Unassisted Pregnancy: Naturally Managing Complications Natural Alternatives to Medications and Procedures

This goes along with the question of "What if something goes wrong?" As I've already said in other articles, the simple answer is that the mother will handle it. Many freebirthers prefer to think of complications as 'variations of normal' that happen during pregnancy, labor, and birth. While the majority of pregnancies are low-risk and very safe, not all are completely uneventful. If they become too severe, the mother should of course see a doctor or midwife. However, many of these issues can be managed at home by a well-informed mother. There is no reason to panic!

Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced hypertension or, in other words, high blood pressure. It is also called toxemia. It is common in first time mothers, teenage or multiple pregnancies, and women over 40. Smoking, drinking, and other unhealthy lifestyle practices can increase the risk of preeclampsia. There may also be a genetic factor. It occurs once the pregnancy has reached 20 week gestation. It happens in only 5-8% of pregnancies, and those with healthy lifestyles are very unlikely to be affected by it. Preeclampsia can cause low birth weight babies by depriving the placenta of blood. It can develop into eclampsia, which will cause seizures, but this is very rare--especially for those who recognize the condition and treat it.

Mild preeclampsia will cause high blood pressure, water retention, and protein in the urine; you may swell more than usual and notice your pee is cloudy. Severe preeclampsia causes headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and shortness of brush. When a mother suspects preeclampsia, she should take it easy and get lots of rest. There are many things she can do to help lower her blood pressure. These include limiting salt intake, drinking more water, and avoiding unhealthy foods and substances like fried foods, alcohol, and caffeine. Exercising 30 minutes a day will also help. Preeclampsia is rare in those who do this regularly, so these methods are great for both prevention and treatment of this complication.

Bleeding is common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. As many as 20-30% of women bleed early on, and only half of them have miscarriages. Bright red bleeding or gushes of blood are signs of trouble. Do not wear a tampon if you are bleeding, and stop douching and having sex. Bleeding can be caused by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or placental problems such as previa or abruption. Miscarriage is the most common, occurring 15% of the time. Ectopic pregnancies happen in about 1 in 60 conceptions. Molar pregnancies are extremely rare and end in miscarriage. Treatment should include lots of rest, as well as palpitating the stomach for placental location. In this situation it would be very wise for a woman to see a doctor or midwife in hopes of diagnosing the problem and treating it. In many cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented, but in late pregnancy, a C-section could save the baby's life. Bleeding should be taken seriously.

Gestational diabetes is temporary and is cured by delivery of the baby. For some reason, during pregnancy, the body may stop producing enough insulin. Other names for it include glucose intolerance and carbohydrate intolerance. It occurs most often in older or overweight women, and there may be a genetic factor. Only 2-5% of all pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes. It can cause macrosomia (or large birth weight). This increases risk of labor complications, like shoulder dystocia. The newborn may have hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which usually clears itself up in a few days after a few breastfeeding sessions. The baby may be hungry, shaky, sweaty, dizzy, tired, weak, or more prone to crying, but he should recover quite quickly without any serious side effects. It could also cause jaundice, which also clears up on its own.

If a mother feels very thirsty, is peeing more often, is tired or nauseated, develops many infections, or experiences blurred version, she may have gestational diabetes. She can confirm it with a simple blood test, done at home if she likes. If gestational diabetes is suspected, it is best to err on the side of caution and begin treatment. A healthy diet is the best treatment. The mother should limit her intake of simple sugars and carbohydrates, get lots of rest, and exercise. Natural sugars, such as those found in fruits, are much safer. Snacking on healthier foods will make a big difference. Like preeclampsia, a healthy lifestyle is both good prevention and good treatment.

Severe nausea and vomiting can be a sign of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and multiple pregnancy. However, it does not always mean something is wrong. Some women just have very bad morning sickness that lasts throughout the pregnancy. A mother suffering from this should keep her eyes open for signs of a complication without worrying herself too much. Eating more, sticking to foods she can keep down, and ingesting lots of ginger can help her deal with it. Sleep-deprivation can be linked to these symptoms, so mothers should get lots of rest. Drinking lots of water will prevent dehydration and may help with the nausea.

Carrying multiples isn't really a complication, but a variation of normal. It can make for a more difficult pregnancy and increase risk of certain afflictions. The average woman has a chance of only 3% of naturally conceiving twins. Fraternal twins are more common, and triplets occur in only 1 in 8,000 births. Twins are more likely to occur in women who are taking fertility medications, eat lots of conventional foods with additives, have had 4+ pregnancies or already delivered twins, or are overweight. A family history of twins increases that chance, as does cultural background, for African Americans are more likely to conceive multiples. The percentage increases every few years for women over the age of 30. Yams and high dairy diets can make twins more likely, too. The risks of preterm labor, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and severe nausea and vomiting, and breech birth are increased.

