Elizabeth Chapman, ND and Stephen Malthouse, MD
High quality prenatal care is the foundation for the good health of both mother and baby. This is achieved by combining the best of both orthodox and complementary therapie.
High quality prenatal care is the foundation for the good health of both mother and baby. This is achieved by combining the best of both orthodox and complementary therapies.
Have you ever seen a husband bicycling across town to buy ice cream and pickles for his pregnant wife? Why would a mother-to-be suddenly drink a full glass of vinegar? Why is it that some women have terrible nausea during pregnancy while other women do not?
The principles of homeopathic medicine explain the reasons behind the odd cravings and food aversions of pregnancy. Hormonal and physical changes put pressure on the defence or homeostatic mechanism of the pregnant woman. The body then calls out for help in the language of symptoms that may include morning sickness, gestational diabetes, hemorrhoids, muscle cramps and a myriad of other complaints that conventional medicine is not able to treat successfully. With the horrors of drugs such as DES (diethylstilbestrol) and thalidomide still in recent memory, pregnant women are right to question the use of any medication. Risks and benefits must be carefully weighed.
In the absence of life-threatening illness, many women choose to avoid conventional drugs and live with annoying symptoms. It’s unfortunate that in Canada doctors rarely (and midwives infrequently) offer their patients homeopathy as a safer option. The expectant mother has to do her own investigation of alternative therapies.
Luckily, homeopathy has a long tradition of home use for treating acute, self-limited conditions during pregnancy and is both safe and effective. Many excellent resource books are now available to guide self-prescribing, but it is still essential to maintain contact with a primary health-care provider.
Homeopathic medicines are potentized (diluted and vigorously shaken) beyond the point of containing any molecules of the original substance, yet medicinal qualities are retained and passed on to the patient. Remedy selection is individualized, based on the pattern of symptoms that the mother exhibits. In order to correctly choose the right homeopathic remedy, the prescriber (whether it’s the mother, her spouse, midwife or physician) must be able to elicit the small, but characteristic, details of the chief complaint. Seemingly unrelated mental, emotional or physical symptoms may also be important in pointing to the correct remedy.
A woman needing the remedy Pulsatilla, for example, may be unusually weepy and emotionally changeable while simultaneously experiencing morning sickness. Factors that modify the main complaint are also noteworthy. Leg cramps made better by warm applications point to homeopathic Magnesium phosphate as the cure, while hemorrhoids made worse from standing suggest the remedy Sulphur. In homeopathy, the peculiar and characteristic symptoms guide the way to successful treatment. The name of the illness or diagnostic category (which is all-important in mainstream medical prescribing) is insufficient to make a homeopathic prescription.
Hyperemesis gravidarum got the name "morning sickness" because, in most cases, the nausea appears upon arising in the morning and improves as the day goes on. Some women experience nausea and vomiting that lasts the entire day. Others only suffer in the evenings. In homeopathy, these time distinctions are important in differentiating among possible remedies.
Homeopathic Ipecac can bring relief if the nausea is constant and not relieved even after vomiting. The nausea is accompanied by excessive salivation and the woman feels worse when lying down.
A Colchicum case is characterized by extreme sensitivity to the smell, sight or even thought of food. These women may have strong food cravings but, when they try to eat the food they desire, they are overcome with nausea.
Pulsatilla has nausea, which is worse in the late afternoon or evening and after eating. They are often quite moody and cry easily. A strong aversion to fatty or rich foods is prominent for a person requiring Pulsatilla.
The remedy Tabacum will treat nausea that continues both day and night and is accompanied by violent vomiting and ice-cold perspiration.
The Nux vomica patient is irritable and easily offended, with nausea coming on only after eating, whereas the Sepia patient with nausea is depressed, indifferent and wants to be left alone. The latter characteristically desires pickles, vinegar and other acidic foods.
And Other Nasty Symptoms
The treatment of hemorrhoids is another area where homeopathy excels. Aesculus (horse chestnut) cures hemorrhoids that cause the sensation of needles or sticks in the rectum. Although these swollen veins may be quite painful, they do not bleed very much. This contrasts with a Hamamelis (witch hazel) case, where bleeding is often profuse and the hemorrhoids feel bruised and are made worse by heat.
The one homeopathic remedy used in pregnancy that does not require careful individualization before prescribing is Arnica (mountain tobacco). Well-known for its use in first aid treatment of trauma, Arnica brings fast relief to the bruising and soreness of the birth canal that occurs after almost all deliveries. This remedy is indispensable on the maternity ward. Arnica can also be used after a Caesarean section if a bruised sensation is present.
In treating any of the above conditions, you can use the 30C potency of homeopathic remedy. It can be given every four to six hours and tapered off as the symptoms improve. When using Arnica after delivery, use the 200C potency as often as every hour. Repeat as needed to relieve bruising and soreness. If no change is noted after five doses of the medicine, then the choice of remedy is probably incorrect. Back to the drawing board! Carefully choose another remedy. If you have access to a professional homeopath you may decide to enlist his or her help if you are unable to treat yourself.
Constitutional treatment, which aims to treat the whole person, is an important adjunct to conventional medical care during pregnancy. Ideally this should begin before conception.