My very serious attempt at natural induction (and lowering blood pressure)

I have turned to a naturopath for the first time in my life. In an effort to make my birthing experience as natural and synthetic-drug-free as possible, I wanted to naturally reduce my on-again off-again high blood pressure that was putting me at risk of needing a medical induction, and I wanted to naturally induce labour before blood pressure became a problem again.

My naturopath is the same person who led the hypnobirthing classes I took. She specializes in pregnancy, and is also a doula. I saw her today for acupuncture, and she also gave me more recommendations to add to my list of natural induction techniques. She treated for both induction and hypertension today. The induction needle points felt like a light prick and a momentary throbbing. But as soon as the first needle went into a blood pressure point (I think it was the one between my toes), my blood pressure dropped dramatically and I almost fainted. When she saw me go white and sweaty, she took my blood pressure reading at 105/60. My (pregnant) normal is 160/85. This was a huge drop for me, and she took the needles out and tried acupressure instead until my body acclimated. Eventually I was able to handle the needles again and the session felt like a success. I immediately went from skeptical to a believer in the power of acupuncture.

For blood pressure regulation

The naturopath recommended:

  • eat one clove of garlic per day, in food
  • take 500 mg of magnesium (twice what I am already taking for restless legs) along with 1000 mg of calcium daily
  • walk for 30 minutes per day
  • drink nettle tea
  • take a warm bath daily, with 1/4 cup epsom salt and 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil

I also researched on my own and have added beet juice to my routine. New research has shown that drinking a glass of pure beet juice a day significantly lowers blood pressure at the same rate as prescription medication (albeit among mostly male samples, because medical research is androcentric). Beet juice is disgusting though. This one is much less enjoyable than the prescription for nightly relaxing baths…

For labour induction

The naturopath first assessed whether or not my body appeared ready for labour. Based on the pre labour symptoms I had experienced, the fact that I am currently 38 weeks and 3 days (in the safe zone), and the fact that I am facing a possible medical induction any day now, she went ahead and treated me like she would someone who was past due. Here is what she recommended:

  • an herbal tincture with black and blue cohosh and ginger. I am to drink it 3 times a day and try to make it coincide with nipple stimulation.
  • nipple stimulation – since my pumping experience so far has elicited some mild cramps, she suggested I keep at it, but for a longer duration. I am to use the pump for 10 minutes each side, then rest for 10 minutes, and repeat this pattern twice more.
  • squatting for 1 minute 10 times per day
  • Evening Primrose Oil – 1000 mg orally 3 times per day, and vaginally once per day
  • continue hypnobirthing scripts with focus on opening and softening visualizations

Other things I have been doing:

  • Walking. I became a mall walker (and a Walmart walker, and an any-box-store-with-air-conditioning walker).
  • Climbing the stairs sideways. The pelvic tilting is supposed to help get baby’s head to stimulate the cervix.
  • Bouncing on the yoga ball. Same logic as above.
  • Daily orgasms. Can’t complain about this one.

Bye Bye Birth Plan

Well, my blood pressure spiked again, and I was back in the hospital for a complete work up. I was there 10 minutes and already arguing with the OB about unecessary interventions. [This was an OBGYN I had met before – he gave me an uneccesary intervention for an abnormal pap test years ago and asked me what it was like to be a lesbian]. He wanted to put me on a saline IV just to see what that would do, even though I told him I had been drinking water like a fish and was definitely not dehydrated. “We’ll just try it”. He said. “Might as well”. Luckily after he left my midwife agreed with me that it was uneccesary and didn’t do it. In the hospital my blood pressure was totally normal at every measure, baby’s heart rate was normal, blood and urine came back completely normal.

This is just a case of labile hypertension – blood pressure spikes will come and go, and aren’t harming me or the baby at this point. According to a large scale study I just read, this kind of hypertension only has a 15-20% chance of becoming the more serious pre-eclampsia, or full on hypertension. Yet, the midwife told me to make peace with a hospital birth and likely induction. She recommended we save our money by cancelling the birthing tub we had ordered for our home birth. She said that in her experience, hypertension only gets worse the further along the pregnancy gets. She wants us to aim to reach 37 weeks, which is in 5 days.

