to five days.
Massage – especially Shiatsu.
Polarity therapy is good at all stages of pregnancy.
Yoga. The earlier in pregnancy that yoga is learned and practised, the better.
Arnica 6 or Magnesia phosphorica 6 four times a day for up to five days.
Swollen feet and hands
Swollen feet and hands are a side effect of the hormones of pregnancy but may be helpful because of a diluting down of the chemical effects on the body tissues. Diuretic treatments should be avoided. If the male partner is experiencing ‘sympathetic pregnancy’, he may find the following recommendations useful as well. These are all normal and can be alleviated.
Place swollen hands or feet in hot and cold water alternately.
Natrum muriaticum 6 can be used four times a day for three days.
Increase your protein intake at each meal.
Lymphatic drainage massage is tremendous.
Male partners often experience similar symptoms to pregnant women. These are known as symptoms of sympathetic pregnancy. The male partner may find all the previous recommendations useful. Why this phenomenon occurs is uncertain and may be purely psychological but possibly pheromonally (inhaled chemical) induced.
Today pregnancy tests are 98 per cent accurate. Two tests having the same result is usually conclusive. The options are: home testing a test by your local chemist or pharmacy a test by your GP or Pregnancy Advisory Clinic.
Your GP will do the test for free, otherwise the tests range from £5 to £15 and they are all equally accurate. A drop of urine is placed on a small pad or a small sample of urine is shaken with a chemical that measures the presence of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). A colour change or the appearance of a line indicates a positive pregnancy test.
A pregnancy test can be carried out as soon as two weeks after fertilization is thought to have occurred. The earlier the test, the greater the chance of a ‘false’ negative or positive result and it is probably best to wait for two weeks after a missed period.
ESTIMATING THE EXPECTED BIRTH DATE
The estimation of a delivery date is always a ‘best guess’ and not an exact science. Assessing the delivery date is considered in the West to be a mathematical problem. The simplest technique is to add seven days to the first day of your last period and take off three months. For example, if the first day of the last period was 14 July, add seven days to make 21 July and subtract three months. The delivery date is 21 April. You will then be told that the delivery could occur anywhere around that date.
The moon is considered to be very influential in the female hormonal cycle, especially with regard to childbirth. It is worth assessing the stage of the moon around the expected time of conception. If you conceived on a full moon then delivery is more likely to be around the full moon. Conversely, a new moon conception will support a new moon delivery.
CHOOSING YOUR MEDICAL SUPPORT
Pregnancy and childbirth is one of your most exciting and rewarding life experiences. As with any event, it is usually better if it is shared. The choice of your medical advisors is important because they will be sharing this marvellous time with you. If you do not get on with them, much of the enjoyment can be spoiled in much the same way that a prime fillet can be ruined at a shared meal with an ardent vegetarian!
It is essential to visit your maternity unit and meet as many of the midwives as possible. Any one of them could be on duty when you deliver. The obstetrician is, hopefully, not going to be particularly involved unless things go awry, but it helps to get on with the specialist, although not to the same degree as with the midwives.
Ensure that your views concerning position of delivery, water birth and pain relief are shared with the midwives, otherwise friction and doubts can manifest.
To a lesser extent partners should be happy with the team because they too will be part of the event. There are good and bad in all professions and it is very hard for patients or, for that matter, Gps to be able to isolate the jokers in the pack. A conversation with your GP or complementary medical practitioners will probably make the selection process a lot easier.
CHOOSING YOUR HOSPITAL
Ideally each maternity unit would have a blend of the best in orthodox technology with the comforts of your own bedroom. The unit would be staffed by experienced medical personnel with the personal touch of your closest friend and relative. An emergency unit would be next to the birthing unit and your God would be in the waiting room in case anything went wrong. This is not the case and until it is we have to adjust the situation to our best advantage. I am not a great believer in the safety of home births, certainly not for a first pregnancy and delivery. For latter pregnancies when no complications have arisen before and the home midwife and GP are very experienced and emergency facilities are close by, then perhaps the risk is negligible.
