Read an Excerpt
The Holistic Program for Pregnancy and Childbirth
THE WORD IS SPREADING. The breakthroughs in holistic medicine are announced virtually every day. The best-selling holistic medical books written by Doctors Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Andrew Weil, as well as other practitioners, have brought holistic medicine to center stage.
A self-healing/ transformation approach is at the center of holistic medicine; in fact, the leading proponents of holistic medicine use words such as "transformation" or "transcendence" to describe their approach. In Peace, Love and Healing, Siegel states, "We all have the ability to train our bodies to heal and eliminate illness. I think we can use meditative and lifestyle-altering techniques . . . to gain access to the superintelligence I'm convinced resides within each of us." Chopra writes, in Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/ Body Guide, "If you live in tune with your quantum mechanical body, all of your daily activities will proceed smoothly . . . breathing, eating, digestion, assimilation, and elimination. The most important routine to follow is transcending, the act of getting in touch with the quantum level of yourself."
Holistic Pregnancy and Childbirth was written to help you make your pregnancy and childbirth the most beautiful experience of your life. We believe that you can use the holistic approach to have a more comfortable pregnancy, a shorter labor, and the joyful delivery of a perfectly healthy baby. From conception through the first few months after delivery, you'll feel more confident and energetic using the natural holistic methods outlined in this book. They are designed to help you sleep more soundly, nourish yourself on delicious, nutritious foods, and enjoy a wonderful sexual intimacy with your partner. And we hope that, like the women profiled in this book, you will be able to deliver your baby without drugs or surgery, unless absolutely necessary.
Holistic Pregnancy and Childbirth addresses the concerns you are likely to have about your baby's development; possible complications; emergencies that require intervention; diet; and methods of preventing and treating the normal pain and discomfort of pregnancy,labor, birth, and the period immediately following birth (postpartum).
Individual chapters guide you in monitoring physical changes in yourself and your baby; choosing a holistic caregiver, preparing a Holistic Birth Plan; designing an optimum meal plan and personal exercise program; practicing a daily relaxation program of yoga, visualization, meditation, and breathing exercises; deciding where you want to have your baby; choosing a method of labor and delivery that will reduce the risk of complications and the need for surgical interventions, such as a cesarean delivery (C-section) or episiotomy; adopting holistic approaches to bonding, postpartum recovery, and breastfeeding; and preventing common baby discomforts during the first precious weeks of your child's life.
In choosing the holistic approaches recommended in this book, we used the following criteria:
1. Every procedure must be holistic. Holistic medicine is mind/body medicine. It is applied as though you and your fetus constitute a single, whole organism. Pain relief during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum should stimulate the body to produce its own natural painkillers-the endorphins.
2. Every procedure must be noninvasive and safe for the mother and baby. As Hippocrates once said, "Above all else, do no harm." This book does not recommend practices and procedures that are not supported by scientific evidence as necessary for a healthy pregnancy, including enemas, IV (intravenous) drips, oxytocin-induced labor, episiotomy, or cesarean deliveries; electronic fetal monitoring is also not recommended by the authors. Although any of these procedures may be recommended in an emergency, you should make the final decision to allow their use only after your caregiver has presented clinical evidence that the procedure is necessary and safe for you and your baby.
3. Every procedure must be effective and focus on the prevention of discomfort and complications rather than merely the treatment of disorders once they develop. From acupuncture to yoga, every procedure recommended in this book is designed to help strengthen the immune system and prevent problems that might be caused by nutritional deficiencies or psychological or physiological stress.
The comprehensive holistic program outlined in this book is based on information compiled from four principal sources: (1) recommendations and suggestions of members of our Medical Advisory Board; (2) guidelines and recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO), the National Association of Childbirth Centers, Informed Birth and Parenting, the International Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth, the International Childbirth Education Association, La Leche League International, the San Francisco Medical Research Foundation, the Read Childbirth Foundation, the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the National Association of Childbirth Assistants (NACA); (3) new clinical research on conception, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and maternal and newborn care reported in medical journals worldwide; and (4) firsthand accounts and profiles of midwives and mothers who used holistic methods during pregnancy and childbirth. References to citations, monthly checkup checklists, and organizations to contact for additional information are listed at the back of the book.
