Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘complimentary therapies + pregnancy’ Category

A woman in America has given birth to eight babies, and although born nine weeks prematurely, at present doctors say all of them are doing well.  The babies weighed between 1lb 8 ounces (820g) and 3lb 4oz (1.47kg) and will need to stay in Neonatal Intensive Care for some time.  It’s only the second time in the world that someone has given birth to eight babies at once, and doctors were only expecting her to have seven!

Also in the news is the story of surrogate mother Carol Horlock who has had eleven babies for other couples and also has two children of her own. I am sure surrogacy takes place in most cultures, often with the surrogate mother being a family member, of course this raises huge ethical issues not to mention the emotional issues for all concerned, but wow … this is something that I personally could never have considered, I couldn’t even have parted with my eggs, but I know many couples are eternally grateful for those that are able to help them have a family.

Today I was twice invited to speak on BBC 3 Counties Radio, partly in response to this news story and also to speak about my work as an Independent Midwife –

I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss my new website but the interviewer was keen to discuss my blog. was launched only three months ago has already proved popular.  The site currently covers Bedford, Milton Keynes and Northampton and aims to be THE information site for all things Pregnancy, Birth and Baby.  For example on the site you can find therapists who specialise in Pre-conceptual support, pregnancy ultrasound, swimming classes for babies and even photographers to photograph your little one!  The site has a comprehensive Links section and an interesting selection of articles and the opportunity to sign up for a regular newsletter.

In the past pregnant women were routinely prescribed an iron supplement; it is now recognised that many women do not require an iron supplement and that the best way to get iron is through a healthy diet.  Your midwife will offer you a blood test to check your iron stores during your pregnancy and it is actually normal for your haemoglobin (or iron) level to fall because you will have an increased amount of blood circulating as you grow bigger through the pregnancy and this causes a dilution of the haemoglobin levels.  It is also true that the growing baby will take what it needs and deplete you!  This said, it is obviously important to eat well, and to include iron rich foods in your diet to enable you to be in the best possible health to grow the baby, to give birth and to feed the baby afterwards.  I would also recommend that you consider increasing the amount of protein in your diet, try to eat protein several times a day.

If you are taking iron supplements and find that they don’t agree with you (they often cause either constipation or diarrhoea) do speak to your midwife or doctor as it is often possible to change to a different medication.  It is definitely better to get iron from your diet if you possibly can and although iron supplements can be useful for some women.

Foods rich in iron include:

– herbal tonic spa tone/floradix (consult pharmacist)
– red meat, steak and corned beef
– Legumes – lentils and butterbeans, harricot beans (baked beans) peas/beans)
– fish – salmon, kippers, pilchards, sardines
– cream and cottage cheese
– wholegrains – wheatgerm and oats and millet, bread and pasta, chapattis, oak cakes
– dried apricots, dates and figs, raisins, prunes, currents
– dark green leafy vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, cooked nettle tops, dandelion leaves
– watercress and beansprouts
– dried peaches and prunes
– beetroot
– yeast/vecon extract
– soya flour
– breakfast cereals
– cane molasses (can stain teeth)
– chives/spring onions
– parsley
– nuts – especially almonds
– egg yolks
– Kelp/seaweed – use dried and add to stir fry, salads, or cook with rice
– Spiralina (health food shop – take advice
– fresh fruit, redcurrants, blackberries, loganberries, raspberries, cranberries

Limit use of dried fruits if have tendency to thrush.

NB Vitamin C taken at the same time (e.g. glass of orange juice will aid absorption, whilst bran, coffee and tea decrease absorption)
Vitamin C is found in: Fruit and vegetables, especially kiwi, oranges, rosehips, potatoes, broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower
Cooking – always try to steam vegetables and use vegetable water for soups, sauces or hot savoury drinks. Use cast iron pots and pans if you have any.

Heartburn is one of the unpleasant side-effects of being pregnant; it is caused by the hormone, progesterone, which relaxes the valve at the top of your stomach, causing a small amount of stomach acid, sometimes with partially digested food, to surge upwards into your oesophagus (gullet).

Sometimes sickness in early pregnancy can be worsened by heartburn, or indigestion can make you feel sick. If you are expecting more than one baby or your baby is very large this will make your heartburn worse. If your baby is in a breech position in late pregnancy, his head will press up under your diaphragm and may trigger heartburn. Eating certain foods and smoking will also make things worse.

Eating small meals more frequently will prevent your stomach becoming overfull and pushing up under your diaphragm. Try to eat your main meal of the day at lunchtime if at all possible and eat your evening meal early in the evening, so that your body has time to digest it before you go to bed. Avoid spicy, rich, fatty and fried foods and anything else which triggers the symptoms. Sugar, tea, coffee and certain food additives may also exacerbate heartburn. Don’t drink liquids with your food as this causes your digestive juices to become diluted and therefore less effective, but do drink between meals.

