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Common Challenges During Pregnancy
Homeopathy is a natural choice for pregnant women because it is safe, effective and does not risk the health of the unborn baby. In addition to treating commonly known conditions of pregnancy such as morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, indigestion and heartburn, homeopathy can also treat many other problems that can occur during pregnancy such as constipation, mood swings, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and pre-term labor.
Further, every fall and winter brings the threat of the flu and the influenza virus is more likely to cause serious illness in pregnant women that can result in hospitalization and even death. Also, there is a greater risk for serious problems for the unborn baby, including premature labor. If a pregnant woman contracts the flu, there are limited treatment options since many of the antiviral medications such as Tamiflu can increase the risk of birth defects. As with other conditions, homeopathy can safely treat acute viral infections such as the flu, therefore, decreasing risk to mother and baby.
It is estimated that 80% or more of pregnant women experience morning sickness. In fact, “morning sickness” is a misnomer since nausea and vomiting of pregnancy can happen any time of the day. This condition affects pregnant women predominantly during the first trimester. It can begin as early as weeks 4-6 after the last period, and usually subsides around weeks 12-14.
While there is no definitive answer as to what causes nausea during pregnancy, it is likely a combination of a rapid rise in pregnancy hormones, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen. This makes sense since levels of these hormones peak about the same time nausea occurs. Some research suggests women with a stomach bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria implicated in the development of ulcers) can make their stomachs more sensitive, leaving them more vulnerable to nausea and vomiting.
You are more likely to have nausea or vomiting if you are pregnant with twins or higher multiples, or have a history of nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy.
Of course, just because morning sickness is common, it does not mean it is not a challenge for the expectant mom. Even mild cases of nausea can wear you down and interfere with everyday life. In addition, nausea with vomiting can be debilitating. In most cases, as long as you are staying hydrated and keeping some food down, nausea and vomiting does not put your pregnancy at risk, even if you have not gained weight or perhaps have lost a little in the early weeks.
Conventional treatments for mild nausea and vomiting typically include antihistamines (e.g., Unisom/doxylamine with or without B6, Benadryl/diphenhydramine), particularly for women sensitive to motion. This class of drugs suppresses the central nervous system. Although considered safe (Class B drugs), they have common side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, insomnia, upset stomach, nervousness and headaches.
Other drug therapy includes antidopaminergics, which are often given in conjunction with antihistamines. Antidopaminergics are predominantly Class C drugs, and some in this category can increase risk of fetal malformations. Common side effects include drowsiness, hypotension, dry mouth, constipation, confusion, fatigue, and movement disorders such as restlessness, involuntary movements, or uncontrollable speech.
In severe cases, pregnant women can be diagnosed with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. This is defined as unremitting vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. It occurs in approximately 1 in 200 women. Similar to morning sickness, it tends to dissipate between weeks 12-14. Women who have had this condition with a previous pregnancy or are carrying multiple fetuses are at greater risk. Symptoms can be so severe that keeping any food or liquid down is next to impossible. Pregnant women with this condition should watch for signs of dehydration, such as dark, yellow urine, or infrequent urination. Consult a doctor if weight loss exceeds 5% of your pre-pregnancy weight.
Conventional Medical Treatment
Untreated hyperemesis gravidarum can lead not only to weight loss, but also to malnutrition and dehydration. Conventional treatments generally include drug therapy. Unfortunately, few of the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat hyperemesis gravidarum are completely safe during pregnancy. The risks and benefits of these drugs must be weighed with the complications that can arise with dehydration and malnutrition, which pose risks to both mom and baby.
Generally, a class of drugs known as serotonin antagonists (Zofran/ondansetron, Anzemet/dolasetron,Kytril/granisetron) is prescribed. These medications target the vomiting center of the brain. In some women, vomiting is so severe that taking these medications orally is not an option and will have to be administered intravenously (IV). Side effects of this class of drugs can include constipation, diarrhea, headaches and mild liver function abnormalities.
Corticosteroids are another class of drugs used generally after weeks 8-10, when nausea and vomiting are unremitting. Ironically, these drugs have possible side effects of nausea, vomiting and weight loss, which are the very conditions being treated. Since corticosteroids cross the placenta, there is some concern with fetal brain development with extended use of corticosteroids during the first trimester, especially at high doses.
Fortunately, homeopathic treatment is shown to be successful with treating nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, including “morning sickness” and hyperemesis gravidarum. Unlike some conventional therapies, homeopathic medicines are completely safe to take during pregnancy – both for mom and baby. It is a safe, gentle and effective treatment with no known side effects, therefore, an ideal treatment option for pregnant women experiencing pregnancy-related symptoms. Homeopathy is an approach to medicine that works with your body’s own ability to heal. Homeopathy treats the person as a whole and recognizes that no two individuals are alike. Homeopathic remedies are chosen carefully based on the expecting mom’s unique symptoms rather than on the condition.