TYPES OF HOLISTIC THERAPIES
Holistic medicine involves many specialized procedures, each of which might be said to constitute a spoke on a medicine wheel. The combination of holistic approaches recommended in this book constitutes a program that has been clinically proven safe and effective for conception, pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and newborn care. Many of these approaches are used in different parts of the world, including India (Ayurvedic), China (traditional Chinese medicine), Greece (naturopathic), Europe (homeopathic), and the United States (allopathic). They include acupuncture and acupressure, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, Bach flower remedies, breathing techniques, botanical medicine, chiropractic, nutrition and supplements, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, hypnosis, intimacy exercises, massage, meditation, osteopathy, qigong, physical activity, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and yoga. An overview of these approaches follows. In appropriate chapters, you'll discover how to use each of them to have a healthy and comfortable pregnancy.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are the most widely used holistic procedures for childbirth in the East. They originated in China more than 5,000 years ago and are used to stimulate the vital life force (called chi) which flows through thirteen channels (meridians) in the body.
Acupuncturists use needles to stimulate the meridians, which trigger the release of endorphins-natural substances released by nerves to relieve pain. It might seem odd to stick a pregnant woman with needles, but the needles penetrate just below the skin's surface and don't draw blood or cause any discomfort for you or your baby. Acupressure (also called shiatsu) therapists use their fingers and thumbs to stimulate chi points on the surface of the body.
Both acupuncture and acupressure have been used safely to relieve certain disorders-such as high blood pressure, digestive disorders, skin problems, fatigue, bladder and kidney problems, headaches, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, and muscle tension-even during pregnancy. Acupuncture has also been used to stimulate labor and to relieve pain while babies in the breech position are turned.
Whether you would benefit from acupuncture or acupressure depends on the severity of your symptoms and the availability of skilled practitioners in your community. Acupuncture should be performed by a licensed professional; we strongly recommend that you select a practitioner who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. Acupressure can be self-administered, although you should first consult with a licensed therapist to identify the chi points for specific discomforts precisely. We've included the names and location of appropriate acupressure points in each chapter for illustrative purposes, only.
You might not realize it, but we're all extremely sensitive to aromas. If we faint, for example, a whiff of smelling salts will usually quickly revive us.
Aromas have also been used during pregnancy to relieve many discomforts, including nausea, heartburn, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. In aromatherapy, essential oils derived from the leaves, barks, roots, flowers, resins, or seeds of plants are inhaled or applied to the skin, or added to a bath for skin and muscle problems. The chemical makeup of each oil is believed to be responsible for its pharmacological properties, which include antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic, diuretic (promoting urine flow), vasodilatory (widening blood vessels to increase blood flow), and vasoconstrictor (narrowing blood vessels to decrease blood flow) effects.
Because inhaled aromas are transferred very quickly from the nose to the brain, they are especially effective in stimulating endorphin production and relieving anxiety and tension.
In his book, Quantum Healing, Dr. Deepak Chopra describes how he cured a 39-year-old woman with lymphatic cancer by using Ayurvedic medicine. The treatment included healthy food choices, Indian herbs, massage, meditation, and yoga.
In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means "the science of life and longevity." According to Chopra, "The guiding principle of Ayurveda is that the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body, and freedom from sickness depends upon contacting our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This state of balanced awareness . . . creates a higher state of health." Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of physical and psychological therapies, including yoga, massage, aromatherapy, diet, meditation, and botanical medicine. During your pregnancy, it may help relieve morning sickness, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, flatulence, migraines, nasal congestion, vaginal infections, and backaches.
The first healing system known to be based on flower essences was developed in 1930 by the Welsh homeopath, Edward Bach, a physician and pathologist who experimented with "the healing secrets of wildflowers" to cure himself of depression. Bach believed that certain wildflowers had subtle life energies that could heal specific emotional disorders. By the time of his death, he had invented thirty-eight remedies based on wildflowers, including honeysuckle, holly, and wild rose.
