Pregnancy and Labor
Why is it that so many physicians seem to think that birth is a surgical solution to a nine-month disease. Although good medical care is so important for the health of the mother and infant in high risk situations, physicians intervene too often in the birthing process, turning normal deliveries into medical emergencies.
Despite the various shortcomings of modern obstetrical care, the present regime is an improvement over the way physicians delivered babies in the 1800s. In the 1870s women were commonly given regular doses of quinine before birth to prevent fever, plus a powerful cathartic to cleanse their body, then ergot to induce labor, and morphine to lessen any after pains. The use of these powerful drugs increased, rather than lowered, instances of infant and maternal mortality during childbirth.
With the fear of germs so prominent at the turn of the century, hospitals did all they could to eradicate infectious organisms. Nurses washed women's head with kerosene, ether, and ammonia. They sometimes shaved pubic hair because they thought that it harbored germs. And they performed enemas on women in labor every 12 hours and gave continual douches of saline solutions to which whisky and bichloride of mercury were added. The increased effort to protect the mother and infant led to interventions and manipulations of the birthing process that made giving birth both traumatic and dangerous.
The underlying assumption of obstetricians has tended to be that women need technological interventions in order to have a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth. Although some medical interventions are certainly of great value, there is general consensus that birth has become over-medicalized. Some of this overmedicalization is the result of doctors doing all they can to prevent malpractice suits, and some of it is the result of doctors assuming that more medical interventions improve the chances of having a healthy mother and infant.
It is rare for physicians to be sued for over-utilizing medical interventions, but it is common for suits to arise after a doctor waits before intervention.
There is now increasing concern about the use of any drugs during pregnancy since the fetus inevitably receives doses of these drugs which can disturb its development. Research has shown that drugs during labor and delivery can have short- as well as long-term effects on infants. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs has recommended that doctors use the smallest possible amount of medications when it is needed, and to discuss the benefits and side effects with the mother preferably in advance of the birth.
Obstetricians have contended that the various interventions are necessary for a safe birth. No one can doubt that certain medical interventions can reduce complications and be lifesaving at times. Problems however result when conventional drugs and modern technology are utilized in normal or relatively normal childbirth. Obstetricians have ignored the fact that those countries which have utilized the least medical interventions during birth have tended to have the best childbirth statistics. Whereas 85% of women having hospital delivery in the U.S. have had an episiotomy, only 8% of Dutch women and only 3% of Swedish women receive them. Whereas 25-33% of women in the U.S. are aided in birth by a forceps delivery, only about 5% of European women receive this treatment. And whereas over 20% of American women who have hospital births have a caesarean section, the World Health Organization has conservatively estimated that there is no justification for any region to have a rate higher than 10-15%.
It has been determined that one intervention leads to another, each one increasing health risks to the mother and infant. Drug use during pregnancy causes potential health problems for the fetus and increases the chances of fetal distress syndrome which may require cesarean section. Amniotomy (the deliberate breaking of the bag of waters surrounding the baby) helps induce labor, and as the result of it the fetus loses the cushion of even pressure that protects it during contractions and lessens compression again the head.
The lithotomy position, in which a woman lies on her back with her feet spread in stirrups is generally convenient for the doctor but is an uncomfortable and inefficient position for women during delivery. The lithotomy position leads to slower progress of labor, increases chances of the doctor recommending methods to induce and augment labor, often leads to the use of forceps and episiotomy for delivery, and raises blood pressure which may decrease the amount of oxygen to the fetus, leading to the greater need for caesarian section. One survey noted that 95% of women prefer an upright position during labor and delivery.
The administration of analgesia and anesthesias to diminish pain during labor decreases the strength and frequency of contractions, usually requiring the use of drugs to augment labor and forceps to aid delivery. These drugs may also lower the mother's blood pressure which could threaten the life of the fetus. The drugs also prevent the woman from actually feeling how hard she is pushing the baby against her perineum, which may lead to stretching or tearing it. Physicians then must reduce this latter risk with further intervention by doing an episiotomy.
Doing an episiotomy requires local anesthesia which has the above mentioned risks associated with it. An episiotomy enables the physician to use forceps to speed up delivery, though there are additional risks from its application, including hemorrhage within the head and damage to the nerves of the face and arms. There is also an increased threat of severe lacerations of the mother's perineum when forceps and episiotomies are used.
All the above mentioned interventions increase the chances of needing a caesarean section.It has been estimated that there are 26 times more maternal deaths from caesarean section than from normal delivery. Even when women who had been diagnosed with serious pre-existing disease weren't counted, the death rate for women undergoing a caesarean was still 10 times greater.
Since a caesarean section is major surgery which may require a general anesthesia, the mother is unable to breastfeed her infant immediately after birth. And because the mother usually needs to take further medications after this operation, she ultimately is also feeding these drugs to her infant through her breastmilk.
Women who are prescribed medications during or after labor, or at any time when they are breastfeeding, are also providing trace amounts of these drugs in their milk. Even though only relatively small amounts of these drugs appear in the milk, the young infant's liver, kidneys, immune system, and general defenses haven't matured enough to metabolize and detoxify these drugs effectively. The results may be minor, or in some cases, they can be significant.
Drug use during pregnancy is one significant reason for many birth defects, though genetic disposition and exposure to various toxic substances and radiation will also influence the amount of birth defects.There is finally general consensus that drug use during pregnancy, labor, and lactation should be kept to a minimum.