I prefer to look upon childbirth as an unusual part of life and not a household activity. In contradiction to this last statement, I feel that if the local hospital facilities are not ‘homely’ enough then a home delivery may be preferable as long as easy access to the emergency facilities is available. The place of delivery should preferably be in a room with a comfortable atmosphere for the parents. A bed at the correct height which allows Mum to place her feet on the floor and keep her backside on the edge is needed, and also a large tub or bath that can allow her and her birthing partner to relax comfortably with clear access from the sides for the midwives. Full medical facilities should be available within moments in case anything goes wrong.
Such hospitals are few and far between, although their numbers are increasing dramatically. Access to such units is becoming increasingly available in big cities but still remains out of reach for those in rural areas.
Search out the ideal maternity unit in your area. This should be located through your GP or, in the UK, through the National Childbirth Trust.
If this hospital is more than 30 minutes away (judged at rush hour) then a nearer hospital should be advised of the possibility of your arrival in case your labour comes on unexpectedly or the delivery be rushed.
CHOOSING AND USING A COMPLEMENTARY MEDICAL CLINIC
In an ideal situation your GP and your obstetric team will have a liaison with a complementary medical clinic or practitioners. If this is the case, then you simply follow the guidelines set down by your now complete team.
Unfortunately it is rare to find a unit that has all the available options from a complementary point of view. The choice of a clinic is best made by asking friends who have had dealings with clinics in your local area or practitioners within striking distance of your home or place of work. The complementary clinic should have at its disposal the following therapists, practitioners and techniques. other symptoms during pregnancy. In the right hands, acupuncture can also be of benefit at the time of delivery by speeding up the process and reducing pain.
Bodywork should be an integral part of pregnancy. Any massage technique is liable to be relieving, especially for the inevitable backaches associated with carrying extra weight. Muscles which go into spasm can be relieved through massage. Shiatsu massage is even more beneficial, since it uses acupressure points and meridian stretches as well as muscular pressure. It is useful for the mother-to-be’s partner to learn some basic pressure points as these can be useful at the time of delivery.
A local masseur or one who can visit your home should be found and a weekly massage from three months onwards is ideal. It helps to keep the muscles supple and also creates an amount of endorphin release that is mentally soothing to both the mother and the baby. Partners should be taught some basic massage techniques for use on a daily basis.
Shiatsu massage is of great benefit. Not only is it soothing but it can be useful by teaching the partner specific acupressure points that may help delivery. There are certain Shiatsu techniques and pressure points that should not be used during pregnancy but be assured that any registered and qualified Shiatsu practitioner will know the places to avoid.
Other techniques of body work, such as polarity, osteopathy and chiropractic can all be used if aches and pains come to the fore.
There has been much anecdotal evidence over the last 150 years to support the use of homeopathy both in the treatment of problems in pregnancy and in aiding the delivery of the baby. Because of the unknown constitution of the foetus/baby, I only recommend the use of this form of medicine under the guidance of a practitioner but, having said that, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest any dangers to mother or baby with the use of homeopathy. There are many remedies that can encourage the contraction of the uterus, amongst them Caulophyllum, and Secale cornutum. These may be taken at potency 30 as soon as contractions start. Secale cornutum may also be used after the delivery of the baby to encourage the third stage of labour. There are many remedies that can be used for problems associated with pregnancy such as backaches, nausea, discharges and painful breasts. Having a homeopath as part of the ‘team’ is an extremely useful idea.
An excellent study was concluded in the 1980s and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. It showed that hypnotherapy can reduce the length of labour by as much as one-third and the need for analgesia by up to 50 per cent.
Different hypnotherapists use different techniques but my recommendation is a course of self-hypnotherapy taught two or three months before delivery to help the sleep pattern, which is often disturbed by the discomfort of late pregnancy and the delivery itself.
The importance of correct nutrition has been discussed in the section Physical Preparation for Conception .
Psychotherapist or counsellor – see Psychology of conception and Vessel of conception.
Yoga or polarity – see Exercise in pregnancy.
All the above may not necessarily be required but access to them all is preferable just in case. All the above techniques have specific uses at times during normal and complicated pregnancies.