Bach flower remedies, which are taken either as tinctures (alcohol-based solutions) or in capsules, are used to relieve many of the results of stress during pregnancy, especially migraine headaches and insomnia. Midwives and naturopathic obstetricians in Canada and Britain are trained to use Bach flowers to treat pregnant women, and have reportedly used them to prevent miscarriages. Midwives now routinely recommend one Bach flower formula, Rescue Remedy, to relieve fatigue and dizziness during pregnancy and pain and discomfort during labor.
Twenty-five years ago, Western doctors developed electronic equipment called biofeedback machines to help patients regulate involuntary responses to stress. People suffering from migraine headaches, for example, can be connected to biofeedback machines that monitor their body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, or brainwaves. While hooked up to a biofeedback machine, patients can be trained to consciously alter these functions; for example, to lower their blood pressure.
Biofeedback has been used during pregnancy and labor to relieve discomfort due to incontinence, postural changes, back pain, gastrointestinal disorders, and fatigue, as well as tension and migraine headaches.
For centuries before the advent of manufactured drugs, pregnant women throughout the world took botanical medicines, which contain plant extracts, to strengthen the immune system and relieve many of the common discomforts of pregnancy. In China, pregnant women are still not usually given prescription drugs by their care-givers, but rather packets of herbs, or botanical medicines.
All botanical medicines, teas, infusions, and poultices recommended in this book have been used safely and effectively by pregnant women. Some, like chamomile tea, have been used safely and effectively to aid digestion and relieve insomnia. Others, like nettle tea, have been used to relieve anemia, leg cramps, and kidney troubles. Fennel tea and slippery elm tea have been used to reduce indigestion and morning sickness. Mu tea is believed to help give you energy, as is Japanese bancha or kukicha tea. These teas are still routinely recommended by midwives and herbalists for pregnant women. Nevertheless, as an added precaution, you should discuss the use of any botanical remedy with your caregiver.
Learning how to breathe properly might seem about as necessary as learning how to scratch an itch or blink. Because we do it automatically from the day we're born, we take it for granted that we know how to breathe correctly.
Studies show, however, that most pregnant women don't always breathe as efficiently as they should. Improper breathing-especially rapid, shallow breathing (hyperventilation)-heightens your body's response to stress, thereby increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and the concentration of stress hormones (including cortisol and epinephrine [adrenaline]) in your blood. The stress response can affect the health of both you and your baby. In Chapter 4, we describe many breathing exercises designed to reduce the stress response.
Correct breathing is vital for relaxation and for increasing the amount of oxygen supplied to you and your baby. Your baby's lungs are still developing and can't get oxygen on their own until they mature (at birth). Therefore, the fetus takes oxygen from your blood as it passes through the placenta straight into its own bloodstream. By breathing correctly, you're more likely to supply your baby with as much oxygen as it needs.
Breathing exercises are also integral to meditation and autosuggestion, or self-hypnosis. They're also excellent ways of strengthening your abdominal and pelvic muscles for delivery and increasing your respiratory efficiency throughout your pregnancy.
Therapeutic manipulation of the skeleton, particularly of the spine, was commonly used by Greek physicians as early as the fourth century A. D. Chiropractic, meaning "done by hand" in Greek, was developed by Daniel David Palmer, who performed his first spinal adjustment in 1895 and claimed that he used it to cure a patient of deafness. Palmer deduced that the nervous system was the ultimate control mechanism of the body and that the adjustment of even minor misalignments of the spine (which he called subluxations) could safely and effectively relieve many disorders.
Chiropractic has been used to treat a variety of normal but, nevertheless, uncomfortable conditions during pregnancy, including fatigue, morning sickness, heartburn, headaches, neck pain, back pain, and labor pain.
