By Maria Antonescu
Healing Arts in Pregnancy for the New Paradigm Midwife Final Project – June 2021
This was a project done by student Maria Antonescu for the Healing Arts in Pregnancy course. It is a 10 part look at different healing modalities and options for common pregnancy complaints. Enjoy!
Part 1 – Anemia
I’ve been learning about anemia in IB midwifery school and was impressed that the local ‘weed’ stinging nettles came up as a tonic for boosting iron stores. (may not cut it if someone is very anemic!) Aviva Romm suggests drinking it as an infusion by steeping a large handful of dried herbs in one quart of boiling water for a few hours.
Searching for more I found that while nettles have iron, they don’t constipate like iron supplements tend to do. That’s a huge plus. And, they can be used like a regular food – which is important to me.
Nettles are a versatile plant full of Vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and sulphur. That is an impressive list for one plant! A great one to forage and add to meal time. (only forage if you know the plant and know it hasn’t been sprayed or buy dried from a reputable source) http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Pregnancy_Problems.htm
Here’s a link with more information and near the bottom has a list of recipes: https://www.wildnesswithinliving.com/blog/2016/3/16/nettle-net
Have you eaten nettles? What are your favorite recipes?
Part 2 – Constipation
Oh the fun things we learn about in midwifery school! Pooping is important. Not pooping is sad.
In pregnancy the digestive system slows down, plus many people are constipated pre-pregnancy. So what can we do?
Briefly mentioned by Aviva Romm was that syrup of dandelion root, yellow dock (curly dock) root and blackstrap molasses can help people poop.
Loving local herbs (and pooping) I did a little research and found a recipe for a syrup: https://www.greenchildmagazine.com/iron-syrup/
Then, I made the recipe. I recommend half of the syrup be molasses, as these herbs are bitter. Yellow dock is a natural laxative that soothes intestinal lining – can be taken in tincture form too. Dandelion is a lovely liver detoxer. Both stimulate bile production. Great to take 1 – 2 tsp right before a meal to get your digestion ready. Both these plants can be used as food. Food is medicine 😉 Here are ideas for eating dandelions: https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/dandelions/ (always make sure they are from an unsprayed area!) Along with being a mild laxative these tonic herbs help the absorption of iron! That’s a win-win situation. What helps you poo? Did you notice more constipation in pregnancy?
Part 3 – Lemon Balm after Miscarriage
Learning about miscarriages this week in midwifery school I started to ponder simple ways we can help support each other after a miscarriage. It seems people become so afraid of doing/saying the wrong thing when someone is hurting, that we do nothing.
Sharing lemon balm tea can be a simple and meaningful way to show love and share a moment with someone who is grieving.
Lemon balm helps soothe the nervous system and may even help relieve insomnia. (learn more here: https://minnesotaherbalist.com/herbal-healing-in-the-aftermath-of-miscarriage-thoughts-for-practitioners/)
If you’d like a more complex and beautiful tea blend to mix in a cute jar and leave on someone’s doorstep: Lemon balm, linden, chamomile, catnip and rose petals make a relaxing mix. Read here for more ideas: https://abetterwaytothrive.com/healing-your-body-after-miscarriage/
Sitting and sipping on tea is an intimate way to connect – don’t feel the need to babble. Just share the warmth. What tea blends do you like to share with friends? Do you have a special memory of connecting with someone over tea? I do, I’ll share it in the comments.
Part 4 – Massage for emotional wellbeing
“Pregnancy seems to be a key that unlocks doors to old experiences and feelings” writes Aviva Romm in our midwifery reading for the day.
Pregnancy, especially the first, is a time when we think about our relationships to our family members (mothers!) and how we want our relationships with our children to be. We ponder how we want to raise our child. Possibly mourn the small child in us who was not consoled when we needed to be. So many emotions! Many other factors play into the emotional swings we may feel. Weepy, joyful, scared, excited….
Aviva mentioned a massage with diluted relaxing oils can help us sleep and wake rested. Being a massage therapist this peaked my interest – so I dug a little deeper.
A study (https://sci-hub.st/10.1586/eog.10.12) showed massage therapy reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels – which helps the mama feel relaxed and is linked to reducing premature labor (because stress hormones can cause premature labor).
Another study – within the same paper – found pregnant individuals given regular massage (20min twice a week) had less depression in the later parts of pregnancy and postpartum!
