During pregnancy the mothers body becomes more sensitive and receptive, while her body exhibits unusual symptoms as many hormonal and physical changes take place. Pregnancy is a time when it is most important for her to listen to her body and pay attention to any symptoms that she is experiencing. The symptoms that arise during pregnancy can indicate certain deficiencies or imbalances in the woman’s state of health. She should try to correct any imbalances and relieve any discomforts that appear during pregnancy using safe and natural methods.
Listed below are gentle methods to help relieve common pregnancy related disturbances such as, cravings, morning sickness, heartburn, edema, stretch marks, pain and stiffness, pregnancy induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, and difficult or delayed delivery.
Constipation can be caused by the weight and pressure of the fetus, the effects of relaxin upon the bowels, the increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy or a poor quality iron supplement (Ferrous Sulphate).
- Increase the consumption of fiber rich foods such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. Snacking on prunes or drinking prune juice is a simple, gentle way to promote bowel movements.
- Make sure to include magnesium rich foods in the diet, as magnesium is essential for proper bowel function. Natural sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, honey, wheat bran, whole grains, tofu, spinach and other green vegetables.
- Consider taking psyllium husk (Plantago ovata) which is a gentle fiber that encourages regular bowel movements. Psyllium is safe and will not make the bowels dependent because it works by encouraging peristalsis in the bowels rather than purgatory action like many herbal laxatives. Always take psyllium on an empty stomach (about 30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours afterward) and with large amounts of water, otherwise it will absorb water from your bowels and may worsen the condition.
- If taking and Iron supplement check that it is a non-constipating form.
- The regular administration of warmed sesame oil (15-30ml) in the form of an will aid in relieving constipation and help to draw out excess air in the colon.
- If other methods have been unsuccesful administer a larger enema (1.5 -2 litres). Herbal enemas should be avoided, especially in early stages of pregnancy. Safe enemas include using salt water alone, or a combination of 1Tbsp sea salt with one Tbsp baking soda. Another safe enema is using 6 cups of water with 2 cups of milk and a Tbsp of olive oil.
Cravings during pregnancy can sometimes be abnormal or unusual and are usually a sign of a deficiency or imbalance in the body. A woman who craves pickles or other acidic foods may be too alkaline in her stomach. A craving for salty foods may indicate that she is dehydrated or that her body has become too acidic. The desire to chew on ice indicates a need for iron and a craving for chalk indicates a need for calcium. These are just some of many common cravings experienced during pregnancy. Whatever the craving, the woman should not ignore it, she should interpret the reason for the craving and find wholesome ways of satisfying it.
Morning sickness is the feeling of nausea or vomiting while pregnant. It does not occur only in the morning, such feelings can actually be felt throughout the day and even in the late afternoon. It occurs most often in the morning because that is when blood sugar levels are low. Factors that contribute to morning sickness include toxins in the body, the build up of hormonal by-products in the bloodstream, overly acidic blood, digestive problems or dietary deficiencies.
- Morning sickness or nausea can be aggravated by strong odors, so avoid contact with perfumes, incense, and other strong smells.
- Staying hungry may also contribute to morning sickness. A pregnant woman may not feel like eating very much, but she may find it easier to eat many smaller meals throughout the day rather than 2 or 3 larger meals. Spreading meals throughout the day may also help to prevent indigestion which can be another cause of nausea.
- Avoid eating spicy or oily foods as these may contribute to indigestion.
- Small amounts of ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be taken to ease morning sickness. A tea made out of fresh ginger root is best as they dry form of ginger may be too heating.
- Teas of spearmint (Mentha spicata) or peppermint (Mentha piperita) are also found to be effective in cases of morning sickness. If there is a strong urge to vomit, a tea from coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum) may help.
- Smelling a fresh cut lemon or squeezing half a lemon in water and sipping it thought the day may also help to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness.
- Sometimes supplementation with B6 can help ease morning sickness. A lack of B6 is one of the common deficiencies of pregnancy and may also cause low blood sugar levels. If a lack of B6 is suspected 100mg of vitamin B6 should be taken daily with 50mg of B-complex vitamins.
- Gentle walking everyday will improve circulation and aid the body in ridding the hormonal by-products which contribute to feeling of nausea.
Heartburn can occur more often during pregnancy because of the increased pressure on the stomach from the growing fetus and from the influence of the increased level of hormones in the body. These hormones can cause a relaxation of the sphincter that separates the stomach and esophagus making it more likely that food and acids in the stomach can come back up.