Homeopathy was founded in the late eighteenth century by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, who discovered that very small, diluted doses of certain botanical medicines can stimulate the body's immune system to combat illness. As a result, he prescribed remedies to enhance rather than suppress symptoms. Homeopathy is based on the law of similars, which states that any substance capable of making you ill may also cure you if it is administered in a dose that is small enough to treat the symptoms. The homeopathic remedies recommended for pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period are widely considered safe and effective, but you should always discuss them with your caregiver or homeopath before using them.
A homeopathic remedy is prepared by repeatedly diluting a substance and shaking it vigorously between dilutions. The shaking process, known as succussion, releases the healing power of the substance; the dilution process minimizes its side effects. The more diluted the remedy, the more potent it becomes, so only a minute quantity is needed to be effective.
Homeopathic remedies have been used to treat a variety of problems during pregnancy, including nausea, vomiting, respiratory and digestive disorders, urinary problems, anemia, fluid retention, and slightly elevated blood pressure. Homeopathic remedies may also be beneficial during childbirth. A Swiss study conducted by Bernard Hochstrasser found that pregnant women with anemia experienced "fewer hemorrhages and decreased abnormal contractions" during labor when they were given homeopathic remedies instead of conventional drugs.
Hydrotherapy was developed in 1820 by Dr. Vincenz Priessnitz, who collected data on the healing powers of water and temperature change. Methods of hydrotherapy include sitz (sitting) baths, douches, spas and hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, showers, immersion baths, poultices, and foot baths.
Hydrotherapy has been proven effective in relieving many discomforts associated with elevated blood pressure and pressure against the spine during the late stages of pregnancy. A study conducted by Dr. Dean Edell found that taking a bath in 92¦ F water fifty minutes a day for five days relieved edema, the normal but uncomfortable swelling that results from water retention during pregnancy. Be sure to consult with your caregiver before starting any water immersion program, and avoid immersing yourself in water (including baths) that is hotter than 96¦ F.
In their book, Beyond Biofeedback, Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Clinic describe a patient with a painful pelvic tumor the size of a grapefruit. The patient was hypnotized and told to find the "room" in his brain that had the valves controlling the blood supply to his body and to mentally "turn off" the valve that controlled the blood flow to his tumor. He did so, and within two months of hypnosis therapy, the tumor shrank to one fourth its original size.
Several childbirth courses, including the ASPO/ Lamaze and Bradley methods, incorporate hypnosis in their methods of preparing women for childbirth (see Chapter 5). Hypnosis can help you cope with pain and fear throughout pregnancy and childbirth. By helping you convert negative images into positive visualizations, it can also be used effectively to relieve stress or help you give up smoking or drinking alcohol. You will also find it helpful for relieving headaches, facial neuralgia, and sciatica. Hypnosis has even been used in place of local anesthesia during cesarean deliveries (see Chapter 11).
Your feelings of intimacy with your partner can also affect your baby's development, because a fetus can sense your emotions. Arguments and conflicts or a lack of social support can stimulate the release of stress hormones, which are transferred through your blood to your fetus. Research has shown, for example, that infants born to mothers who are under emotional stress due to marital problems or the absence of the baby's father are more likely to develop colic than infants born to mothers with a supportive social environment.
An intimate relationship with your partner, on the other hand, will help you maintain the relaxation response and, thus, strengthen your immune system. Research studies show that people who feel loved and supported by their partners tend to develop healthier personal habits, such as relaxing more and maintaining a healthy diet. The results of such habits include fewer illnesses and infections.
Throughout this book, we stress the emotional as well as physical changes that you'll experience during pregnancy and childbirth. If you're single, it's extremely important that you enjoy the intimacy and support of your family and close friends throughout your pregnancy. Besides accompanying you to your monthly checkups and childbirth education classes, they can lend an ear when you need to talk about your concerns and fears. Someone close to you can also act as a coach, supporter, and advocate during labor and childbirth.
Human touch has long been recognized as a powerful healing agent, soothing and even curing many physical discomforts of pregnancy. In India and Japan, massage is an important part of a midwife's training and is used to prepare both mother and baby for birth and the postnatal period.
