Naturopathic Medicine During Pregnancy
Naturopathic Medicine is an alternative healthcare practice that works proactively to ensure a healthy pregnancy, labor and birth. Naturopathic Doctors work in partnership with a woman’s family doctor, midwife and/or her obstetrician to provide care that prepares her body for pregnancy and childbirth. This process begins with competent prenatal care and continues through birth and even after the baby is born.
How Can Naturopathy Assist Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) works with the mother-to-be to optimize the way her body functions. Ideally, naturopathic prenatal care would start prior to a woman becoming pregnant. The naturopath provides counseling and education on lifestyle changes. For example, to assist the expectant mother with breast tenderness, a naturopath may educate on types of supportive brassieres to wear, wearing two for additional support — especially during exercise — and using warm compresses for relief.
Naturopaths frequently design a detoxification program with herbs and nutrients to improve gastrointestinal functioning before conception. Herbal tonics may be prescribed based on individual needs. These tonics may address concerns such as morning sickness; ginger candy, mint tea and raspberry leaf tea in the morning are quite effective in addressing early morning digestive concerns. The same raspberry leaf tea with a little ginger helps the uterus to make the most of each contraction.
Expectant mothers and their babies benefit from avoiding the pesticides, preservatives and chemicals in processed, non-organic foods. Naturopaths also address dietary changes, recommending the mother eliminate refined sugar and eat a variety of organically grown vegetables, grains, and cereals, as well as increase omega-3 fatty acids to assist in the normal growth and development of the baby’s nervous system and eyesight. Additionally, naturopathic care affirms conventional health’s prescription of prenatal vitamins such as folic acid and calcium supplements.
Which Naturopathic Therapies Can Help During Pregnancy?
Massage is a key component of naturopathic care. Massage therapy can ease cramps, lower back and hip pain, and chronic tension that can result from the expectant mother’s swaybacked stance, including discomfort in the pelvic area as the hip joints loosen to prepare for childbirth. Massage also can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and facilitate blood flow to internal organs. Furthermore, it can reduce the swelling and discomfort resulting from fluid retention experienced throughout the body during pregnancy.
Acupressure and acupuncture are other possible treatments drawn from traditional Chinese medicine that may be practiced by a Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Acupressure can address morning sickness; pregnant women learn to press a spot just above the wrist that is reported to control nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture has been known to help induce labor and provide pain relief without need for a local or general anesthetic. The advantage of this is there are no adverse affects on the fetus by using this non-drug modality.
Another common naturopathic recommendation is exercise therapy to control excessive weight gain and to stay fit. Walking is helpful, as are specially designed prenatal exercise classes. To relax and help condition the expectant mother’s body and mind for delivery, naturopaths may recommend visualization, meditation and yoga. These techniques are also quite useful to address sleep problems that can occur with pregnancy. There are a number of prenatal yoga classes available for expectant mothers.
What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a Latin-Greek hybrid word that can be defined as being close to or benefiting from nature. Central principles of naturopathy include using healing approaches that derive from nature, encouraging self-responsibility for health, using therapies that promote the body’s ability to return to a state of balance and heal itself, and treatment that takes into account the whole person. A naturopathic doctor typically combines several kinds of therapies, including diet, lifestyle changes, vitamins, minerals, and herbal medicines to prevent illness, treat disease and promote well-being. Naturopaths emphasize education in naturopathic approaches to a healthy lifestyle, strengthening and cleansing the body, and noninvasive treatments. Naturopathy also can integrate therapies from other traditions, such as Homeopathy, Herbal Medicine, Chinese Medicine, and Massage.
Is Naturopathic Medcine Safe?
Naturopathic Medicine appears to be a generally safe health care approach; however, healthcare professionals tend to agree that naturopathy is not a complete substitute for conventional medical care. Some therapies used in naturopathy have the potential to be harmful if not used properly or under the direction of a trained practitioner. For example, herbs can cause side effects on their own and interact with prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Expectant mothers should use only herbs deemed safe and effective for use during pregnancy. Herbs normally used during cooking are fine, but pregnant women should not consider using more potent medicinal herbs without advice from an expert herbalist. Massage during pregnancy is generally very helpful, however the practitioner should avoid massaging certain areas such as the ankles, and pressing on varicose veins or on the abdomen. Finally, any prescribed regimen, such as exercise or yoga, should take into account the physical changes the expectant mother is undergoing during each stage of the pregnancy.
MotherNature.com offers a page on natural pregnancy.
The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine offers a page on Naturopathy.
Getting Pregnant is a website that offers information on the role of naturopathy in getting pregnant.