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Healthy Pregnancy

By Kathy Gruver - LMT, RM, NHC, MS in Natural Health & Doctorate in Traditional Naturopathy

Pregnancy is one of the most memorable times in a woman’s life. You feel the joy and excitement of providing life for another. But along with that elation can come some not so nice side effects. Vomiting, nausea, swelling, acne, muscle and joint aches and mood swings are just some of the negative accompaniments to being pregnant. In a lot of these circumstances, Western medicine has little to contribute. However, complementary alternative medicine can offer assistance to enhance and ease pregnancy and labor. Here are a few natural additions that can help women during this very special time.

As a massage therapist that has worked on countless pregnant women, I can tell you the benefits are enormous. Massage can help with circulation, decreasing swelling in the hands and feet, relaxing of the shoulders, low back and hip muscles. It also helps with carpal tunnel and tendinitis which can flair up during pregnancy. When searching for a prenatal massage, make sure the therapist is trained to work with expectant mothers. There are certain points on the body that should not be massaged during pregnancy, specifically some spots on the hands and feet.

healthy pregnancy, massageMost pregnancy massage is performed with the woman on her side and pillows, but some therapists have special tables that accommodate bellies and breasts. As long as the mother feels okay to lie on her back, some of the session is done in that position also. Make sure you communicate openly with the therapist about how you are feeling and if something is uncomfortable. And pregnant women can typically handle deeper massage, so have the therapist go as deep as you’d like.

Chiropractic Adjustments
A great companion to massage is chiropractic. I’m a big fan of this modality and during pregnancy it can be a great help for body pain. Studies have shown that more than half of all expectant mothers will experience low back pain at some point in the pregnancy. Between the postural changes and the weight gain (averaging 25-35 pounds) it’s no wonder that the body can feel uncomfortable. Chiropractic doctors such as Crystal Clinton in Santa Barbara, CA work specifically with the pelvis to restore balance. It helps with pelvis muscles, ligaments and can lead to a safer, quicker delivery.

Chiropractic adjustments, says Clinton, “Reduces interference to the nerve system allowing your uterus to function at its maximum potential.” And studies do show it reduces labor time. Another bonus is that chiropractic can oftentimes turn around a breech birth saving the mother a C-section. If you want to try chiropractic choose someone that specializes in pregnancy. And there are a few reasons not to get chiropractic such as bladder or bowel dysfunction, bleeding, cramping, faintness, and others. Check with your primary care provider if you have any questions.

healthy pregnancy, homeopathyHomeopathy
Most herbs are not recommended during pregnancy, but homeopathics are a safe and effective way to augment the body’s natural systems. Steven Brynoff of Mediral tells us that homeopathic remedies can work for: Morning sickness, constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and general circulation, pain and discomfort, insomnia, infections, incontinence, breech birth, late labor, slowing or speeding up labor, and exhaustion.

Homeopathy works on the principle that “like cures like” and by the time the medicine is made it contains no trace of the substance that was used to make it. This is how you can take a dose of Arsenicum Album (white arsenic) and not get sick. In fact, a homeopathic dose of arsenic will treat the symptoms that mimic an arsenic overdose. It’s best when working with homeopathics, to choose a qualified practitioner. Since the remedies are chosen on each person’s very specific symptoms the premixed remedies available in health food stores may not be as effective as personalized treatment. Sandra Perko PhD says in her book Homeopathy for the Modern Pregnant Woman and Her Infant, “Homeopathy is the safest and most effective method of treatment in the pregnant woman’s emotional and physical wellbeing.”

yogo for pregnant womenYoga
Yoga is a form of exercise that has become very main stream in our society. But did you know that you can continue your practice throughout your pregnancy? Prenatal yoga is available at private yoga studies and many gyms such as the YMCA.
The benefits of prenatal yoga include: Increased strength, flexibility and wellbeing; reduced low back pain and sciatica; aided digestions; reduced swelling and fatigue in the joints. Yoga helps ready the body for giving birth and improves emotional wellbeing. During the labor itself yoga can help by preparing your body for breathing and introducing the concept of vocalization. Some yoga classes also incorporate visualization and meditation; this can be of enormous benefit if you are trying for a drugless birth. Either way, yoga helps bond the body, mind and spirit to smooth the progress of labor.

Acupuncture is not only well known for its help with fertility but can be used to enhance pregnancy and labor. It helps with nausea and vomiting, threatened miscarriage, heartburn, depression and babies in a breech position. Acupuncturist Lori Guynes specializes in women’s health and tells us, “Acupuncture is wonderful to help prepare a woman physically, emotionally and energetically for labor. Acupuncture has been shown to help ripen the cervix and reduce labor time.” When looking for a practitioner, check to see if they have a background in women’s health or labor and delivery.

What the heck is a doula? A doula is basically an assistant that is present for the mother and her partner during the pregnancy and labor. Some people think their spouse or companion will be enough support, but it can’t hurt to have another person with you, stroking your hair, massaging your feet and translating what the doctors and nurses just said to you. Studies have shown that having a doula decreases the length of labor by 25%, decreases cesarean births by 50%, and reduces need for epidurals, forceps, narcotics and pitocin.

Birth Assistant
I feel my role as a birth assistant is to support the mother and her companion and make sure her birth plan is followed. I offer support with homeopathics, Reiki, massage, encouraging words, relieving the spouse so he/she can rest, aromatherapy and anything else the mother could need. I’ve even taken video and photos. Labor can be very emotional for the family members present and having an impartial person like a doula or birth assistant can be a huge help to everyone present.

I hope this quick overview will help you make informed choices about your pregnancy, here’s what some new mothers had to say about their alternative treatment choices:

Tracy Johansson: I loved going to my prenatal yoga class. It helped during the actual labor to be able to maintain my flexibility and work with my body, not against. Practicing squatting helped to keep the suppleness in my legs joints and shorten the birth canal during pushing.

Jennifer Coltran: I had a birth assistant present during both my labors. She lovingly rubbed essential oil on my back and feet and used reiki to promote the progression of my labor when my body slowed down. I was relieved to have her guidance and help along the way.

Marcy Eliassen: As soon as I discovered I was pregnant with twins, my babies health became my number one priority. Being only 5’3” and carrying two huge babies really took a toll on me. When I was put on bed rest my massage therapist went above the call of duty and came to the house twice a week. The massage was truly the only relief I had at that time. It soothed my aching muscles and joints and I believe was one of the key reasons I was able to make it as long as I did without going into premature labor.

Kristin Anderson: Prenatal massage helped with my circulation and brought awareness to my whole body and its rate of change. It also helped release any quibbling fears that showed up in my mind.

Jennifer Hyle: I was growing another human being inside me and knew that every part of my physical being needed as much support and TLC as it could possibly get. I used chiropractic and acupuncture for the first time in my life during my pregnancy. And now two years later, I’ve continued with those practices. I also had a doula and her help and encouragement, especially during labor was invaluable.



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