These great results were done with the significant other massaging the mama – no professional needed. I recommend either unscented or lightly scented oils, we don’t want to make mama nauseous from smell.
What surprised me most was a study done in Turkey where they gave massage to women experiencing severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy: https://sci-hub.st/10.1111/j.1471-6712.2006.00394.x “The findings show that tactile massage is shown to be a good alternative or at least a good complement in the care and treatment of these women.” Um, wow! For emotional wellbeing and relaxation during pregnancy – massage!! – professional or from your partner will do. You could offer a massage to your pregnant friend 🙂
Did you receive massage during your pregnancy? If so, was it helpful?
Part 5 – Headaches. Relaxation Tea
Tension headaches in pregnancy – ugh!
In today’s midwifery school reading we learned about headaches in pregnancy. For tension headaches (due to tight muscles and stress) Aviva Romm suggests a tea made of nervines – herbs that help relax the nerves.
Her suggestion: chamomile, lemon balm and lavender.
Curious about other tasty and safe herbs to add to tea I found catnip is another good choice to add because it is a mild sedative.
Susan Weed says stinging nettles can help strengthen the adrenal which can be overworked with chronic stress. Nettles are great nourishing in many other ways too! Oatstraw is another good option for reducing anxiety. Red raspberry leaf is a classic herb in pregnancy tea for it’s minerals and uterine toning qualities. Peppermint can be a soothing addition too.
You could mix and match herbs mentioned to create your own tasty and soothing concoction. All herbs mentioned are thought to be safe during pregnancy via experienced herbalists. As always, listen to your body.
What are your favorite tea blends to relax with? What herbs help relieve your headaches?
Part 6 – Raw Almonds to reduce heartburn
Heartburn. Have you experienced it? I had it A LOT while pregnant with my oldest.
While reading about heartburn today in midwifery school, Aviva Romm mentioned a handful of raw almonds as a snack or after a meal can help reduce heartburn via the vagus nerve. Ah, what?!?!
In a bit of disbelief – because I tried a lot of things while pregnant to thwart off the heartburn, but had never heard of simply eating raw almonds!! – I started down the rabbit hole of research.
First thing that came up was an almond testimonial from a person who was offered a couple of almonds after a dinner party to “prevent heartburn”. They had never heard of this before, but ate the almonds and were pleasantly surprised to not need to take their regular zantac. In fact they have continued to eat almonds after meals with pleasing results. https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/articles/almonds-against.
One article writes, “Almonds are an alkaline food that can help neutralize stomach acid and the oils help slow acid production.” The testimonials and articles I read all mentioned needing just a few almonds. Such as a small handful or 3 to 8 – one article theorised that more may cause heartburn due to the fat in almonds. https://howtotreatheartburn.com/heartburn-during-pregnancy/
I was unable to locate any studies done on the matter – but, that isn’t surprising because who would commission the study? Almond farmers? If you’re not allergic, you can experiment with almonds yourself.
Have you ever heard of almonds being used this way? What has helped your heartburn??
Part 7 – Swelling reduced by Massage
I love when midwifery school readings mention massage! This time it was a brief mention to get a foot massage for relief if you have mild swelling of the feet and ankles – Aviva Romm, The Natural Pregnancy Book.
Wanting to know more about the massage/pregnancy connection – as always – I found a study that found that “a 20 min foot massage daily for 5 days significantly reduced physiological lower leg edema in late pregnancy”. Which is great! I would like a 20min foot massage daily!
While looking for scientific articles about massage, pregnancy and swelling I ran across a study that showed hand and foot massage reduced postoperative pain after cesarean birth. I think it’s great that people are doing studies about massage helping with pain and swelling. The people in the studies receiving the regular massage are super smart for signing up for that study!! I feel a little bad for the control group.
Here are the study articles:
Massage can move body fluid manually and also by relieving tension that had been impeding the flow. Did you have foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy? What gave you relief?
Part 8 – Bathtime ritual for relieving insomnia
Need some help sleeping? In midwifery school we are learning about common issues in pregnancy and how to help resolve them – Insomnia or trouble sleeping being one of them. Helpful strategies: baths, aromatherapy, herbal tea, massage and reading a relaxing book – to name a few.
I thought – why not put these together to make a bedtime ritual bath. What makes a bath a ritual and not simply a bath?? Intention.
How to: Decide how you want the bath to make you feel (this is your intention) and then work towards that feeling.
