Pregnancy is a special time for both mother and baby. This relationship is so close that almost everything the mother consumes, be it drugs, alcohol or food, is shared with baby across the placental barrier. Nursing babies receive these same substances through their mother’s milk. Recreational drugs, and prescribed and over-the-counter medications can harm a developing infant. Even natural medicines should be only taken with your doctor’s consent. All the more reason to choose homeopathic remedies, safe effective medicines for morning sickness and other pregnancy-related problems.
The 1200 remedies found in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States contain minute amounts of plants, minerals or animal substances used to cure a variety of ailments by promoting inner healing, or what America’s estimated 3000 homeopathic practitioners call the vital force. Remedies are diluted so no side effects occur–essential to a pregnant woman and her baby–but healing does. In fact, the more dilute a remedy, the more potent it is. It’s believed that the vigorous shaking, or succussions, used to prepare these medicines help potentize them.
It’s the principles of homeopathy that separate it from conventional medicine. The first law says “like cures like” meaning the compound used to treat a disease produces those same symptoms when given to a healthy person. For example, Coffea cruda (unroasted coffee), is ideal for restless insomnia.
In classical homeopathy, the law of the single remedy says medicines be given one at a time based on current symptoms. Because the patient and disease are each seen as ever-changing, the remedy is adjusted as symptoms change. Individual treatment requires careful documentation of physical symptoms, emotional and mental balance, food cravings and aversions, sleeping habits and other signs. These symptoms are then matched to one remedy at an appropriate dose.
The ability of homeopathic remedies to encourage healing, rather than merely suppress symptoms, have nudged them to the single fastest-growing category in drug stores. The 1994 retail sales of homeopathic medicines in the U.S. are calculated at $165 million. About 95 percent of homeopathic remedies are available over-the-counter, making them both accessible and inexpensive (around $3 to $7 per bottle). While simple, acute conditions are safely treated at home, more serious conditions–particularly involving pregnancy–should be treated by a qualified homeopathic practitioner.
Several studies attest to homeopathy’s success with pregnancy- related problems, particularly labor. When French researchers gave 90 women a combination remedy containing Caulophyllum, Arnica, Cimicifuga, Pulsatilla and Gelsemium twice a day throughout their pregnancy, the women had 40 percent shorter labors and one-quarter the complications of labor as those handed a sugar pill (Cahiers de Biotherapie, volume 94, April 1987).
Breech babies, whose feet or buttocks, rather than head, point downward in the womb, are a classic labor complication. Obstetricians often rely on a hospital procedure called external version, involving uterine-relaxing drugs and sometimes anesthesia, to turn these babies by pushing on the mother’s belly.
Joyce Frye, DO, an obstetrician from Philadelphia, prefers Pulsatilla as the first step toward correcting breech positioned babies, saving external version as a final resort. Frye estimates half her pregnant patients respond to this safer, less expensive treatment. External version works in 40 to 70 percent of breech cases, says Frye, depending the operator’s skill and whether the mother is having her first or second child.
A more common pregnancy difficulty, and one that responds well to homeopathic medicine, is morning sickness. Nausea and vomiting typically begin upon waking and continue all morning or longer. Hormone production jumps during pregnancy and probably causes morning sickness. Most women adjust to elevated hormonal levels by the end of the first trimester.
Tobacco smoke, cooking smells, fatigue and low blood sugar all trigger morning sickness. Several small meals eaten every two to three hours help, as do rest, vitamin B6 rich whole grains, nuts and seeds, and munching on crackers before getting up. Nux vomica helps nausea that’s worse in the morning and accompanied by irritability and a desire to be indoors and warm. Constant nausea without the vomiting, but aggravated by heat responds to Sulphur.
When Suzy, a 35 year old Asian woman pregnant with her second child, was nauseated by food odors and drinking water, she visited her local naturopathic doctor. Although skeptical about homeopathy, Suzy nevertheless tried Ipecac, for those who feel worse lying down and no better after vomiting. Suzy was pleased when the remedy diminished her nausea by 60 percent. Some nausea is good, says Amy Rothenberg, ND, a naturopathic doctor specializing in homeopathy from Enfield, Conneticut, and is associated with better pregnancy outcome.
Once morning sickness leaves, leg cramps, usually experienced during late pregnancy, may appear. These cramps in the calves and feet occur from poor blood circulation, tired muscles and the weight of a pregnant belly pressing leg nerves. Sometimes too little calcium or too much phosphorus (high in processed foods and soft drinks) elicit spasms. Besides slowly stretching out the achy muscle, taking calcium and magnesium, and cutting down on phosphorus-filled foods, leg cramps that feel numb and cold may loosen up with Calcarea phosphorica. Veratrum album often speeds healing of aching relieved by walking and warmth.
