By Lauren Samuel www.birthbotanica.com
While there should be absolutely no judgment over what type of birth you prefer or require, it’s worth considering the natural tools that can help you avoid preventable birth interventions.@avivaromm
It can feel like there is a lot of judgement or standards around how we birth as women. First and Foremost, we say, our babies should be healthy. And yet, there is the very real journey of us as women, how we will react to the pain and tolerate the unknown length of time, how we birth our feelings of entering one end of a ritual as a woman and the other end as a mother (if this is our first time,) or how we will adjust to the demands of multiple children. There can be added pressures of existing health conditions, how our health care providers will respond, whether we will be allowed to birth as we want or feel supported in those decisions. Where the boundary is between what we wish for and what we might medically need, as opposed to the convenience of the health care providers that so often comes up today in a medicalized birth setting. So many variables, and yet, our bodies have been birthing since time immemorial, and as my midwife said to me, “If we just get out of our own way…” our bodies know how to birth.
Even so, preparation is needed to help support our bodies physically and emotionally to create good conditions for birth. Ultimately, the wisdom of herbal medicine for birth lies in nourishing the mother and supporting our own natural systems to function at their best. This means a healthy diet, good rest and sleep, regular exercise, hydration and relaxation on a physical level.
On a mental and emotional level, it means gathering information about your local birth resources, insurance, how your hospital responds to birth if you plan to birth in a hospital, taking a tour there to know the layout and what to expect from them, making a birth plan and making copies for your partner, health care providers including doctors, midwives, doulas and nurses.
Make a plan for how you might cope during the intensity of labour. If you are considering a homebirth, hospital birth or birth centre, it is useful to go over different positions that can help during labour, different pressure applied to your lower back to ease sensation, or learning which herbs and homeopathic medicines may be helpful at different points. It can be a great source of support and comfort to have a doula or midwife that knows about herbal medicine and can help ‘mother the mother’ as she transitions through this major life event. Outsourcing different comfort measures and making a plan allows for the birthing woman to feel supported, and at ease as she goes through the terrain of deepening contractions, so she can sink into deep body realms and to know that she will be met on the way, without having to micromanage details.
Helpful Herbs during the last 6 weeks
Certain herbs and foods are ‘partus preparators’ which means they tone and prepare the womb for delivery. These include Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL), which you can take in a tea blend from the second trimester onwards.
While RRL doesn’t actually appear to be very effective at stimulating or shortening labor, research has found that drinking RRL tea or taking capsules can have a number of benefits. The results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial consisting of 192 low-risk, first-time moms found that RRL tablets, taken daily starting at 32 weeks’ pregnancy until labor, reduced the rate of forceps deliveries while another study found that raspberry leaf was associated with:
Decreased likelihood of preterm labor
Decreased likelihood of going too far past your due date
Decreased need for having your bag of waters artificially ruptured to stimulate labor
Lower overall rates of caesarean section, forceps delivery, and vacuum extraction.
Partridge berry – Mitchella Repens – Squaw Vine
I used this herb for all three of my babies’ births, during the last month of pregnancy. It helped shorten the length of labour and seemed to smooth out contractions so that they were more effectual.
This is what Henriette Kress has to say:
“If a good preparation of mitchella be administered once or twice daily for the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy, three times daily for the eighth month, and in larger doses as confinement approaches, the influence upon the entire system will be most marked. I have observed this influence in so many cases that doubt is impossible. Erratic pains and unsatisfied longings are removed, the nervous system assumes a tranquil condition, reflex symptoms abate, the urinary function is performed normally, the bowels become regular, imperfect digestion is improved, and the appetite becomes natural. Labor approaches, devoid of the irritating, aggravating complications, the preparatory stage is simple, the dilatation is completed quickly, the expulsive contractions are strong, unirritating, and effectual, and are much less painful than without the remedy; involution is rapid and perfect, there are no subsequent complicating conditions to contend with, the patient’s strength is not abated, and the function of lactation is in its best condition. This has been proven in very many cases. After making the above statements, evidences accumulated rapidly confirming their truth.
Auxiliary measures such as judicious dieting, a thorough oiling of the enlarged abdomen, and an occasional hot sitz bath for the last few weeks will materially assist the remedy. Less of it need be taken.
Dates are often a food used in traditional cultures, especially Iran, to help ripen the cervix for birth – taken best six weeks before due date to help increase dilation, lessen the need for induction and decrease the length of the first stage of labour. Red dates and deglet noor dates specifically, medjool dates probably fine too. Eat 6-8 a day starting around week 37 until delivery. Dates contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates. Also helpful as a labour snack to aid energy and nutrition.
There is often anxiety of the timing of the due date. OBGYNs often do not like to go more than a week over the due date before they start talking about interventions such as induction, however Midwives may support a more natural human gestation zone of two weeks after expected due date, barring medical necessity of course. Fortunately there are many tricks of the trade to help labour get going and herbal assistance if desired.
During my second pregnancy I was assisted by midwives that knew about homeopathic preparations to help labour start. I have used this myself and successfully for other women too. I love that it feels safe and there aren’t risk factors associated with homeopathy in any way. I say this thinking of the safety factor associated with Blue Cohosh that is cautioned against using for labour. It is a root that was used by Native Americans for labour, likely in ways that were known to be safer than in our current context. Homeopathic Blue Cohosh however works in combination with other remedies and poses no danger, due to the dilution to imperceptible levels.
Here is the Labour Preparation regimen:
Take up to 10 days before but often works in 3 or 4 days. Homeopathic Arnica, Gelsemium, Caulophyllum, Cimicifuga, Pulsatilla – all remedies are 30c Add one or two pellets to water and take one sip a day every day around the same time, for up to 10 days.