Have you ever taken your child to your GP, or gone for yourself, and been told that there's absolutely nothing wrong and that you are worrying over nothing? I know I have, and I also know that I'm not a hypochondriac who over worries about her children. Late last year, my 7-month-old baby had a persistent cough that disappeared for just a couple of days with antibiotics and then reappeared. Having had no joy with our GP, I visited a homoeopath. With the administration of a few drops of a natural colourless treatment, and a slight change in diet for both baby and breastfeeding mum, four days later my daughter was cough-free and has remained so!
I asked our homoeopath, Patricia Hatherly, if she could provide our readers with an insight into the conditions that homoeopaths could treat from pre-pregnancy through to childhood - all naturally! Here's our 'interview' below...
Bub Hub: "Are homoeopathic medicines safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding?"
PH: "Yes; most certainly! Because homoeopathic medicines have no toxic drug side effects they are safe to use at any stage of life when prescribed according to the basic principles of homoeopathic principles of "Like Cures Like" and "The Minimum Dose."
Bub Hub: "Can you explain a bit about what is meant by these principles please?"
PH: "Sure! The universal motto of Homoeopathy is Similia Similibus Curentur? Let Likes be cured by Likes. Homoeopaths understand that the signs and symptoms which appear in an ill (dis-eased) person do so because the Vital Force is attempting to restore good health. A good example of that is the vomiting and diarrhoea that follows food poisoning. Those symptoms appear as the body tries to rid itself of the toxins.
So when someone presents at the clinic, the homoeopath notes down all the symptoms both physical and mental/emotional and then prescribes a single medicine that is capable of causing those very same symptoms. That medicine is called the Simillimum. (Ed note: or in my case when it worked: Smiley-mum!)
Balance is then restored because the Vital Force notes that a medicine is being taken that causes the same symptoms that it is producing to restore balance so it desists and once order is restored the medicine is stopped.
That is what the Minimum Dose is. We prescribe just enough of the medicine to effect a healing response and then stop. To take homoeopathic medicines in repeated doses on the belief that more is better it can aggravate and make the symptoms worse. That is why the medicines should be taken under supervision."
Bub Hub: "So what sort of ailments in pregnancy can be treated effectively with homoeopathic medicines?"
PH: "All the usual ailments such as morning sickness and varicose veins and haemorrhoids are petty straightforward to treat. There are forty two medicines listed in the Repertory for morning sickness so there's sure to be one to fit the total symptom picture of most women. Having said that Sepia is probably the most commonly used medicine for morning sickness because lots of women get pregnant too soon after coming off the OCP and the Sepia picture is often the first one to present after OCP use.
Stretch marks usually occur when the diet is low in zinc (seafood; nuts and seeds and cooked whole grains). Interestingly morning sickness is more likely to occur when the diet is low in zinc. That metallic taste in the mouth is a reliable sign. The zinc rich foods are also good sources of essential fatty acids and both zinc and EFAs are important for minimising nipple trauma in the first days of lactation and for minimising colic in bub."
Bub Hub: "Can Homoeopathy be useful for treating threatened miscarriage?"
PH: "It depends on why the miscarriage is occurring. Most often it's Nature's way of sorting out imperfections around conception. So the homoeopath, like the obstetrician, would possibly adopt a conservative approach and wait and see. Having said that there are two pages devoted to miscarriage in the Repertory with lots of sub-rubrics citing causation and various symptoms that may be associated with miscarriage. So if there is a Simillimum to be found it would be prescribed and, if miscarriage is inevitable (and desirable) then the medicine would assist that process and vice versa. Constitutional treatment after a miscarriage can assist the woman to recover quickly and allow her to get pregnant again as soon as possible. In cases where there are habitual miscarriages or inability to conceive, then homoeopathic treatment can be very effective."
Bub Hub: "Are there any homoeopathic medicines that can help prepare for the birth?"
PH: "Caulophyllum is often cited as a good medicine to prepare for the birth but I've not found that to be so. I'm not a routinist and have most often used Gelsemium or Pulsatilla. In cases where a herpes outbreak has meant that a C-section would be performed I've found Sepia to be the most commonly used (and effective) medicine for that situation.
