Baby loss: healing through words

To mark Baby Loss Awareness Week, I am going to share a very personal story with you.  My own experience of baby loss is what put me on the road to where I am today.  I do not write this with the intention of pulling your heartstrings, but it’s only fair to give a trigger warning before you start.

 

 

 

I was heartbroken when they told me at 11 weeks that my pregnancy was no longer viable.  At the hospital they were so kind and helpful but I was numb with shock.  I had suspected something wasn’t right but had tried to carry on at work until my body finally shouted loud that there was a problem.  By time I got to the hospital I knew in my heart that it wasn’t good news.

“I can see a baby [pause] but I can’t see a heartbeat I am afraid”

SiIMG_3044tting here now, I remember it clearly and I remember how I felt, but I don’t feel those feelings anymore.  I went on to have another baby and I would never swap him for all that heartache.  But it took me a long time to process.  I visited doctors who had no answers and homeopaths who also had no answers but what they did have ways of helping me process my grief.

 

Then I visited an acupuncturist. I had heard it was good for fertility and I just wanted to be pregnant again.  During one session she put a needle somewhere into my back and a yelped in pain.

“What was that?!”  I asked.

“Your heart” she answered.

So there you go.  I had a broken heart, and not a broken womb as I thought.  I hadn’t got around to telling my work so the privacy of my grief was making me squash it down.  Part of me liked pretending I was OK, but I did need to acknowledge the hurt in my heart to move on.  Allowing that grief was the kindness I needed to offer myself at that time.

But did you see the language that I used describing what happened?  I mention (a little deliberately, I admit) heartbroken, heartbeat, “I knew in my heart”, heartache.

I wanted to point this out because when you come to see me, I listen intently to the way that you describe what has happened to you.

Holistically, imbalances mostly come from an emotional place.  By tracking it back there and listening to your language, you tune in to the way the mind has wound itself up in the trauma.  And there lies the key to unwinding it.

I did take a remedy which has an affinity for the heart in the end.  Sometimes, if the feelings pop up, I take it again.  But on the whole I don’t need it anymore. This discovery, my return to well-being, and my subsequent pregnancy led me on a journey to study homeopathy and other therapies.  I realised that trauma needs to be treated as a whole and that, even the subtle way that people explain what pains them is enormously important to the way that they heal.

Arnica is a shock remedy for people who protest that they are fine.
Arnica is a shock remedy for people who protest that they are fine.

If this is interesting to you then you are welcome to have a no obligation chat with me about whether we could work together.  I work a lot with knackered mums and their hormones as this is where my special interest lies.  Do get in touch if you think I can help you.

 

How would you spend a personal pregnancy budget?

So today the NHS announced that they are piloting the idea of a £3000 birth budget you can read the article (here).

And it got me thinking: a while ago I wrote an article for the local NCT magazine about the cost of alternative therapy through pregnancy.  I calculated that I had personally spent around £1000 on massage, natal hypnotherapy, yoga and McTimoney Chiropractic and that, looking at the cost differential between a forceps delivery and a c section, it just happened to be the same amount.  I argued that, having “invested in my pregnancy” I had saved them that money and I wondered if they would reimburse me some of it.  I never asked, but what if you could…?

Anyway, £3000 to custom-make your own pregnancy sounds ideal, doesn’t it?  Apparently you could pay for a home-birth, a birth pool,  hypnotherapy or extra breastfeeding support? Some women need more attention than others so how does this net out?  Does this include access to the thousands of alternative practitioners (like me) who could make a difference to the experience?

A word on the breastfeeding support though, according to this inflammatory article which hit the media a few weeks ago, the UK has the worst rate of breastfeeding in the world with 80% of women intending to try and 0.5% still breastfeeding after one year.  In my eyes, breastfeeding is a grossly –underfunded area of postnatal care and should be offered as a matter of course for as long as help is needed.

Rant over.

My second pregnancy was fine up until 38 weeks. I probably would have spent my budget on “nice to haves” like yoga and hypnotherapy rather than anything medical (the lines are not clear about what is included) but at 38 week my body started to produce too much amniotic fluid.  The midwives measured my bump and I had gone up 4cm in 1 week which is way too much.  Without the routine appointment, I am not sure I would have noticed, so I grateful that these are not optional.  I was admitted to hospital at 40 weeks exactly, my waters broken artificially and I delivered my son without any further intervention three hours later.  I am 100% happy with my birth as a result of a highly skilled consultant and a little bit of uncomfortable fiddling.

