Research to Remember
To assess the role of diet in reducing the risk of premature delivery, a Norwegian study assigned 290 nonsmoking pregnant women ages 21 to 38 to either a cholesterol-lowering diet high in fish, low-fat meats, and dairy products, oils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, or to their usual diet. Only one of 141 women (0.7%) on the cholesterol-lowering diet delivered before 37 weeks gestation, compared with 11 of 149 women (7.4%) on their usual diet. Maternal cholesterol levels were reduced among the women in the special-diet group. Researchers concluded that decreasing harmful LDL cholesterol during pregnancy also may decrease the risk of premature delivery.
— Amer J Obstet Gyn 194(4), October 2005
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Homeopathy for Midwives
Because remedies are so complex, it is much more difficult to learn about homeopathy. There is not just one remedy for a cough, for example. There may be 20 or more remedies for a complaint, depending on the specific symptoms. Having an excellent book or several books on homeopathy is essential if you are to find the perfect remedy. Gradually, as you learn remedies and see results, you won't mind the effort involved in tracking down the right remedy. Homeopathy is not a substitute for medical care but a simple way to treat common health problems that are not medical emergencies.
Start with a few common remedies and your first book. When you get comfortable seeing results, you may want to buy a kit of remedies. Then you'll want a more extensive book.
— Lisa Goldstein, excerpted from "Homeopathy: What It Is and How to Apply It,"
Birth Wisdom: Tricks of the Trade Vol III, A Midwifery Today book.
Proving. All the medicinal agents used in homeopathy have been proven on healthy human volunteers. Provings involve giving repeated or large doses of a substance to a person and then noting any symptoms experienced. The complete symptom picture includes changes in body tissues, physical appearance and behavior that can be observed in the person by others, as well as subjective impressions and the individual's precise description of sensations, mental attitudes and emotions.
The resulting list of symptoms, verified and updated over time by repeated provings, clinical experience and sometimes accidental poisonings, comprises the homeopathic "Materia Medica." Numerous Materia Medicas have been published. Typically, substances are listed in alphabetical order with detailed descriptions of their known symptom pictures.
The Homeopathic Repertory, on the other hand, contains a listing of substances arranged according to clinical symptoms which they are known to cause. The symptoms themselves are categorized according to body systems and other broad categories.
Potentization. [Eighteenth century German physician] Samuel Hahnemann developed the pharmaceutical process for preparing homeopathic medicines. While applying the law of similars, he endeavored to determine the minimum dose required to obtain a curative response, thereby reducing the occurrence of "side effects."
He began by extracting the properties of various substances. Those that were soluble in water or alcohol, he made into mother tinctures. Those that were nonsoluble were triturated, or finely ground up, with powdered milk sugar as the dilutant. He then began to serially dilute the mother tincture, mixing one part tincture to nine parts dilutant. This yields a "1X potency," or dilution of 1:10 on the decimal scale. To generate a 2X potency, mix one part of the 1X solution to nine parts dilutant, and so on up the scale to dilutions of 200X. On the centesimal scale, the ration is one part mother tincture to 99 parts dilutant, up to dilutions at the hundred thousandth centesimal and beyond.
Hahnemann found that at some point in the dilution process, the medicines became so dilute as to have no effect upon the patient. Then he got the idea to succuss, or shake rapidly, the solution at each stage of the dilution process. The result was that the medicines became more active and stronger each time they were subjected to this process.
In a way that we do not yet fully understand, succussion releases dormant energy in matter. Hahnemann called this process potentization. The further removed a homeopathic remedy is from its material origin, the more dynamic it becomes. This dynamic, or non-material, dose is thought to impart the vibrational imprint of the plant or other substance by way of the body's vital force. Vital force means life energy, what is "chi" to the Chinese and "prana" to the Hindus.
In preparations beyond the 12C dilution, no molecules of the original substance can be detected in the tiny sugar pills that are the dispensing agent for the potentized tinctures.
Homeopathic remedies do not saturate the bloodstream with chemical agents, but rather work on the plane of energy. Since science has yet to find a way to measure energy, its existence is suspect and claims of homeopathic cures are attributed to the "placebo effect" by orthodox practitioners. Interestingly, one would not expect placebos to work on animals or newborn infants, but homeopathy has effected cures in both.
— Patty Brennan, excerpted from "A Homeopathic Primer for Midwives,"
Wisdom of the Midwives; Tricks of the Trade Vol. II, A Midwifery Today book.
Following is a list of some of the more common homeopathic remedies I have found useful for mother and baby in labor, especially at the very last hard stretch. Of course, not all labors need to be "treated" with homeopathy. Sometimes, it is tempting when you have new techniques, to want to try them out at every opportunity. We should not think that every labor and birth needs to be "remedied" with any added substance. Sometimes a labor just needs more trust on the part of the attendants, or the mother really needs to take a nap, to eat or to take a walk outside. Sometimes things just need to be allowed to be what they are at the moment. The remedies here are suggestions for possibilities, not dictates.
Aconite is used for either sudden onset of symptoms or those clearly involved with fear or panic. I use it for the baby that comes out in a panic with eyes wide open and poor cardiac or respiratory response. It can also be used for a screaming baby who continues way past the "normal" amount of time. The baby generally stops the behavior immediately and becomes calm after the use of this remedy.