Mrs E B, age 38 years: ‘My first attempts at becoming pregnant were half-hearted and started at the age of 24 years. After several months of not conceiving I visited my GP and was told not to worry until I had not conceived for over a year. When that time came I went back and was promptly pushed through the orthodox system and both my husband and I ended up having a variety of tests, culminating in a laparoscopy under general anaesthetic six months later. At no stage was I advised on my diet, possible nutritional deficiencies or the use of alternative medicines, although I was offered a heavy drug regime that I took for three months before the side effects were too much for me to bear. I was unable to conceive for no obvious reason until the age of 32 years when, following a very uncomfortable pregnancy, I delivered a very low birthweight daughter. After that I miscarried twice a year and was able, two years later, to produce a little baby boy successfully who was also of markedly low birthweight.
Two years ago, on the advice of a friend, I attended a complementary medical clinic and was found to be mineral deficient, and have a tilted pelvis that the Shiatsu practitioner felt would compromise the blood flow to the pelvic organs, and was treated with homeopathic remedies to encourage my ability to absorb and avoid further deficiencies. During the next pregnancy I used a hypnotherapeutic technique because I was so shocked from my previous adventures. I received counselling and a couple of lessons in yoga that helped me to relax and perform better through the delivery. My third baby was born after five hours of labour and was at the top end of the normal weight scale. I had no problems during the pregnancy and may well decide to have another child in the near future.’
Most complementary medical clinics will have a manager or head therapist who will be able to discuss your particular requirements. INVESTIGATIONS
Your GP or hospital will run routine urinalysis and blood pressure checks and at later stages of the pregnancy will check your haemoglobin levels for anaemia.
I encourage my patients to have their haemoglobin checked early on in the pregnancy and if there is any drop in the level then this should be compensated for. The orthodox approach is to maintain the haemoglobin level within ‘normal limits’ and supplemental iron may not be administered until the level drops below 10mmol/l. Each person is an individual and if your haemoglobin starts at 14mmol/l then that is where it should stay. All patients should have a routine antibody screen for:
Toxoplasmosis (especially for anyone with a household containing cats).
A hair analysis or other test for deficiencies . Minor mineral and vitamin deficiencies can be quite devastating to a healthy pregnancy.
Ultrasound scans are not completely safe. Research in the early 1990s suggested that more than eleven ultrasound scans in a pregnancy can lead to a low birthweight baby. For some reason the ultrasound waves inhibit growth. The orthodox world considers that up to ten scans is therefore safe. My experience and commonsense do not agree. I feel that the benefits of ultrasound in being able to diagnose problems is enormous but try to confine ultrasounds to a maximum of three per pregnancy unless problems exist. A scan at around 11-16 weeks to confirm a viable foetus, around 20-24 weeks for defects and around 30-34 weeks to check for correct growth is ample investigation.
OTHER ORTHODOX INVESTIGATIONS Amniocentesis
Amniocentesis (the insertion of a needle and withdrawing of the fluid surrounding the foetus) has its place but not in routine pregnancy care. Much information can be gleaned from analysis of the fluid, including a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. There is now, however, a blood test that is becoming more available and accurate, although not as accurate as the amniocentesis. Amniocentesis carries a 2 per cent complication rate (1 in 50 such investigations may cause a problem), whereas the blood test is harmless.
Discuss any suggestion of this procedure with more than one obstetrician and ensure that there is a need for such a process. Would you have a termination (an abortion) if something were wrong?
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). The chorionic villi are on the foetal side of the placenta. The cells are therefore derived from the genetic components of the foetus, and a biopsy or sample of this tissue can be extracted to test for congenital or hereditary defects. The complications and problems are the same as for amniocentesis.
Please follow these recommendations with regard to the home environment when pregnant.
A/ever, pregnant or not, sit nearer than eight feet (2.2m) away from a television.
Avoid VDUs (visual display units). There is evidence that they increase the chances of miscarriage. If you have to use one or are near any, avoid the back or sides. Do not sit at one for more than 20min without a 20-min break, avoid old machines, obtain low-radiation units and do not trust the ‘screens’: they are next to useless. • Loud music will detrimentally affect the foetus. Apparently, classical music is good, especially Mozart!
Get outside as much as possible and walk barefoot on the grass where safe and possible. If you are a town dweller, make a point of going to the country as often as you can.