Most women are in an OK space when it comes time to birth and have been well-prepared by yoga, reading, childbirth classes (I recommend CEA as it's a truly independent organisation and promotes informed choice around birth).
Giving birth is a very personal thing and often all a woman needs is understanding about the process and perhaps a flower essence to steady her nerves. Most commonly I'd use one of the Bach essences for fear (Mimulus, Aspen, Rock Rose) and perhaps Rock Water if being "uptight" is an issue. I use Cerato for enabling the woman to trust her intuitive instinct and the American essence Star Tulip for enabling her to access the hind brain. In all mammals birth is governed by the hormones that flow from the hypothalamus and shutting down the cortex and getting in touch with instinctive self allows the blueprint to unfold. Women have been birthing for millennia and know how to do it."
Bub Hub: "What about during and after the birth?"
PH: "There are literally dozens of homoeopathic medicines capable of moderating the pain and strength of contractions, dilation of the cervix and post-partum haemorrhage. Since this is a serious business I wouldn't recommend that a woman take in a kit with the expectation that she can self-prescribe. It'd work best if she took her homoeopath with her as a doula if she wanted to use such medicines during the labour.
However one homoeopathic medicine that can almost be routinely used following the labour is Arnica since it has the physiologic effect of minimizing bruising. Not only can it help the mother it can also assist the bub if the head was in any way traumatised during the birth. For those mothers looking for another option to using vitamin K, Arnica could be considered and, since vitamin K is one of the fat soluble vitamins plentiful in colostrum, she can work towards increasing her vitamin K levels in the last weeks of pregnancy with diet and supplementation.
Another medicine that can almost routinely be used following birth is Phytolacca in those instances where a mother experiences severe engorgement when her milk comes in. Phytolacca can assist with promoting lymphatic drainage and minimise the oedema which can often result in mastitis.
Bub Hub: "Is mastitis easily treated with Homoeopathy?"
PH: "In the main, yes. My rule is if the symptoms don't respond immediately then the mother should also use antibiotics. I have to resort to that in less than 5% of cases. However if an abscess develops I always refer the mother for surgery and use homoeopathic medicines in an adjunctive manner to assist with draining and then healing the wound. Keeping the breast well drained is important in minimizing the risk of mastitis. Chronic mastitis, white spot and nipple vasospasm cause major hassles for some mothers and I've had good success with them although it takes time and there's no quick fix solution."
Bub Hub: "What sort of success have you had in treating colic and reflux?"
PH: "Generally these respond in a straightforward manner and, if allopathic medicines have to be used the homoeopathic medicines can help reduce the dosage and length of time needed with these and treat any side effects from their use. In the majority of instances colic responds to simple feeding management and attention to maternal diet."
Bub Hub: "As a Lactation Consultant do you have any views about how long babies need to be breastfed?"
PH: "That's a very personal decision and depends on lots of issues. Research indicates that women in the developed world breastfeed longer if they are informed and have the support of their family and primary health carer. By three months only 50% of babies in Australia are still being breastfed and this drops to 20% by 6 months.
The "rule" among primates is that lactation lasts 4 times the length of gestation! I know that's a long time and, in the main, doesn't "allow" women to have a life. Still the baby's brain is only 20% of it's final size at birth and is 80% completed by the end of the first year. The rest of the major differentiation occurs over the next two years. Along with that it takes up to 4 years for the baby's gut to mature and even longer for the little one to have a mature immune system.
So Nature designed it so that humans need finishing off at the breast. We're the only mammals who drink the milk of another species when we've weaned and we do it probably because we didn't get enough human milk when we were supposed to.
Producing milk is work. It'd be interesting if as much effort that goes into setting up blood banks and sperm banks was to go into setting up milk banks world-wide and women were paid for their effort. Being able to reach for formula made from human milk would give women extra choices when managing their individual lifestyles and the social and economic and health consequences would be considerable."