I somehow kept a calm face through the entire evening at the hospital, but when I got home I lost my cool. I have been laying awake for most of the night thinking about how I can manage a peaceful calm birth in a hospital room. How will I go within and enter deep relaxation when I feel the need to constantly defend myself and question an OB’s many recommendations? If I need to be induced, how long will they give me to progress on my own without pitocin, and just membrane sweeps and cervix ripening gel and walking around? Will I be able to walk around, or will they have me heavily monitored and strapped to machines? If I get pitocin, will I be able to labour without an epidural? Will I end up flat on my back with my feet in stirrups being told what to do by an outsider? Will I lose control of my body and lose any semblance of this birth being a natural event?

I was excited about labour and delivery the way I had pictured it. Now I am full of dread and anxiety. I know many women are able to have very satisfying birth experiences in hospitals, but I can’t help but get my back up in a hospital environment. It is NOT my safe place. It is not comfortable for me.

I clearly have a lot of processing still to do. I go back to the hospital for more monitoring and an ultrasound on Monday.

Pregnancy Update Week 36

I am 9 months pregnant. One month until the due date. This week involved a pre-eclampsia scare and an emergency non-stress test. At my routine midwife appointment my blood pressure was very high (160/106). This was a huge and uncharacteristic jump for me, and the midwife told me to call my wife and head to the hospital for some testing. She also told me point blank that there was likely nothing that could be done about this because it was genetic (my mom had pregnancy hypertension with me), and that the baby would likely have to be induced before full term, and to say goodbye to my home birth.

My wife rushed home early from a very hectic day at work and we met the on-call midwife at the hospital. Luckily it was my favourite midwife, Martha. She seemed much less worried than the new midwife I had seen earlier, and rather than jumping to the worst conclusion, calmly said we would check on baby and look at my blood pressure a few more times to see what was going on. The non-stress test was relaxing and reassuring as we listened to little bug’s steady heart beat and frequent kicks for 20 minutes. Miraculously, my blood pressure was completely normal every time they tested. The OB on call didn’t even recommend blood work. They couldn’t explain the earlier spike, but were comfortable sending me home to watch for symptoms of pre-eclampsia, and to continue on with weekly blood pressure checks. Lovely, wonderful Martha said that my birth plan won’t be affected based on the hospital assessment. She did inform us that if I do develop pre-eclampsia later on I would have to be induced, which of course would mean no home birth, but that right now there is no reason to get discouraged.

I have been told to take it easy – no more traipsing around town running errands in the heat all day, no more stressful trips out of town. We had two trips to visit friends planned for this weekend (I know, what happened to my plan for a relaxing, less social, August?), and we convinced them to come to us instead.

In other news…

I had the Group B Strep test done. After a two week regime of extra strength pro-biotics, vitamin C, and garlic capsules, my fingers are crossed that this test won’t add yet another kink in my birth plan.

I have been doing twice daily hypnobirthing meditations, trying to lower my blood pressure and keep calm and open to whatever path my birth takes.

I successfully defended my Qualifying Exam this week. Now I am ABD – All But Dissertation. I can see the light at the end of the PhD tunnel.

Our good friends who got pregnant a week and a half before us gave birth to their twins this week, healthy and hungry at 37 weeks. We can’t wait to meet them, but they are taking some family time right now while they recover and adjust to their new hectic lifestyle.

Preparations for Baby

  • More home birth supplies purchased. I’m leaving the receipt with everything I wouldn’t need for a hospital birth/induction, so if plans change I can get my money back.
  • Thank you cards for baby shower completed – people kept warning me that if I didn’t do it right away, the baby would come before I did them and I’d never get them done. So I got them done.
  • Put batteries in all the bouncers, vibrating chairs, and activity gyms. Got extra batteries to stow away because people warned us that these things eat up batteries quickly.

Bodily Experiences This Week

  • High blood pressure scare.
  • Lightening crotch. Little bug is punching or head butting me in the cervix. Feels like jolts of a cramp, like a particularly uncomfortable or deep pap test swab.
  • Sleep issues.
  • Swollen feet. I try to make sure I spend chunks of time sitting or laying with my feet above my heart (apparently I should be doing this to lower blood pressure, too).

Baby This Week

  • 6 pounds, 19 inches
  • Not much has changed internally for little bug – she is more or less ready to come out. Just putting on more weight.
  • She is engaged in my pelvis – her head was so low that the midwife couldn’t feel it tucked under my pubic bone. No wonder I am getting the lightening crotch.