Therefore, it is important for the pregnant woman to recognize the specifics of her morning sickness—when it occurs, what triggers it, what makes it worse, what makes it better, how her stomach feels, food aversions, and how the rest of her body reacts, including mentally, emotionally and physically. It is not surprising, then, that there are many different cures to treat morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Women should consult a qualified homeopathic practitioner to get relief from nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.
Other Natural Treatments:
Acupuncture: The procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various points on the body for therapeutic purposes.
Acupressure: Physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points. An example is travel sickness acupressure bands found at drug stores.
Vitamin B6: Some studies show that vitamin B6 supplementation can help to relieve the feeling of nausea during pregnancy.
Ginger: Helps to settle the stomach and decrease queasiness (e.g., ginger tablets, fresh ginger, ginger teas).
Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Studies suggest that high-protein foods are more likely to settle your stomach and ease nausea (e.g. nuts are a good high-protein snack).
Keep crackers by your bed for night or early morning before rising, if you tend to have nausea during these times.
Avoid fatty and spicy foods. They can be irritating to your digestive system.
Stay hydrated: Drink water throughout the day. If you have been vomiting, try an electrolyte drink without artificial dyes and additives. Some women find carbonated drinks are helpful to settle the stomach. Go for the healthier version such as carbonated water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
Avoid nausea triggers: food smells that make you queasy, heavy perfumes, motion from car rides.
Minimize stress and take time to rest: nausea can worsen with stress and anxiety.
Take your prenatal vitamins with meals.
Increase vitamin B6 in your diet by increasing whole grains, bananas, nuts, avocado, lean meats and fish (check with http://www.ewg.org/safefishlist for safe fish eating guidelines during pregnancy).
Try peppermint: Mints, aromatherapy or tea.
Ginger: Comes in many forms – ginger chews, teas, fresh, capsules/tables, biscuits.
Ask for support. Especially if you already have young toddlers running around; caring for them can be difficult when you are not feeling well.
Many women experience indigestion or heartburn for the very first time during pregnancy. It typically begins in the second trimester and can continue throughout the pregnancy. It may be caused by hormonal changes or by physical changes as the growing womb presses on the stomach. For women with nausea and vomiting, the indigestion and heartburn can worsen the nausea, or if vomiting, it can make the heartburn worse.
Indigestion (also known as dyspepsia) can feel like an upset stomach. Symptoms experienced may include a very full feeling, along with gas and bloating.
Heartburn (also referred to as acid indigestion or acid reflux) is characterized by painful burning behind the breastbone or throat. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone helps to relax the muscles of the uterus and relaxes the valve that separates the esophagus and the stomach. The painful burning is caused by stomach acid that backs up into your esophagus. You may experience a sour taste in your mouth from acid back up. Symptoms can be worse when lying down or bending.
Conventional Medical Treatment
Conventional drug therapies for indigestion and heartburn are generally considered safe for pregnant women. Most of the medications are acid suppressing drugs (Zantac/ranitidine, Prilosec/omeprazole) and belong to the Class B drug category. This means animal studies have not shown risk to the fetus, however, there are no adequate studies in pregnant women. Common side effects include headache, dizziness, insomnia, constipation, and diarrhea.
Homeopathy is an excellent choice for pregnancy-related indigestion and heartburn. The homeopathic medicine is chosen based on the individual’s symptoms and triggers of indigestion or heartburn. Therefore, information such as the sensation experienced – does it burn, where is it experienced, what makes the symptoms better or worse are all helpful to finding the curative remedy. As with all homeopathic treatment, finding the correct medicine requires treating the individual as a whole person and understanding changes in physical, mental and emotional characteristics.
Anna came to the Arizona Natural Health Center with nausea of pregnancy. She was about 8 weeks pregnant when the nausea began. The smell of food made her nausea worse. As a result, it was difficult for her to go food shopping or out to restaurants. Even the thought or sight of food caused nausea. She knew she needed to eat, but she had no desire for food. Evening times, from about five to seven p.m., was when she experienced the extreme nausea.
She also suffered from diarrhea and felt faint whenever she had the urge for a bowel movement. Plus, despite the Arizona heat, she was chilly. Her hands and feet felt so cold, she walked around the house with socks. Anna also experienced another common pregnancy symptom—heartburn, which was worse in the evening. She was generally fatigued, but in the afternoon, it moved in, and she went downhill from there. She was emotional and cried easily at sad stories, even shows on TV.
Based on Anna’s symptoms, she was given the homeopathic medicine, Cocculus 30C. Two days later, we checked-in with Anna on the phone to see how she was doing. She was exhilarated. There was no nausea and no food aversion. The diarrhea and faintness were gone, as well as the heartburn. Finally, she was no longer chilly and didn’t need to wear socks around the house.
A few weeks later, Anna returned to our office with a new concern. She was embarrassed to tell us that she had developed a very painful hemorrhoid – another common ailment of pregnant women. The hemorrhoid was so painful, it hurt to wipe herself. The only thing that provided any relief from the pain was a warm compress to the area. Based on these symptoms, she was given a different homeopathic medicine, Muriatic acid 30c. Within 1 week of starting this remedy, her hemorrhoid had disappeared entirely and she was free of pain.