NUTRITION IN PREGNANCY
Once you have established that you are pregnant, the first and possibly the most important thing to do is to ensure that your diet is adequate and that you are supplemented correctly. A well-balanced diet will probably not need any extra nutrition but for those under pressure, with any form of illness, or who are regularly missing meals, or are subjected to fast food or inadequate nutrition, then supplements should be utilized.
There is no set diet for pregnancy and intuition is extremely important. The stories of odd cravings are possibly an indication of the body’s requirements. The not-so-unusual cravings for charcoal or chalky substances are suspected to be due to the body’s increased requirements for calcium and other minerals. The brain is good at knowing that it needs something but it does not always get it right.
Folic acid (400pg) can be taken daily, although the requirement is most important whilst trying to conceive.
Most other recommendations are not categorically proven. I think it best, however, to err on the side of caution and anyone who is not well-versed in eating a specifically well-balanced diet should take supplements to allow for the increased demands by the baby and the mother’s metabolism, therefore:
Multivitamins – most obstetricians and Gps who disagree with additional supplementation do so on the grounds that it is an unnecessary expense, and not because taking extra supplements could harm the mother or baby. Having said that, an excess of anything may, of course, be harmful, as recently suggested by the vitamin A scare from pregnant women eating too much liver.
A trace element and mineral compound specifically to cover zinc, manganese and copper.
Remember to go with your instincts but only if your cravings are for healthy food. If you are yearning for foods that you know are not necessarily healthy, such as chips, specific flavours of crisps and processed foods, then examine the food groups or a sport that results in jolting the body. Games such as squash where one places one’s feet down heavily and bounces off walls, and activities such as jogging where the downward force on the lower abdomen and pelvis is quite marked, are best avoided. < Preferably use aerobic exercise such as walking and especially swimming. Dancing is an excellent exercise but avoid your local rave! Many ancient cultures have incorporated dance techniques into the pregnancy period and intuitively moving your body to your favourite piece of music will not only have a beneficial effect on your structure but also be soothing to the baby.
Nothing more needs to be done but: / highly recommend learning some basic Alexander techniques to ensure correct posture. Polarity is equally effective.
Yoga is, in my opinion, the best form of exercise in pregnancy. Yoga incorporates deep breathing and relaxation techniques, stretching and muscular strengthening along with postural exercises. Certain yoga techniques should not be used during pregnancy and it is best to have a private session or two with a yoga teacher to ensure that you are practising the best techniques.
Pregnancy should be a time of great joy but almost invariably at some stage during the puerperal (the time you are pregnant) period feelings ranging from ambivalence and indifference, through depression, to anger and anxiety are all commonplace.
Often it is not suitable to use your partner, however close you may be as a couple, for expressing these emotions, but express these emotions you must. Feeling guilty about a state of mind is almost as detrimental to health as the negative emotion itself. Partners, however, are undergoing their own ‘crises’ and are caught between giving you the best advice and the advice that they think you want to hear. It is an unfair situation to be put in and quite often beyond the intuitive expertise that partners can have.
It is better to face your dilemmas with a ‘professional friend’ and bring your conclusions to the attention of your partner. Do not hide your feelings from those close to you but do not expect them to have answers. Counsellors are available through any obstetric unit, general practice, complementary clinic or recommendation by friends. It
Arm reaches is best to deal with a woman psychotherapist who has been through pregnancy because you will have both the professional and the personal opinion.
Do not be ashamed to ask for support -pregnancy is a time of great change and the psychological help of the extended family is fast dwindling here in the West. It can only be beneficial to be nurtured.
See a counsellor.
Drink strong chamomile tea. This is a great psychological relaxant and can make problems far easier to solve.
Specific essential oils, such as rosemary, chamomile and lavender, can be used as massage oil, in the bath or on the collar.
Homeopathic remedies worth looking up in your preferred homeopathic manual are: Aconitum if fear is the main component; Aurum Metallicum if sad and despairing; Ignatia if your sense of freedom is lost and your sense of responsibility too great; Pulsatilla if your mood is very tearful, although this remedy should not be taken for longer than three days because it may encourage contractions. Other remedies can be of great benefit and your homeopath would be best suited to choose the correct one. All may be taken at potency 30.