Mothers may be carrying twins if they feel unusually tired, hungry, or nauseated, have very early symptoms, or feel lots of movement very early on. Mothers of multiples often begin to show sooner, and their uterus will measure large for how far along they are. She can diagnose herself by listening with Doppler or fetoscope after 20 weeks or palpitating her stomach for fetal position in the late third trimester. Many mothers planning an unassisted birth have surprise twins! She can handle all of these symptoms by drinking lots of water, eating her fill, and getting plenty of rest. She should be prepared for labor by 36 weeks, as few twin pregnancies last longer than that. In the later weeks, she may detect that one infant is "malpositioned." In that case, she can attempt ECV or external cephalic version--a maneuver in which the baby is turned in the uterus from the outside.

Pregnancies are considered term at 37 weeks, 36 weeks for multiples. Preterm labor is especially dangerous before 34 weeks, as babies don't develop the breathing & sucking refluxes necessary for survival until then. Preterm labor won't complicate the delivery, but it can cause severe problems for the child. Premature birth is in and of itself a whole article; the obstacles that these babies have to overcome are too many to name here. About 6% of babies in the United States are born prematurely due to spontaneous labor. Mothers who have had variations of normal during their pregnancies are at a greater risk of preterm labor, as are mothers who had pre-existing conditions. These other factors increase the risk: having had a previous premature delivery, being African American, drug use during pregnancy, being a teenager or over the age of 35, being short, having experienced bleeding, and having given birth in the past 18 months. High levels of stress will also raise your chances of preterm labor.

A mother can tell she may go into labor premature if her cervix is softening and opening, if she is experiencing more Braxton-Hicks, if her bag of waters breaks or leaks, or if she loses her mucous plug. None of these guarantee preterm labor. A broken bag of waters can repair itself, and the placenta keeps making amniotic fluid until the baby is born. Don't panic if it happens. Strong contractions that increase in frequency and occur in a pattern, especially when accompanied by back pain, indicate labor. Labor can be slowed with plenty of rest and by remaining well-nourished and hydrated. Drinking alcohol will slow the labor and is unlikely to harm the fetus, especially considering fetal alcohol syndrome occurs after binge drinking in the early months. Many doctors and midwives recommend a glass or two of red wine. There are many herbal remedies that a mother can use to help slow and prevent premature labor.

A baby in the breech or transverse position isn't a complication, just a variation of normal. Mothers can tell if this is occurring by feeling their stomach for fetal position. She can attempt ECV, external cephalic version, to turn the baby manually. There are numerous maneuvers to help coax the baby into a head-down position. On an empty stomach, the mother should lie on her back with her hips high in the air a few times a day for 15-20 minutes. Getting on all fours and slowly lowering her chest to the floor, so her hips are higher than her head, may also work. Some suggest playing classical music near the pelvic bone, or visualizing the infant turning. Many infants will turn by the time labor begins on their own.

Postdate or overdue pregnancy occurs when a woman has reached her due date and gone to 42 weeks of pregnancy without delivering. There is an increased risk of stillbirth and the baby passing meconium while in the womb, leading to infection. Very rarely does pregnancy last past 44-45 weeks. A mother should keep an eye on her pregnancy, monitoring fetal movement and heart tones closely. She can try to induce labor by eating spicy foods and pineapple, staying active, having sex, and stimulating her nipples. Going for a bumpy ride can help the baby's head engage into the pelvis. If she feels it's necessary, she can attempt inducing by drinking castor oil mixed in orange juice or by swallowing some herbal tinctures. There are many safe, natural ways of inducing labor, though it is rarely necessary. A mother who is overdue needs more rest and must continue to keep herself well-nourished and hydrated. Her best bet is just to wait it out; her baby will appear in its own time!

Mothers who chose unassisted pregnancy and childbirth are more likely to be living a healthy, natural lifestyle, which puts them at far less risk for these problems than other women. Exercising and eating right prior to becoming pregnant can help prevent many of these conditions. None of these conditions are catastrophic, despite how alarmed doctors seem to be by them. If the complication becomes too severe for a mother to manage, she should see a doctor or midwife. However, these natural methods of managing complications are just as effective and much safer than medication and other alternatives. Following a healthy diet, exercising, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest are the best things a mother can do to care for herself during pregnancy. This is especially true of pregnancies during which variations of normal occur.