A heavy belly and slow circulation also contribute to hemorrhoids, where veins in the anus swell causing occasional pain, bright red blood in the stool and bulging of the hemorrhoidal tissue. Pregnancy is a prime time for this condition because higher-than-usual levels of progesterone relax blood vessel walls, encouraging their distention. Ilene Dahl, ND, a family practice naturopathic physician from Concord, California prescribes homeopathic suppositories containing Hamamelis virginica, remedy specifically indicated for hemorrhoids. This homeopathic can also be taken orally and a purely herbal Hamamelis formula may be applied on the sore region. Drinking lots of water and eating foods with fiber also help.
There’s no question the up-and-down moods of pregnancy arise from hormonal surges. For instance, estrogen causes anxiety, while progesterone acts in opposition creating depression. Push-me pull-you irritability where a pregnant women asks to be held one minute then shoves her consoler away fits Chamomilla. If an embrace and kind word help a sad and weeping woman whose moods are changeable, then Pulsatilla is the first choice.
“Food cravings usually indicate the fetus is craving a particular nutrient,” says Dahl. For this reason, she usually encourages her pregnant patients to merely eat the desired food. However, for excessive yearnings, such as overwhelming salty yearnings, Carbo vegetabilis might work. A yen for sweet, creamy foods may lessen with a dose of Sulphur. When vinegary pickles and other sour morsels are desired, then try Sepia.
The safety and effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for both mother and baby are as useful after pregnancy as they are during. Once a new mother has overcome the challenge of teaching her newborn to nurse, many women temporarily endure painful nipples (babies have a mighty grasp). One easy cure is to squeeze out a little extra milk after baby’s done eating and smear its healing ingredients over the affected nipple. Your local La Leche League or lactation expert can teach you different feeding positions and determine if baby is latching on correctly. For sore and cracking nipples, Sepia is a logical choice. Chamomilla helps inflamed and very sensitive nipples.
Feeding your baby on demand will usually keep your milk supply up. Occasionally fatigue, skimping on fluids or not eating well reduce milk production. A day in bed with baby, without the worry of household duties, often remedies this problem as well as giving you much needed rest and a chance to enjoy your infant. Pulsatilla also encourages milk production, as well as treating leaky breasts. If you’re one of the odd cases where your milk overflows, then try Belladonna.
On top of the exhausting tasks of nursing and caring for a new baby, a new mother must recover from the ordeal of labor. If you’ve had a Caesarean section or other procedure, or lost a great deal of blood, fatigue is even more pronounced. China helps restore energy, particularly due to blood loss. When nausea and headache are part of fatigue, Cocculus may work. For overwhelming post-partum depression, Aurum met might help. Sepia or Phosphorus may perk you up during times of indifference. Depression after pregnancy is often due to declining hormones.
Frye often administers Arnica to her patients to promote healing from the trauma of childbirth. “A few drops of homeopathic Calendula added to a sitz bath,” says Frye, “also assists in post-partum recovery.”
If you’ve lost a baby before the sixth month of pregnancy, this is called a miscarriage. For some this unhappy experience is a one time occurrence; for others it’s an ongoing problem. Continual miscarriages should be investigated by a health care professional so hormones (necessary for sustaining a pregnancy), nutritional status and other underlying problems can be assessed. Natural therapies may or may not help depending on the cause. For cases where conventional treatments are indicated, natural methods are often beneficial adjuncts. If you desire homeopathic treatment, see a trained homeopath for a constitutional remedy prior to getting pregnant.
Even for an impending miscarriage, Joyce Frye, DO recommends using homeopathic remedies cautiously. While severe physical shock, uterine abnormalities or infection of the mother may interrupt a pregnancy, a sick or deformed baby may miscarry no matter the treatment. “If you take the right remedy and the baby is viable, many times this along with bedrest and good nutrition can save baby,” says Amy Rothenberg, ND. “If the baby is not viable, a woman will miscarry no matter what. However, a miscarrying woman who has taken a homeopathic remedy tends to have an easier time and can often avoid a D & C (dilation and curettage, a procedure where the cervix is dilated and the uterus is scraped out).”
See your doctor if you’re experiencing signs of impending miscarriage like vaginal bleeding and intermittent pain, even for homeopathic care. Many doctors also use homeopathic remedies after a miscarriage has occurred, particularly for incomplete miscarriages.
Homeopathy plays an important part of pregnancy treatment. Together with sound prenatal care, good nutritional habits and tender loving care, homeopathic remedies promise a healthy, safe outcome for both mother and baby.