Homeopathic Medicines in Pregnancy
The relative safety of the homeopathic medicines make them invaluable in pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Besides being safe, the medicines are quite effective in treating various common problems of pregnancy.The medicines help strengthen the woman physically and psychologically. Homeopaths have been known to joke that pregnancy is an excellent time to receive homeopathic care since two people (the mother and the fetus) get a remedy for the price of one. The medicines not only improve the health of the mother, they also benefit the fetus. Although no formal statistical analysis has yet been carried out, homeopaths have commonly observed that the children born from women who have received homeopathic care during pregnancy seem healthier than others. Homeopaths make this conjecture by comparing the children of women from previous pregnancies without homeopathic medicines with the offspring of later pregnancies in which the mothers have received the medicines.
It is generally known that the health of the woman greatly affects the health of the fetus. Since pregnancy can be particularly stressful to a womans body, women often experience exacerbations of previous health problems or various new symptoms. Some of these common symptoms and conditions are nausea, abdominal gas, vaginal infections, bladder infections, herpes, insomnia, anemia, backaches, breast swelling and swelling in general, constipation, hemorrhoids, leg cramps, skin eruptions, and varicose veins.
Some of these symptoms and conditions are minor and do not require any treatment with conventional or homeopathic medicines. They can be alleviated with appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. However, other conditions can be irritating enough to require some kind of treatment. Since pregnant women should be very careful in taking any conventional drugs, it is reasonable and prudent to consider first trying homeopathic medicines for many non-emergency medical conditions.
Some women, of course, will be more difficult to treat than others. However, it is worthwhile to know that homeopaths differentiate between acute symptoms and chronic symptoms. Acute symptoms represent self-protective efforts of the organism dealing with some type of recent stress or infection. Chronic symptoms, in comparison refer to recurrent, unsuccessful efforts of the organism to re-establish health. Such symptoms may persist because the person is constitutionally weakened from genetic, lifestyle, or environmental factors and/or because the person is continually stressed or frequently reinfected. Sometimes what seems to be an acute symptom is actually the result of an underlying chronic condition. Instead of prescribing a medicine primarily for the most prominent symptom, the homeopath may prescribe a constitutional medicine which is individualized to the totality of a woman's symptoms in the light of her present state as well as her family's health history.
Homeopaths find that the women who receive constitutional homeopathic treatment prior to becoming pregnant rarely seem to get morning sickness during pregnancy. For those that do get it, there are various homeopathic medicines that are often effective in diminishing the nausea, vomiting and indigestion common to morning sickness.
It should be candidly noted that some homeopaths find that they successfully cure morning sickness, others find that it is difficult to cure. Although morning sickness is sometimes difficult to treat, homeopathy and sound nutritional advice can provide a safe and sometimes effective treatment for this irritating problem. Morning sickness is not considered a dangerous condition, but since it discourages proper and adequate nutrition, it does present certain risks for the fetus.
Since a homeopathic medicine is prescribed based on the basis of the totality of the symptoms the person is experiencing, it is common for women to experience not only relief of their morning sickness from the homeopathic medicines, but also noticeable lessening of various symptoms. It is, in fact, quite uncommon to see lasting improvement in nausea without concurrent general improvement in health. Although no homeopathic research has yet proven the medicines beneficial to the mother with morning sickness or to the fetus, clinical experience shows that the medicines have promise for the mother, and the consequential benefits to the fetus are inevitable.
Homeopathic Treatment of Mother and Infant
Though childbirth is not exactly an "injury," it does put a woman's body through a certain degree of shock and trauma. The homeopathic medicines are safe for infants, though it is recommended to give only small sized homeopathic pellets--or crush the larger sized pellets into small pieces--so that the infant doesn't choke on them. One can also place the pellets in water and then feed the infant with a clean teaspoon or dropper.
Homeopaths have found that the correctly prescribed medicine tends to work immediately, which, considering the circumstances, is necessary for the baby's survival. The prescription of any of these medicines should not the delay other heroic medical measures necessary to aid the baby's chances of survival.
Homeopaths also report success in treating neonatal jaundice. They find that the correct medicine can resolve this condition in one to three days. Conventional treatment usually requires hospitalization in which the baby is put in an incubator and exposed to special fluorescent lights which break down bilirubin and encourages healthy liver function. It usually takes three days to two weeks to resolve this condition. Of particular significance, the incubation of the baby separates him or her from the mother, making breastfeeding difficult or impossible. This separation also significantly reduces the amount of skin-to-skin contact which is so valuable physiologically and psychologically to the infant and to the mother.
Before discussing some specifics of what homeopaths do in such conditions, it should first be emphasized that breastfeeding plays a very important role in providing the newborn baby with important antibodies, enzymes, and other essential nutrients that help the baby adapt to and thrive in his or her new surroundings. Women with mastitis, inflammation of the breast, need to be treated as soon as possible so that they can continue breastfeeding.
One of the most common breast problems after childbirth is mastitis. Conventional treatment for this condition is simply antibiotics. Although these drugs work reasonably well, it certainly would be worthwhile to try an alternative treatment that is safe and effective, since the baby will end up receiving trace amounts of antibiotics through breastmilk.
Since homeopathic medicines strengthen the overall health functioning of the individual, they can be applied in general to treat a wide variety of acute and chronic obstetrical conditions. The history and present worldwise use of these medicines provides some evidence of their value. Homeopathic medicines will probably not only be invaluable to our children in the 21st century, but to theirs too.