But what if I had spent my budget before then?  Any then I needed intervention at the last minute.  What if I wanted a home birth, was docked the money accordingly and then ended it up in hospital? What if I had a completely hassle-free birth and my best friend struggled through her whole pregnancy with a complicated medical condition which required attention in excess of £3000?  Could I give her something from my pot?  All the questions that we need to understand.

It’s a bit flawed (and we Brits love a good argument to pick holes in) but I still think it’s a genius idea.  It’s empowering.  It gives us choices and it puts the control very firmly back in the hands of the pregnant mother to be.  We have lost so much of our choice in a factory process where we tick the boxes and are expected to conform to a pregnancy “norm”.  We suffer from not quite having enough time and attention from the NHS and I believe post-natal depression is on the rise as a result.  Midwives are some of the loveliest people on earth but they are stretched and stressed and sometimes we need more than they can give.

We have lost so much of our choice in a factory process where we tick the boxes and are expected to conform to a pregnancy “norm”

Empowerment in pregnancy helps us make better decisions:  we eat better; we drink more because we know it helps and we don’t expect to be able to take a pill to make symptoms disappear.  Many women come to homeopathy in pregnancy because it is a safe alternative to many over the counter medication which is now forbidden.  In alternative medicine they find the ownership.  How amazing would it be if they could find that in the mainstream too, instead of being told what to do?

Let’s see what transpires.  But whatever it is, anything that makes it MY pregnancy not THEIRS is already going in the right direction.

Who looks out for Dads after labour?

In the history of birthing it’s the men who joined the party last.  Up until the 1970s their place was well away from the birth, possibly pacing up and down in the hallway listening for a cry?

It was the NCT who campaigned for the man to be in the room.  And these days, I find myself wondering whether this change in circumstance was actually a good thing or not.

Baby and DadI remember it being an assumption when it was my time, that the father of the baby would be the birth partner regardless of whether they were the best person for the job.  I watched useless men on “One Born Every Minute”  (it’s not birthing it’s entertainment, remember) and rolled my eyes.  Then suddenly it dawned on me: it takes a braver man to opt out of being in the room.

It’s seen as a sign of weakness, a sign that you’re not up for being a Dad.

How many women complain that their partners haven’t read a single thing going into labour?  Or drag them unwillingly to antenatal classes?  Antenatal classes do an excellent job in my experience of involving them and catering to what they might need, but you can bring a horse to water and all that.

Some men come out of labour in a complete shock.  And it’s not always from being unprepared.  Labour is a one way street with an inevitable outcome and sometimes things can go wrong along the way.  Intervention can be swift, emergency c sections are done under a general anesthetic and the birth partner left in the labour room with the hospital bag exploded all over the room, waiting for news of his wife and new baby.

There’s new research out from last year that suggests that many men are left bereft by birth. The expectations from them to step up and take care of the family are huge.  But they’ve probably spent a night in labour without the hormones to adjust to the sleeplessness.  Deep sleep helps our brains process trauma and, with a newborn in the house, this can be a bit lacking.  Before they know it, they have to return to work after the briefest of time adjusting to fatherhood.

One of the main themes of unease was men feeling ‘stripped of my role: powerless and helpless

I am absolutely not saying that a man’s role is greater than a woman’s in labour, but he does deserve some space to process it.  One of the main themes of unease was men feeling ‘stripped of my role: powerless and helpless’, which can resonate deeply, especially where there were already insecurities.

Getting men to visit my clinic is like pulling teeth. It does happen, although I won’t take bookings from wives!  They come and sit, arms folded.  If they do manage to get through the door, I gradually see an unfolding of the arms and a re-balancing of the emotions.  Details of how I work can be found here.

 

 

The study is here.  photo credit is here

Mastitis or plugged duct?

If you feel like your boobs aren’t quite working as they should, and they are tender or sore, you could have one of these issues.  There are lots of natural techniques to help you overcome these obstacles.  To some extent it depends which one you have and to another it really doesn’t so here are the commonalities:

Rest! Your body needs the resources to be able to fight any boob malfunction.  This should be your first focus.  Send your guests away and focus all your attention here.

