Pregnancy is a critical time for smart dietary choices and proper nutritional support to improve the health of a baby. But pregnancy and childbirth in the opinion of many has become has become a pathology and medical procedure with excessive interventions that can negatively influence a mother and babies’ health.
Of course a small percentage of pregnancies require modern medical intervention in the forms of medications and potential surgeries. Modern medicine has saved countless pregnant women and newborn lives. But I don’t agree with the unnecessary overuse of strong medicines or procedures that have little clinical evidence of safety and potential deleterious side effects when safer options are available.
For example women given SSRIs to ‘prevent’ postpartum depression (PPD) may cause language development delays in their child. The underlying causes of PPD are hardly addressed and drugs are prescribed as an easy solution. Underlying PPD is often inflammatory mediators expressed in response to food hypersensitivities or an underlying endocrine dysfunction. This is where modern medicine fails women as the undesirable ‘side effects’ from prescription medications (the quick fix of a symptom) misses the root of the issue. Sure the strong medication may fix the symptom, but often an undesirable effect (‘side effect) also shows up somewhere else.
Another example of a condition when there is medication overuse is Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH). Certainly hypertension during pregnancy can have some serious consequences for the baby and mother. However even the slightest increase in blood pressure can sometimes trigger a script for a prescription anti-hypertensive drug without consideration as to why the blood pressure may be elevated. These drugs have recently come under question as to their safety during pregnancy. The aforementioned article states: “The drugs prescribed included ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers — both of which have been shown in studies to have harmful side effects during pregnancy.” There are much safer and healthier options available, as PIH is a symptom of an underlying imbalance. Correct the underlying imbalance and blood pressure is reduced. I’ve had many patients reduce their hypertension without taking prescription medication.
One solution is that exercise before and during pregnancy helps reduce hypertension in laboratory rats. Now it makes sense that exercise can help reduce hypertension across the board. But it is a lot easier for a rat to spin on a wheel in third trimester (when PIH is the worst) than a pregnant woman to get out and exercise, as many times exercise can trigger Braxton-Hicks contractions with uncomfortable uterine tightening. So the exercise option is not always viable later in pregnancy. However exercise before getting pregnant and during pregnancy does appear to have an inverse relationship to blood pressure levels.
I have found acupuncture to be very effective at controlling PIH. Acupuncture can offer a very calming the nervous system and an individualized needle prescription based on the woman’s presentation can have excellent results in reducing blood pressure. Typically at least 4-6 acupuncture treatments are needed two times per week, but then once it gets under control a weekly acupuncture treatment should keep it stable.
Another pregnancy complication that can often be better treated with more complementary treatments is pre-term labor. It is accepted that inflammatory mediators are the cause of pre-term labor. One of the most common ways we create inflammation is to eat foods that cause hypersensitivities reaction. The hypersensitivities cause an immune response and a release of inflammatory mediators which cause many women to have a high load of oxidative stress. Given the almost miraculous changes I see in some people that do an individualized food sensitivity low inflammatory diet I am confident that in the not too distant future we may find that proper dietary changes during pregnancy may help prevent pre-term labor in those at risk.
There are many things a woman can do before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy to reduce changes of medical intervention. If conditions do develop then alternative care such as acupuncture, diet and safe for pregnancy herbal formulas are often a better bet than standard care which uses medications that contribute to undesirable side effects.
Yours In Health,
Licensed Nutritionist / Dietitian