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Natural Midwife

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Combining Complementary Therapies with Normal Maternity Care

What are complementary and alternative therapies?
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) involves the use of natural remedies, traditional medicine and manual and manipulative techniques which aim to treat the whole person - physically, emotionally and spiritually and works on the principle that your body, mind and spirit are all inter-connected.

You are encouraged to work in partnership with the therapist, perhaps by changing your diet, or doing more relaxation or exercise. Sometimes, when you start a course of treatment, you experience a "healing crisis" as your body "kick starts" itself into recovery, so that initially you may feel worse before you begin to feel better - this is normal and will soon pass.

It is estimated that one person in three has used some form of complementary medicine in the UK and as many as one in two in the USA. Health professionals are becoming more involved in using complementary therapies making them more accepted and integrated into mainstream medicine If you choose to use complementary therapies during your pregnancy it is important to tell your own midwife or doctor, to avoid complications which may arise as a result of interactions between natural remedies and conventional drugs.

Questions to ask your complementary practitioner before your first appointment

Where and when did you train?
With which professional therapy organization are you registered?
What professional indemnity insurance cover do you have?
What courses and other training have you taken since qualifying?
What experience do you have of treating pregnant and childbearing women?
How much do consultations cost and how does this compare with other therapists?
How many treatments am I likely to need?
Will you be informing my midwife and GP about the treatment you are giving me?

Members of the normal maternity care team

In Britain, the only professionals legally allowed to take sole responsibility for care during pregnancy and childbirth, except in an emergency, are midwives or doctors. Complementary practitioners should not offer any treatment which is the responsibility of midwives or doctors unless they are also currently registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council or the General Medical Council. UK Midwives are responsible for caring for mums with normal pregnancies and births and in the early postnatal period. About 70% of births, in hospital or at home, are conducted by midwives, who are usually the most senior professional present. General practitioners are community-based doctors who care for whole families, specializing in differentiating minor illnesses from more serious conditions and referring people for specialist hospital care.

Many GPs offer normal antenatal care but must refer you to the obstetrician if you develop complications in your pregnancy. Obstetricians are hospital doctors specializing in caring for women with complicated pregnancies, difficult labours and problems after the delivery. If you are going to have your baby in hospital, you may see one of the obstetric medical team occasionally, but you will generally only need to see them if complications arise.

Finding a midwife or doctor who uses complementary therapies

Approximately 34% of UK midwives use complementary therapies and in the USA over 90% of nurse-midwives recommend or use herbal remedies. Many maternity units in Britain offer complementary therapies such as reflexology, aromatherapy, yoga, shiatsu or massage.

Increasing numbers of GPs also use homeopathy or acupuncture, although this may not necessarily be for pregnant mums. It is rare for hospital - based obstetricians to use any therapies personally, although they may support your wish to use complementary medicine; however, occasionally hospital anaesthetists incorporate acupuncture or hypnotherapy into their practice, most commonly for pain relief. Don't rely on Yellow Pages to find a practitioner who is well trained and experienced in treating pregnant mums. "Word of mouth" is always a good recommendation or you could ask your doctor or midwife if they can suggest a good local practitioner. You may prefer to consult a therapist who is also a midwife, nurse or doctor. All of Expectancy Ltd's Consultants are practising midwives, nurses or doctors, as well as having up-to-date knowledge and experience of complementary medicine.

Questions to ask your midwife or doctor about complementary therapies

What is your / the hospital's attitude if I want to use complementary therapies during pregnancy / labour (eg raspberry leaf tea, essential oils)?

Is there a specific medical reason why I can't use complementary therapies during my pregnancy / labour (eg diabetes, placenta praevia)?

What is the hospital's policy if I want to be accompanied in labour by a complementary practitioner (eg homeopath, aromatherapist)?

Are any complementary therapies available to me on the NHS during my pregnancy / labour?

Are you able to recommend / refer me to a local complementary practitioner who specializes in caring for pregnant women (eg reflexologist, acupuncturist)?

Denise Tiran,
Denise Tiran MSc RM RGN ADM PGCEA, a practising midwife, university lecturer, complementary practitioner and author, is an acknowledged international expert in maternity complementary medicine, and Director of Expectancy Ltd.