Arnica is used for any tissue trauma, including bruising and swelling. I use it in the pellet form to be taken orally, in water, to soothe tissues, and in arnica oil at the actual birth to help tissues stretch like Spandex.
Bellis is often used with older moms and multips or twins. The mother may complain of hip pain that continues even between contractions.
Caulophyllum is one of the famous cohoshes (blue) in homeopathic form. It is usually used in the earlier stages of labor, but try it in second stage, alternating with cimicifuga (black cohosh in homeopathic form) for the woman who is exhausted. Her fatigue is out of proportion with the amount of work being done, and contractions are sharp and spasmodic and low in the pelvis. She may be nervous and shaky with a rigid cervix.
Hypericum is often used in labor—maybe too quickly—without paying enough attention to what other remedy picture is there. If no other remedy seems like the right one, try hypericum, especially if a woman complains of shooting pains. It is also a good remedy for postpartum coccyx pain. Use it on a baby if there has been any trauma that might have involved nerve tissue damage. I had successful results when I used it for a slight palsy in a newborn with stuck shoulders at the birth.
Ignatia is often used in second stage for the woman with a sexual abuse history that triggers a pressure deep in the pelvis. When this happens, she will either withdraw and disassociate or fall apart and become hysterical. The grief may be very old and repressed. A tip-off may be that the woman sighs a lot.
Natrum muriaticum can help greatly if a woman has either too much amniotic fluid, making the baby's position unstable, or too little, making it harder for the baby to move into a favorable position and/or providing less protective cushioning during labor.
Sepia is used for the woman who may have trouble with the urgency of pelvic pressure in second stage. This woman often had some trouble conceiving, may have lots of chloasma (mask of pregnancy) and/or linea negra (the dark line down the middle of the belly in pregnancy) as the pregnancy continues (a sign of folic acid deficiency, by the way). Sepia is also very useful for the postpartum mom who seems detached, aloof and overwhelmed.
Staphysagria is a good remedy for women who may feel abused. It is good for helping heal old wounds, either emotional or physical. Use it also for urethral pain due to catheterization and gas retention after cesarean section delivery. Think of it, too, if a mother has a lot of letdown pain with nursing.
— Lisa Goldstein, excerpted from "Homeopathic Remedies for Second Stage," The Birthkit Issue 37
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Question of the Week
Q: A friend has had two cesarean sections, the last one 19 months ago. She is now considering getting pregnant again and wants to have a VBAC next time. She is concerned about uterine rupture. She wants to know if there are any great remedies for healing uterine scar tissue from her previous c-sections.
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Question of the Week Responses
Q: I am a mom of six and would like to find out how most midwives deal with Group B Strep (GBS)-positive mothers. Are there herbal remedies or are they destined to a hospital birth and IV antibiotics?
A: Homeopathic treatment of GBS strep is possible with the Strep B nosode. It is very effective and, taken along with Echinacea Angustifolia tincture to also strengthen the immune system, I was able to remedy my own GBS at my daughter's birth six months ago. To the hospital staff's dismay and surprise, I steadfastly refused antibiotics and painkillers and opted for homeopathic treatment instead (unfortunately, due to cephalo-pelvic disproportion I ended up with a c-section and not a homebirth).
— Homeopath's wife, a homebirth and midwifery supporter
Q: I recently had a c-section for twins because twin A was a footling breech. Unfortunately, I had to be put under general anesthesia because my platelet levels were too low to safely have an epidural. Is there any sort of homeopathic or herbal remedy that I might try to build up my platelets? My platelets generally are around 70 and have been that way for years, with 50 being the point where treatment is needed, but 100 being the cutoff to get an epidural. When I have another child, I would like to have a VBAC, but if it doesn't work, I don't want to have to be knocked out again.
A: Yes, it is possible to reverse the platelet drop; however, there is no single remedy for thrombocytopenia in homeopathy. Most platelet crises are the result of medications such as the antibiotic macrodantin. Even after the drug is discontinued, the platelet count does not return to normal on its own. However, with proper homeopathic treatment, the condition can often be reversed. A skilled homeopath can select a remedy that can bring the platelets back to normal again. Remedies are prescribed on the basis of each patient's symptoms, history and predisposition. For a serious condition such a platelet drop, it would be a mistake to self-treat with a homeopathic or herbal remedy without consulting an experienced homeopathic practitioner. It is not worth the risk. If the platelets dropped further it could lead to a life-threatening condition. By the way, the right homeopathic treatment can often rotate a breech baby and avoid c-section.
— Manfred Mueller, RSHom (NA), CCH
Homeopathic Associates, Ojai, California
Editor's Note: Responses to any Question of the Week may be sent to E-News at any time. Write to email@example.com. Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the subject line or in the message.
In response to a query about doulas in Paris [Issue 7:23]:
Doulas in France are a very recent development; traditionally midwives follow women through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. A wonderful doula, trained in the USA, now is in Paris and working hard to develop a doula network there. Her name is Viviane Dubreuil; she launched a new Web site last fall with some pages in English (as well as German and Spanish)—check it out: www.doulas.info
— Gabriele Schilz, San Francisco
I am a prenatal yoga instructor and prepared childbirth instructor of 14 years. I have always taught squatting for pregnancy in both classes. A childbirth educator in town is telling her women that squatting in late pregnancy (third trimester) contributes to malpresentation and should be completely avoided. I do not agree for many reasons and actually did a survey of local providers, getting the response, "Squat as much as possible." Any information or comments readers could share?
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