Lying down to relax after a meal is likely to cause regurgitation, so it is a good idea to sit upright for a while; you may also find you have to sleep propped up on two or three pillows at night in later pregnancy if the problem gets worse. It may be worth trying complementary therapies such as homoeopathy, aromatherapy or acupressure, or try the following suggestions:

– peppermint, fennel, chamomile or dandelion tea (do not take dandelion tea in large doses or if taking antihypertensives)
– ginger
– milk
– malt drink
– 3 umeboshi plums (health food shop) boil in a pint of water, keep juice in
fridge. Drink as required. Ask for advice.
– Slippery elm “Thompsons” old fashioned stomach soothing drink (health food shop) – Ask for advice.
– Raw garlic or garlic capsules
– Cardamom seeds – chew!
– Cashew nuts – chew well into a paste before swallowing

– extra strong mints

-antacid from the pharmacy (rennies, gaviscon etc) try to avoid taking in large quantities if possible as they can impair your body’s ability to absorb iron

When the big day comes you will have learnt lots of things that can help you, for example you might like to have a bath or shower which can really help you to relax. Early labour will probably feel a bit like period “cramps” and bathing or a hot water bottle may well help as can taking a couple of paracetamol if you wish.

Moving around and adopting different positions is also another useful thing to do – you might find that walking, marching or crawling around on all-fours might help. It is fine to go out for a walk in early labour if you feel up to it, and it is a good idea to find something constructive to do – perhaps watching a film. If you possibly can you should also try to have a nap – you will probably be working very hard for the next 24 hours, another tip is to have something light to eat and drink plenty as you will need the energy later!

TENS which is a small, battery operated machine can help; the idea is that you put the electrodes (or sticky pads) into four specific places on your back and the machine sends an electric impulse to the pads which are placed over nerve endings. TENS works in several ways, it boosts the body’s endorphin production (endorphins are our natural pain killers), it also blocks pain messages to your brain and lastly it is a distraction! Many women find TENS helpful – the trick is to put in on fairly early in your labour – TENS machines can be hired fairly inexpensively from some supermarkets, pharmacies and even some hospitals.

Soft lighting, music and massage can be relaxing – especially massage to the lower back as many women experience backache in labour. Either using hands, a nice oil or even rolling a tennis ball around on your lower back will probably feel really helpful. This might be something that you can practice with a birth partner prior to labour.

Most women find that staying active, listening to what their body tells them, is helpful. If your body is telling you to rest, then rest, if you feel better pacing around then pace. Having a supportive birth partner (or partners) is also invaluable – having a woman who has successfully given birth before is really helpful and can allow your partner time to eat, rest or even pop to the toilet! Speaking of toilet – remember to pass urine frequently yourself, ask your partner to remind you to wee every couple of hours at least as a full bladder can hamper descent of the baby’s head.

During the labour, use any breathing/relaxation techniques you have learnt, sit on a birthing ball, practice hypnotherapy, use your TENS machine, be active, sing, chant, make a noise, use massage, visualise your baby, your cervix opening – ask your partner to encourage you and to look deep into your eyes and breathe with you or use any complementary therapies that you have prepared (homoeopathy, oils, acupuncture etc).

I would encourage you to consider not using the birthing pool until the “going gets tough” and then you have somewhere else to go, somewhere that may be blissfully relaxing.

So you can see there really is quite a lot that you can do to help yourself in labour!

If you have tried all these techniques but still need more help there are drugs that the midwife can give you, for example entonox (known as gas and air) – this is not thought to harm either mother or baby and if you don’t like it you can just stop using it at any time. Most women think entonox is really helpful – it is just a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide which you breathe in through a mask or mouth-piece. It can occasionally make women nauseous and may make you feel a bit drunk!

The next level of pain relief available is an injection (usually given into your leg or bottom); the type of drug varies in different areas, but is usually meptid, pethidine or diamorphine. These drugs can make you feel drunk and a bit “spaced out” – some women really find them helpful, but other women don’t like them – I guess if you are needing help at this stage the answer is to try them and see what you think. The disadvantages are that they can make you sick (they are usually given with an anti-sickness drug for this reason) and may make you feel “out of control” and the effects of the drug will last for some time. The baby will also get a dose of the drug and this may make the baby sleepy at birth and make feeding slightly harder to establish.

If you require something stronger an epidural may be the answer, this is when a local anaesthetic is injected into your back. The advantages are that this usually offers good pain relief, especially when labour is long – you can usually sleep and rest once you have an epidural. However there are also disadvantages in that you have to stay very still whilst the epidural is sited and you will need a drip and probably a catheter to help you to pass urine. Your movement will be restricted and your baby will need to be continually monitored as very occasionally the baby can become distressed. Other disadvantages are that the epidural may not be 100% effective, some women experience “break-through” pain and occasionally further complications, also because there is a lack of sensation to “push” the baby out you might be more likely to need additional help with the birth.

In summary, you can see that there are lots of things you can do to help yourself during the labour, but if you need additional help there are drugs onoffer to help you.