A full body massage stimulates nerve endings in the skin and the amniotic sac and improves the flow of blood and lymph so that oxygen, nutrients, and waste products can be transported more efficiently. It will also help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Massage is especially effective in relieving pain during labor, because it stimulates the release of endorphins. The Bradley and ASPO/ Lamaze childbirth programs teach pregnant women to massage the perineum (the small space between the anus and the vagina) before delivery to prevent pain and reduce the risk of tearing during delivery.
Dr. Bernie Siegel's book, Love, Medicine & Miracles, defines meditation as "an active process of focusing the mind into a state of relaxed awareness." In our book, you'll find a description of several different types of meditation, including methods that focus attention on sound (mantras), on images (mandalas), and on breathing.
The purpose of all meditation methods, according to Siegel, is ultimately the same: "to induce a restful trance which strengthens the mind by freeing it from its accustomed turmoil." He notes that meditation lowers or normalizes blood pressure, pulse rate, and stress hormone levels in the blood. It can also help lower abnormally high cholesterol levels, increase your ability to concentrate, heighten your sense of personal happiness, overcome negative thinking, and reduce anger.
Nutrition and Supplements
Socrates once said, "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." His observation is certainly true about nutrition during pregnancy, because the nutrients you do (or don't) consume help determine your health and the health of your baby. Your food intake during the first days of pregnancy is crucial, because the only way the child in your womb can receive the nutrients and oxygen it needs for growth is from your blood. If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can cause irreversible damage that may not become fully apparent until your child is born or reaches maturity.
The safest way to ensure that you're getting the nutrients your child requires is to have your caregiver evaluate your food intake on a regular basis. In Chapter 3, we provide an outline of a nutritional program for each trimester based on the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) developed by the National Food and Nutrition Board.
Vitamins and minerals are essential chemical compounds; that is, they must be included in your diet to ensure the healthy growth of your baby. They are only needed in small amounts to build, maintain, and repair tissues, and are usually available in diets that feature a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In Chapter 3, we describe the essential vitamins and minerals you need during pregnancy, what each does for your body, and which foods contain them.
Along with diet, nutrition therapy (the use of vitamin and mineral supplements) is effective for relieving many of the discomforts and complications of pregnancy. We recommend taking supplements of essential nutrients, including vitamins C, B complex, and folic acid (vitamin B9 ), and the minerals zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium if you cannot consume adequate amounts of nutrient-rich foods. Our recommendations appear in Chapter 4.
Because several of his own children died from drug overdoses, Andrew Taylor Still, an American Civil War physician, developed a new therapy called osteopathy or bone treatment. Still believed that many diseases could be healed by manipulating bones and joints (especially in the cranium and spine) to increase blood circulation and improve nerve function. Still was able to find positions and movements to adjust (or crack) most of the larger joints of the body.
Osteopathy has been used to relieve spinal and joint pain, sciatica, allergies, breathing problems, fatigue, and headaches, and to lower blood pressure. Cranial osteopathy is considered especially helpful for relieving pain due to sore or tight pelvic, spinal, or neck muscles during pregnancy. It's also helpful for relieving depression, insomnia, and physical or psychological stress. Your newborn baby may also benefit from osteopathy if its skull or spine were traumatized during birth. Furthermore, since doctors of osteopathy (D.O.s) have medical degrees, they can help resolve other concerns that arise during pregnancy.
Giving birth to a baby is a high-endurance physical activity that will severely strain most of the skeletal muscles in your body. The better your physical condition throughout pregnancy, the less stressful your labor and childbirth will be. Studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy experience fewer complications and less pain during labor.
In Chapter 4, we provide guidelines for a safe and effective program of exercise throughout your pregnancy. Even if you did not exercise regularly before you became pregnant, you can safely begin this workout now. The most beneficial first-time physical activities for pregnant women include swimming, yoga, and brisk walking, because they are safe and help maintain circulation, strengthen your abdominal muscles, and may relieve many discomforts of pregnancy, including cramps, fatigue, headaches, varicose veins, and a variety of muscle aches and pains.
