October 27, 2010
Volume 12, Issue 22
Midwifery Today E-News
“Herbs”
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In This Week’s Issue:


Quote of the Week

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Dr. Seuss


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The Art of Midwifery

Postpartum Herbal Cocktail

My midwives were herbalists with lots of experience under their belts. One of them made me a wonderful herbal cocktail that is delicious and effective for not only postpartum blues but for fortifying breast milk. I make a tea from red clover, which is great for purifying the blood and helping to improve breast milk; lemon balm, which works wonderfully for lifting the spirits; red raspberry leaf, which helps the uterine walls contract, so the uterus can shrink back down to size; and nettles, which contain vitamin K, important for clotting. Nettles also are a good source of iron, which is important for breastfeeding babies. I steep a teaspoon of each per cup of tea for about five minutes. It is best fresh!

Grace
Excerpted from Midwifery Today’s Sharing Midwifery Knowledge, Tricks of the Trade, Vol. IV
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ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn! Share them with E-News readers by sending them to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com.


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Jan’s Corner

Get Organized, Join Together and Save Midwifery

The reason we lost midwifery in the United States is because doctors organized and wrote things down in journals. They had a campaign to get rid of the midwives. They called us the “midwife problem,” and asked, “How are we going to deal with the midwife problem?!” They started rumors that midwives were dirty and didn’t know anything. They started complete lies that hospitals were safer. That was when they were still killing women and their babies at a rapid rate. The midwives did not have a journal or an organization for help in countering these lies. In places around the world with no organization and no journal we find midwifery is weakening. In China where Midwifery Today held a conference in 2002, midwifery is badly weakening. The doctors there say, “We don’t need midwives now because we have enough doctors to do the births.” Yet they have a 50% or greater cesarean rate! Without a strong cohort of midwives to speak out for the motherbaby (yes, they are one), medicine takes over and then violates human rights. There are very few doctors in the United States or China who have ever seen a normal, physiological, miraculous birth. Recently, when we held a conference in Moscow, Russia, we had a bit of hope for the future. The Russian doctors who attended our conference understand normal birth. They’ve seen, promoted and helped with normal births. This was very encouraging to all of us at the Russia conference.

Birth is truly a miracle designed by God to bond the mother and baby in a strong, loving and caring way. We have disrespected the motherbaby bond and their birthrights so badly that we have changed the course of history. It is time to take birth back. It belongs to motherbaby (with dad and midwife there to love, support and protect the motherbaby). This does not mean any particular birth will always go easy and you must have skill, knowledge, techniques and intuition with a lot of love. Midwifery Today will try to help you with all of these. Through our conferences you get even more hands-on skills. They are designed both clinically and philosophically to help you be the best midwife or doula you can be. Join us in Russia or in many other parts of the world to learn face-to-face and hands-on. Our next conference, “Gentle Birth Is a Human Rights Issue,” will be held in Eugene, Oregon, March 30 through April 3, 2011. For more information about the Eugene conference, visit us at: www.midwiferytoday.com/conferences/Eugene2011/

Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.

Jan’s blog: community.midwiferytoday.com/blogs/jan/default.aspx
Jan on Twitter: twitter.com/jantritten
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International Alliance of Midwives on Facebook: facebook.com/IAMbirth


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Research

Irradiation for Childhood Cancer Connected to Increased Risk of Stillbirth

The risk of stillbirth and neonatal death is greatly increased among women who received radiation treatments for certain childhood cancers, according to new research out of Sweden.

A study recently published in the medical journal Lancet uses data from nearly 5,000 pregnancies among 2,800 men and women who had survived childhood cancer. Researchers discovered that women who had undergone irradiation of the uterus and ovaries before puberty had a 12-fold increase for stillbirth and neonatal death during their subsequent pregnancies.

“Our findings do not support concern about heritable genetic changes affecting the risk of stillbirth and neonatal death in the offspring of men exposed to gonadal irradiation,” the researchers concluded. “However, uterine and ovarian irradiation had serious adverse effects on the offspring that were probably related to uterine damage. Careful management is warranted of pregnancies in women given high doses of pelvic irradiation before puberty.”

— Signorello, L., et al. 2010. Stillbirth and neonatal death in relation to radiation exposure before conception: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet 376(9741): 624–30.


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Thinking Like an Herbalist

To think like an herbalist one must come to know the ways that herbs interact with human physiology. Which herb will support the body’s healing process? Which herb is the best choice for nourishing the part of the body in need of healing? Which one relieves tension, thereby eliciting the relaxation response? How do the energetics of the herbs interact with the energetics of the human being?

To think like an herbalist, one must first consider the herbs that nourish the body and soul. Without proper nourishment, our bodies can’t work optimally.

“Nourishment encourages expansion and growth. Nourishment includes. Nourishment supports each being as a unique, holy individual. Nourishing our problems encourages love for all parts of ourselves.”(1)

Each herb has its own individual personality and each plant’s behavior, while in or on the human body, responds in specific ways.