Feed! Your baby is cleverly designed to help you through this by feeding and keeping the flow going.  By creating gaps in the feeding it will be harder to re regulate supply.

Resource up! You’ve just had a tiny human deplete you of all your resources.  Feeding can be draining too, especially if you are trying to carry on your life as normal.  Water and minerals are really important as well as good nutrition.  (coconut water, green veg, fruit).  Drinking herbal teas or bone broth can be really beneficial.

So what’s the difference?

A blocked duct is where one of the ducts which feed milk to the nipple gets blocked and you get a backup of milk.  One of the reasons for this can be that the flow of milk has been impaired somehow (latching problems, fast or slow feeding, feeding multiple babies, nipple shields, blocked pores),  or irregular feeding (substituting with a bottle, skipping feeds), tight/ constricting clothing and injury to the breast can also be contributing factors.

A blocked duct can cause milk stagnation, which can cause inflammation and lead to mastitis.  Inflammation can also be caused through a cracked nipple or through bacteria like any other infection.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue and can make the breast feel swollen or sore.  One will look redder that the other one.  This can be true of a blocked duct as well but mastitis often comes with flu like symptoms or a fever.

Natural therapies look at the body as a whole, but both conditions can be caused as a result of general ill health: poor immunity; stress; anaemia or still recovering from birth.  A consultation would aim to address these issues at a deeper level that you can manage acutely.

The most important word is FLOW!

In a blocked duct, the best way to unblock it is to feed through it and keep the flow going.

In mastitis, milk that hangs around in inflamed ducts will make the problem worse so try and move it through as best you can. This is ideally through feeding, and completely emptying the breast.   Sometimes this is not possible, in which case, feed as much as you can and then express as much as you can.  Don’t ignore the other breast, this needs using too!

While your body tried to naturally heal, your milk can take on a slightly different taste with increased sodium.  This is completely normal and completely safe for the baby, but they might be a little put off by the taste and require some coaxing – persevere!  Good hydration will help water imbalances here.

What to do if feeding alone doesn’t clear it.

Heat stimulates milk production flow, so use warmth (shower, hot flannel, heat pack) to get the flow going again.  While the breast is nice and warm, take a lubricant (coconut oil, soap or conditioner in the shower) and massage the breast towards the nipple.  Try to hand express some milk to get the flow going even more.  As you recover, do this every morning in the shower to help the process.

Go without a bra.  Any kind of constriction can impair flow.

Feed creatively!  Get the baby in to different positions to bed access the blocked duct.  See this post on Kelly Mom (excellent feeding support) on Dangle Feeding.

Here are some remedies which may help:

Belladonna Comes on quickly.  Hard swollen breast.  Throbbing pain.  Red streaks from nipple.  You feel worse from light, noise or touch.
Bryonia Hot hard, painful.  Worse from movement.  You want to lie still.  Thirsty.
Cimicifuga Left breast especially.  Worse when cold.  Worse in the morning.  Often associated with low feelings.
Merc Sol Sweating.  Bad breath.  Lots of salivation.  Thirsty.
Phytolacca Heavy, stony hard breasts.  Tender with radiating pain.  Better for heat.
Silica Lots of discharge.  Feelings of weakness or felling chilly.  Worse for cold or draughts, damp, noise, light or being  jarred.

 

You will never use too much milk.  Milk supplies are never depleted by overuse.  The opposite in fact so keep feeding!

Although antibiotics are not always prescribed, they can be suggested by a GP where symptoms do not improve within a day.  The pathogens can be resistant to the antibiotics, so care is taken in selection.  This can also mean that they don’t help, while killing off your beneficial bacteria at the same time.  No bacteria at all decreases your chance of fighting off disease.  Antibiotics also suppress the inflammation but do nothing to address the flow issues and their potential causes.  So it is far better to use the techniques above and nip it in the bud.

In the event of your taking antibiotics, take a decent probiotic alongside it like Optibac.

Obviously keep an eye on your symptoms. The body can throw off low level inflammations with a bit of effort but trust your instincts.  If you experience increasing levels of weakness, pus or bloody discharge, you have a sudden spike in temperature or you have only recently been in hospital, then contact your chosen health professional.