Bathwater: say your intention when turning on the bath water or while adding epsom salts. Aromatherapy: you can add fresh flowers, herbs or essential oils to your bath. A few relaxing choices: lavender, chamomile, or rose petals. Tea: chamomile is a great choice before bedtime – excess fluids before bed might make for excess peeing, so make it a little one. Put it in your favorite cup.
Read a relaxing book or listen to soothing music. Massage: You can give yourself a massage with your favorite natural oil after the bath or have your partner give you one before or after your massage. These are all options. You decide your intention and you set the mood. You can play with lighting. Have a healthy snack that will help keep you full during the night – yes, eat in the bathtub!
If ritual bathing is of interest to you Rosita Arvigo’s book Spiritual Bathing: Healing Rituals and Traditions may be a good book for you to read in the bath.
Along with Rosita’s book here are links to sites that give inspiration of what to add (or take away) from your day to create the way you want to feel – Intention.
What would you add to your ritual bath? What intentions are you setting for yourself?
Part 9 – Urinary incontinence, to kegel or not to kegel
I gasped aloud when I read Aviva Romm recommends kegels if a mama is experiencing urinary incontinence. Oh, kegels can sometimes work in the short term – a butt is what we need for long term relief according to Katy Bowman.
(I do realize The Natural Pregnancy Book was written a bit ago – so no hard feelings towards Aviva)
Why do we tend to assume if something isn’t going the way we want, such as incontinence or back pain, that we need to strengthen something to make it stop. It’s not always a weak pelvic floor that causes incontinence. Our bodies are dynamic and strengthening a few pelvic floor muscles misses the whole picture. If you would like a little visual about what I’m going to describe please check out this link and look at the very basic drawings. https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/1234-we-like-our-pelvic-floor/. Our pelvic floor muscles pull our sacrum towards our pubic bone (in the drawing the triangle is the sacrum and the standing rectangle is the front of our body – the bottom of the rectangle would be the pubic bone). What pulls our sacrum back (nutation)?? Our butt muscles. We need a healthy butt to have a healthy pelvic floor – this goes both ways. But, it is not that simple. Our feet dictate how our thighs are turned, which affects our pelvic floor and but. What I’m trying to get at is that clenching and releasing a muscle group doesn’t take into account our whole body AND it’s our whole body that is involved in incontinence.
It may seem intimidating to suddenly take on thinking about your whole body when all you really want to do is stop peeing when laughing. I get that. Here are 4 ‘fast fixes’ to get started: https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/4-fast-fixes-for-pelvic-floor-disorder/
Or in the simple words of Dr Christina Northrup “I’m a gynecologist. And in order to prevent this kind of urinary problem, you have to develop strong buttocks muscles and get in touch with your pelvic floor. I recommend peeing in the shower.” The peeing in the shower bit makes me laugh because I know the story of where that came from – also, it’s not about peeing in the shower it’s about using your butt when you squat. https://www.drnorthrup.com/liberated-from-incontinence/
One last note: urinary incontinence is not the price one pays for having children. In fact, girls and women without children can have incontinence and so can men. So, if someone says that peeing yourself when you laugh just comes along with being a mom – please, send them the above articles. Peeing onself is not a penance. What are your thoughts about today’s topic? Is it hard for you to not kegel when you see the word kegel?
Part 10 – Yeast Infections & Yogurt
Today in midwifery school I am reading about vaginal yeast infections in The Natural Pregnancy Book. As a helpful home remedy a live-culture, unsweetened, plain yogurt can be applied on the vulva and in the vagina. I have friends who have done this with great success and decided to look into it more.
Here are five interesting findings:
1. Lactobacili are found in live-culture yogurt and this is the bacteria thought to help rebalance the vaginal flora.
2. Studies found that not all dairy products that claimed to have lactobacilli in it did. What a scandal.
3. A study concluded a mixture of yogurt and raw honey applied vaginally is a great alternative to fungicides in pregnancy. 4. Eating the same type of yogurt you’d use vaginally has been shown to help reduce vaginal yeast infections as well. 5. Some diaper rashes are caused by the same candida bacteria overgrowth as in vaginal yeast infections …. So, yogurt (maybe not raw honey on a baby) could be theorized to be a helpful topical salve. Below are links of where I found these fun nuggets of information.
Many all yeast infections be soothed and vaginal flora be balanced.
What do you think of yogurt now? Do you have any magical yeast infection cures you’d like to share?