- Relief can be found by sipping milk, eating a few raw almonds, or by sucking on a slippery elm lozenge. (Ulmus fulva).
- To prevent heartburn limit the intake of spicy foods, oily foods, and acidic foods including tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, vinegar and coffee.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals rather than large meals and do not rush though eating.
- It is also important to drink large amounts of fluids away from meals because excess fluids at meal time will distend the stomach and may force foods back up into the esophagus.
- Since water retention can be caused by an excess of sodium in the body salt intake should be monitored if experiencing edema.
- Diuretics such as barley powder (Hordeum vulgare), dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), or the Ayurvedic herb shatavari (Asperagus racemosus) are gentle and effective in relieving edema during pregnancy. These are best taken in a tea form. Remember that taking diuretics late in the evening or before bed will increase the need to urinate throughout the night, so it is best to take these earlier in the day.
- Vitamin B6 is a effective and safe diuretic since edema may actually be a symptom of a lack of B6 in the body. The B vitamins work in synergy, so always take B6 along with the other B vitamins (100mg B6 with 50mg B-complex)
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension:
- Since a higher than normal blood pressure can also be caused by the body retaining too much sodium during pregnancy the diuretics mentioned for edema will also be useful here.
- Another cause of high blood pressure during pregnancy could be stress. In this case the pregnant woman should assess her lifestyle and make changes to reduce the factors which cause her stress.
A woman who has never had diabetes before, can develop diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes goes away after birth, but will increase the mothers chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes can also result in an overweight baby.
- Control the diabetes with diet by cutting out simple carbohydrates and by eating proteins, fat and carbohydrates together in order to slow blood sugar release. After the pregnancy review the diet and support the pancreas.
- If there has been a family history of gestational diabetes, it is a good idea to work on prevention before and throughout pregnancy. Ensuring a proper diet is the best preventative, but extra support can be considered. In Ayurvedic medicine the herb amrut (Tinospora cordifolia) is commonly given during pregnancy for the prevention of diabetes during pregnancy.
- The daily application of oil to the belly, breasts and thighs will keep the skin moisturized and supple thus preventing stretch marks and sagging. Since everything put on to the skin is absorbed into the bloodstream it is essential that during pregnancy only good quality natural oils are used. Wheat germ oil is a good source of Vitamin E which helps in the prevention and reduction of scarring. Other oils that are suitable include unrefined sesame oil (for mothers which are more sensitive to becoming cold) and almond or coconut oil (for mothers who are more prone to becoming hot).
- It is also helpful to increase the intake of foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc as these nutrients are essential for the overall health and rejuvenation of the skin.
Pain and Stiffness:
Pain in the joints and stiff, stressed muscles can be aided by the regular application of oil to the body. The mother should apply oil to herself at home and it will also be beneficial for her to get pregnancy massage. A pregnant woman can start to receive massage from the 3rd month onwards up until the time of delivery. Begin with massage once every two weeks but try to increase the frequency as the pregnancy progresses.
Difficult or Delayed Delivery:
- Raspberry Leaf tea (Rubus idaeus) is commonly taken in the last trimester of pregnancy to provide essential nutrients, to strengthen the uterus, and to help the pelvic bones to relax. As a result of taking raspberry leaf, a pregnant woman may experience more efficient contractions and a shortening of the second stage of labor as well as a greater ease of labor in general. It is recommended to drink 2-4 cups daily starting from the 32nd week of pregnancy.
- During the final weeks of pregnancy or during labor, teas from vervain (Verbene officinalis), wood betony (Stachys officinalis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) or motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) will help to stimulate delivery. Do not take these herbs earlier in the pregnancy as they are uterine stimulants in higher doses and take only under the supervision of a herbalist or midwife.
- If delivery is delayed oil can be applied over the abdomen along with warm towels to provide a slight heating in order to promote the downward movement of the baby. Heating oils like mustard seed oil can be used for this purpose.
- An enema administered before giving birth will promote downward movement and provide more space in the abdomen for the passage of the baby.
- Cecile Savereux, Lecture: Life Cycle Considerations
- Dr. Sapna B.A.M.S, Lecture: Garbopacharam (Pregnancy Care)
- Penelope Ody, Herbs for A Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth
- Linda B. White, M.D, Wise Use of Herbs and Vitamins during Pregnancy
- Wikipedia: Red Raspberry Leaf
Photo: Subbotina Anna