Deciding which herb to use based on its actions, or properties, is a time-honored approach to herbalism. “Herbal actions describe the ways in which the remedy affects human physiology. Plants have a direct impact on physiological activity and by knowing what body process you want to help or heal, the appropriate action can be selected.”(2) After learning about the categories of herbal actions, one can then learn the subtle differences among the system affinities of various herbs.

As an herbalist, I am interested in the action of the herb, rather than the chemicals in the plant. The chemicals in plants work synergistically, not only within the plant, but also within the human body. For example, an herb that has astringent properties, such as plantain (Plantago major), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) or Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), may assist in shrinking hemorrhoids.

The following is a list of herbal actions and the herbs in each category that I have used in my midwifery practice:

  • Alterative—Cleanse congested, stagnant blood and tissue fluids, gradually increase vitality through nourishment. Alfalfa, Burdock, Dandelion, Nettles, Red Clover, Yellow Dock
  • Anti-catarrhal—Mucus is the body’s way of protecting mucous membranes from foreign bodies. Anti-catarrhals thin mucus that has become so thick that it congests the membranes. Peppermint, Thyme, Yarrow
  • Anti-inflammatory—These herbs don’t take away the inflammatory response, but soothe and cool the inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. Calendula, Comfrey, Hawthorn, Marshmallow, Peppermint, Plantain, St. John’s Wort, Shepherd’s Purse, Yarrow
  • Anti-microbial—These herbs make the surrounding tissue uninviting to unwanted bacteria, viruses and parasites. They can also stimulate the immune response by activating lymphocytes. Calendula, Echinacea, Garlic, Peppermint, St. John’s Wort, Uva-ursi, Yarrow
  • Anti-spasmodic—These ease cramps in smooth or skeletal muscle and relax the autonomic and central nervous systems. Black Cohosh, Catnip, Motherwort, Peppermint, Red Clover, St. John’s Wort, Valerian
  • Astringent—Used to stop bleeding or to bind tissue, which then forms a protective coat. Comfrey leaf and root, Plantain, Shepherd’s Purse, Yarrow
  • Bitter—Herbs with a bitter taste stimulate and jump-start digestive juices. Dandelion, Yarrow
  • Carminative—They calm the lining of digestive tract and help to eliminate gas. Catnip, Motherwort, Peppermint, Valerian
  • Cholagogue—Stimulate flow of bile from the liver. Dandelion root, Yarrow
  • Demulcent—Soothe and protect irritated tissue in the digestive and respiratory tracts, aid in healing wounds. Comfrey leaf and root, Marshmallow leaf and root
  • Diuretic—Increase kidney output and rid the body of extra interstitial fluids. Burdock, Dandelion leaf, Yarrow
  • Diaphoretic—These are heating herbs that increase circulation and perspiration. Yarrow
  • Galactagogue—Stimulate breast milk production through nourishment. Alfalfa, Nettles, Raspberry leaf, Red Clover
  • Hepatic—Tone and nourish the liver. Burdock, Dandelion leaf and root
  • Hypotensives—Reduce systolic and blood diastolic pressures. Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Garlic, Hawthorn, Motherwort, Nettles, Valerian, Yarrow
  • Nervines—May be tonic, relaxant or stimulant; many nervines are anti-spasmodic, as well. Black Cohosh, Catnip, Motherwort, St. John’s Wort, Peppermint, Valerian

Another time-honored approach for learning which herbs to use is searching through old literature that contains the wisdom of our ancestors. After all, can a plant that has been used for the same purpose for hundreds of years be dangerous or wrong?

References:

  1. Weed, S. 1989. Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise. Woodstock, New York: Ash Tree Publishing.
  2. Hoffman, D. 1992. Therapeutic Herbalism: A Correspondence Course in Phytotherapy. Forestville, California: California School of Herbal Studies.

Janice Marsh-Prelesnik
Excerpted from "Thinking Like an Herbalist," Midwifery Today, Issue 87
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Question of the Week

comfreyQ: What is your favorite herbal remedy for pregnancy, labor and/or postpartum?

— Midwifery Today staff


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Letters

Midwives Recruited for Southern Sudan

Dear all,

UNFPA Southern Sudan is now, through the UNV office, recruiting 20 International United Nations Volunteers – Midwives to UNFPA Southern Sudan. As you might be aware, Southern Sudan has the worst maternal mortality statistics in the world!

While I do not expect you yourselves to apply for these posts, I would be forever grateful if you could forward this e-mail to midwives you know.

A UN volunteer pays about USD 2,674–USD 2,874 per month, settling-in-grant equivalent to US$ 4,572; HDSS (currently) equivalent to US$ 546, life, health, and permanent disability insurance; return airfares; resettlement allowance of US$ 150 per month of satisfactory service.

For any questions related to the recruitment process please contact UNV Offices, please note that there will be no recruitment through UNFPA offices. Please see the following Web page for more information:

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/res.nsf/db900sid/OCHA-89YJXZ?OpenDocument&cc=sdn

Best regards,
Silje M. Heitmann, Programme Analyst, UNFPA Southern Sudan—Juba
+249121560540, +24995549942, Skype: siljekmh


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