Thursday, July 7, 2011

Herbal Recommendations from My Midwife

One of the things I loved most about having a midwife was her holistic and preventative approach to pregnancy and birth. For example, she recommended various supplements throughout my pregnancy to help build a solid foundation for the birth.

Here's a list of what I did:
  • Started drinking red raspberry leaf and nettle tea in the first trimester. I drank one cup a day in the first trimester, two in the second, and three in the third. My midwife says the tea strengthens the uterus and better prepares it for birth.
  • Took alfalfa supplements starting in the third trimester. My midwife explained that in the 20 years since she started recommending alfalfa supplements, she has never had to transfer a woman to the hospital for a hemorrhage (she has had women hemorrhage, but their ability to clot and resolve the issue on their own was sufficient).
  • Took Primal Defense Probiotics from Nature's Defense to try to ward off any Group B Strep infection I might have.
  • Took Arnica after the birth to help relieve general soreness and achiness.
  • Made comfrey tea compresses and froze them to use as soothing compresses in my underwear after the birth.
  • Took Sitz herbal baths after the birth to help my body heal.

So much of my experience with the medical system has been reactive rather than proactive. I loved doing things to strengthen my body in preparation, rather than to just cover up symptoms after my body was weak.

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PT Crusader said...

Thank you so much for this post. I need to save this info for when the time comes! I was just looking into this online and it's hard to decipher what's best. I read the red raspberry can be detrimental in the first trimester and you should wait until the second or third. Any thoughts?

Thanks Sara!

Sara E. Cotner said...

I don't know much about it. I know some people take it to promote conception, but my midwife didn't recommend it. I conceived at the end of May but didn't have my first midwife appointment (post-conception) until we got back from vacation in July. That's when she gave me the advice about one cup for the 1st trimester, 2 for the 2nd, and 3 for the 3rd.

Mindy said...

My midwife recommended the tea only for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I didn't ask why, so I don't know if it was "bad" for the first trimester or just unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

When did you start taking the probiotics?

Marina said...

I've also heard that red raspberry leaf tea is linked to miscarriage in the first trimester.

Amy Joy Harrison said...

Can you explain how you made and used the frozen comfrey tea compresses?

Anonymous said...

This all sounds good and everything, but if I remember correctly you had a very hard time after labor. I had my baby just a week or so after your Henry was born, and I was walking within an hour after delivery, and driving two days later. (No, I didn't use painkillers of any kind.) I seem to remember you being nearly bed-ridden for quite a while. Therefore I really can't see these recommendations as very helpful.

Anonymous said...

@Anonynous- When my friend and I went to the beach, I didn't put any sunscreen on and didn't get sunburned. My friend slathered on sunscreen and still got sunburned. Do you think she shouldn't have worn sunscreen because I didn't burn and she did? She probably would have been worse off because she doesn't have as much melanin as me.

Your body, pregnancy, labor, and baby does not equal Sara's body, pregnancy, labor, and baby. You had a speedy recovery without any supplements? Great! Not everyone will have the same experience you have. Many may find that these kind of remedies help them and their unique situation.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Tess! I think the probiotics start in the 3rd trimester.

Hi, Amy Joy Harrison! My midwife gave me a bag of comfrey tea, and I followed the directions on the bag to make a giant pot of it. I left the leaves in it. My midwife explained that they could be strained out or left in, but that leaving them in would help promote healing even more. When the tea was ready, I dipped gauze pads in it and then placed each one in a separate plastic bag to be frozen. I highly recommend folding them into the size pad you want to put into your underwear. I did not do this, which meant that Matt had to bend the frozen ones into shape. It wasn't a big deal, but it could have been prevented. Also, it seems wasteful to use all those separate baggies, but it prevents them from sticking together and simplifies everything post-partum.

The info seems to be conflicting about red raspberry leaf tea. Here's a resource that says it's okay:

@ Anonymous: Your comment really hurt my feelings. I guess I still have residual feelings of disappointment about my birth that I need to work through.

In defense of my post (despite my difficult labor and recovery): our conceptions/pregnancies/births are not science experiments. At any given time, we can only make one choice, and there are no control groups to see what happens if we make a different choice. I have no idea what would have happened if I had not followed my midwife's recommendations. I chose to follow my midwife's recommendations because she has helped bring more than 1,700 babies into the world with very few complications.

In defense of each recommendation:

1) The red raspberry tea helps prepare the uterus. Even though I had a long labor, my uterus was probably not the problem. It was more likely Henry's head placement or the fact that the cord was wrapped around his neck twice. I was pretty proud of my uterus for sustaining contractions every five minutes for 45 hours (and for shrinking back down to size very quickly after the birth).

2) I didn't have any problems with hemorrhaging. I don't know if it was thanks to the alfalfa or not. I'm still glad I took it preventatively.

3) I have no idea if the probiotics helped clear up a Group B Strep infection. All I know is that I took the probiotics and I did not have an infection. (I know it's a terribly small sample size!)

4) I was horribly sore after my birth (probably thanks to 45 hours of labor and a 9 pound, 4 ounce baby). I never took any of the pain prescriptions that the hospital offered. I took the Arnica instead. I don't know if it helped alleviate the pain or not. I took it constantly, so I don't know how it would have felt to not take the little pills.

5) The comfrey tea compresses and sitz baths felt so good. Although I was sore for a long time, I didn't have much swelling and my stitches healed very quickly and nicely (according to my midwife). I attribute the quick healing to the comfrey tea compresses and baths.

I'm very happy for you that you had such a relatively easy delivery and post-partum recovery. Even though I did not, I still subscribe to these herbal recommendations, and I will do them all again if I become pregnant a second time. I try to remind myself frequently that I can control the inputs but not the outputs (of conception, pregnancy, birth, and parenting).

Amy Joy Harrison said...

Sara, thanks for your reply. My due date is in less than a month and I wanted to let you know how helpful your blog has been!

Regarding the post comparing (ick) your post-birth experiences... a sample size of 2 doesn't make good science. You can't say if your experience would have been better with herbs, etc. and you can't say if Sara's would have been worse without them. Working in a natural health food store I've seen dozens of cases of women who felt helped by these methods. We should be grateful to Sara for sharing them.

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