By Barbara Lewis BSc, DHom, DHerb, MNIMH Dr Barbara Lewis is a registered herbalist and homeopath in practice for the past 24 years. She has taught homeopathy at the Durban Technicon, and has recently co-authored a self-help book on homeopathy. Dr Lewis practices at the Refuah Healing Centre in Sea Point and in Rondebosch, Cape Town.
The major benefit of homeopathy during pregnancy is that it is completely safe. Because homeopathic remedies are energetic substances, there are no iatrogenic (treatment-induced) effects on the mother or developing fetus.
For pregnancy Often the first remedies that are required are for nausea in the early stages of pregnancy. The presence of nausea is a sign that the pregnancy is well established, with the corpus luteum producing sufficient progesterone to maintain the developing fetus. First-aid remedies for nausea include Ipecahuanha.
Ipecac in material doses can induce vomiting, while in the diluted and potentised homeopathic form it is used for treating nausea and vomiting. This is an example of the "law of similars'. The nausea is aggravated by the thought or smell of food, motion and warmth, and is not alleviated by vomiting. There may be a lot of saliva in the mouth.
The pregnant woman feels sleepy, irritable and bad-tempered, and is not sure what she wants (rather like the Chamomilla constitutional type). The Ipecac remedy can be taken in a 6 CH or 30 CH potency (healing strength) quite frequently every hour or two to reduce the intensity of the nausea. Other frequently indicated nausea remedies include Nux vomica, (described in more detail in the previous issue of the Journal: Self-medication with homeopathy. 2005; 21: 77-79), where the nausea is worse in the morning after eating and she feels better after vomiting, although there is often more sour retching than vomiting.
The region of the stomach is highly sensitive to pressure. The woman feels chilly, overly irritable and fussy that things should be "just so'. Tabacum is indicated by incessant nausea with pallor, icy coldness, and giddiness on rising or looking upward with a faint sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, and cold sweat. Uncovering her stomach strangely relieves her. Not surprisingly she feels despondent, anxious and weepy.
Phosphorus, a constitutional remedy, is indicated by nausea and vomiting with a decidedly characteristic pattern. She has a thirst for ice-cold water that is vomited up as soon as it gets warm in the stomach. Even putting her hands in warm water makes her want to vomit. She often craves ice cream and chocolate as well as salty and spicy food. There is an empty hollow sensation in the stomach and emotionally she wants to be petted, praised and reassured.
Many women need Sepia at the beginning of their pregnancy if the symptom picture matches that of the Sepia symptom picture. This constitutional remedy is often prescribed by professional homeopaths for hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy and postpartum. There is a state of extreme depletion and fatigue with weepiness, and a sense of indifference to and detachment from her husband and family. She is exceedingly critical, irritable and often makes sarcastic remarks. She feels sour and desires sour foods such as vinegar and pickles. Her nausea feels a bit better if she is constantly nibbling at food, and exercise or even dancing surprisingly ameliorates her fatigue.
Of course gentle exercise such as walking and yoga diminishes nausea and promotes general good health. A homeopathic constitutional remedy prescribed by a professional homoeopath will often make the whole pregnancy much easier both physically and emotionally.
It is often advisable to take Calc phos, Calc flour and Ferrum phos tissue salts daily from the second trimester onwards to support the mother's uptake of calcium and iron and thereby protect her teeth and bones. For indigestion and heartburn (depending on the symptoms presented), one should think of remedies such as Arsen alb (anxiety, burning pain, thirst for sips of hot water, feels chilly, and is tidy), Bryonia (irritable, incredibly thirsty, no desire to move and feels better if she stays really still), Nux vomica (overly irritable, hunger despite the pain, oversensitive and stressed) and Pulsatilla (thirstless, vulnerable, weepy, changeable, wanting attention and fuss).
Pulsatilla can often help breech presentations from the 32nd week onwards. The pregnant woman needs to take Pulsatilla 200 CH every 4 hours for 1 day, do nothing the next day, and if necessary repeat the dosage on the third day. Discontinue when the baby turns. If there is too little amniotic fluid Nat mur can also be useful for turning a baby, especially in a Nat mur constitutional woman.
To prepare a woman for labour, Caulophyllum 6 CH (birthroot) taken daily helps to soften the cervix. Cimicifuga (black cohosh) also in a 6 CH potency helps to reduce the intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions, and a general level of anxiety and fear of the birth. It too can be taken in a 6 CH potency a month before her due date.
A woman needing Cimicifuga to help her labour often goes on an ironing or cleaning nesting spree just before labour starts, earning Cimicifuga the title of "queen of the broom'! Women, who have a very lax musculature or have had a number of babies, can tone their uterine muscles with raspberry leaf tea. It is not indicated for first time pregnancies.
Weak anaemic women with heavy muscular uterine pains during pregnancy find Aletris, "the Arnica of the womb', very helpful.
In my experience, Nat mur is a particularly useful remedy to give just as labour starts, because it can help women having their first child achieve transition emotionally and in the labour proceed from one phase of their lives to a new phase. If failing to dilate, many women can be saved from needing to have a caesar done by taking a single dose of Nat mur of a high potency.
Gelsemium in a high potency could also be given just as labour starts. A woman needing Gelsemium suffers anticipatory anxiety, feels weak, trembly and heavy, and labour pains can be weak, ineffectual and centred in her back. Gelsemium is especially indicated at the transition phase of labour when she feels she can no longer go on.
During labour Caulophyllum will help with pains that slow down and become weak. Belladonna is especially suited to women having their first baby in their late 30s or 40s. They become flushed in the face, quarrelsome and angry under the stress of labour. It is also useful for hot, throbbing, congested breasts as the milk comes in.
Nux vomica and Chamomilla are other remedies to consider for excessive irritability.
After childbirth or a caesarean section, one would first think of Arnica, which involves a sensation of being bruised from within. If Arnica fails to relieve the bruised soreness, think of Bellis perennis that like Ruta also aids stretched ligaments.
Staphysagria should always be considered as a remedy if a woman has had to have a caesar and had her heart set on having a natural birth. Staphysagria involves suffering from repressed anger and resentment from surgical cuts, and perceived injuries and injustices. This is different from the "baby blues' that is a result of the drop of hormones after delivery and before the milk comes in. Sepia is the most indicated remedy to restore balance and harmony.
Phytolacca can help cracked sore nipples with pain radiating from the breast to other parts of the body while nursing.
Urtica urens can help establish the flow of milk and help sore nipples. As can be seen there is a vast body of homeopathic knowledge that will aid and strengthen pregnancy, labour and child rearing, turning it into a labour of love.
Further reading 1: Bloch R, Lewis B. Homoeopathy for the Home. Cape Town: Struik, 2003. 2. Idarius B. The Homeopathic Childbirth Manual. Oaklands, California: Idarius Press, 1996. 3. Geraghty B. Homeopathy for Midwives. London: Churchill Livingstone, 1997. 4. Castro M. Homoeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby's First Year. New York: St Martins Press, 1993.