For muscular and cardiovascular conditioning, poise, balance, breathing, relaxation-and yes, even the ability to bust a board with your bare hands-martial arts, such as qigong, offer incredible benefits. They help you channel energy throughout your body to help you relax and breathe more efficiently. Many studies have proven that qigong reduces heart rate, blood pressure, depressive episodes, and addiction, and triggers the release of endorphins.
Qigong (pronounced chee gong) is an ancient Chinese exercise that combines calisthenics movements with breathing to stimulate the flow of qi (pronounced chi), the vital life energy that flows through the acupuncture meridians (energy pathways). Several variations of qigong are helpful during pregnancy and labor. In the first form, you sit in a relaxed pose and use your mental energy to channel your qi to specific parts of your body, especially your womb. In the second form, breathing meditations are coordinated with graceful, dance-like movements that also channel qi through the meridians. Today, most hospitals in China include qigong as part of their prenatal programs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
According to an old Chinese prayer, "When you have a disease, do not try to cure it. Find your chi and you will be healed." In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), foods, herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi, moxibustion (application of heat to acupuncture points), and massage are used to increase or decrease the flow of chi as needed.
Traditional Chinese medicine is also useful if you develop cramps during pregnancy caused by chi stagnation (the inability of vital energy to move freely through the body) in the lower abdomen, blood stasis (blood pooling), or a combination of both. It has also been used to relieve insomnia and shrink varicose veins.
Siegel's Love, Medicine & Miracles reported a clinical trial in which a young boy with an inoperable brain tumor used visualization to make his tumor disappear. He learned self-regulation techniques that helped him "control his body with his mind, imagining for example, rockets ships flying around in his head shooting at the tumor." This simple form of imagery induced his immune system to attack and eventually eliminate his tumor.
If we can vividly imagine we're relaxing, we-like Siegel's patient-can guide our brain into doing it, thus inducing the relaxation response. Several visualization exercises that are important during pregnancy and childbirth are described in this book. Studies have shown that mothers who have negative and fearful images of labor and childbirth tend to have upset, colicky babies. Mothers who visualize positive images before birth tend to have calmer babies and enjoy more satisfying relationships with their children after birth.
Pregnancy is an incredible miracle-a very physical miracle. Virtually every part of your body will undergo physiological changes. Hormonal secretions will relax and soften the ligaments that hold your joints together to allow them to expand in preparation for birth. Your body fluid levels will increase by 20 percent, and your heart will work harder to ensure that the increased blood volume is pumped throughout your body so that an adequate supply reaches the placenta as well as your own vital organs. The workload for your kidneys also increases because the kidneys filter blood and excrete waste products for both you and your baby. In addition, your digestion slows down as hormones soften the muscles of the digestive tract.
The yoga exercises outlined in this book will help increase your rates of circulation, elimination, and respiration and improve your energy level. The meaning of the word yoga is union-the integration of physical, mental, and spiritual energies. Yoga involves many different forms of physical (stretching), breathing, and mental exercises. Some yoga practices also incorporate visualization, progressive relaxation exercises, and meditation. In Chapter 5, we describe several yoga exercises that gently relieve back, neck, and joint pain, and automatically regulate your heartbeat and breathing.
As you gradually discover a greater degree of suppleness and freedom of movement, you will become increasingly comfortable in positions and movements that are natural to labor and gain confidence in your ability to cope with painful contractions. When the time comes to give birth, you will know instinctively how to use your body, letting it flow with the contractions and enabling your pelvis to expand more easily as your baby moves through the birth canal.
The Chinese have an ancient saying about the wisdom of "walking on both feet," which means using the best of Eastern and Western medical procedures. "Walking on both feet" aptly describes the holistic approach to pregnancy and childbirth presented in this book. The suggestions presented here form a comprehensive, safe, and clinically proven program. Your miraculous journey toward childbirth is about to begin.