In 2014-2015 I was the founding director of a global inaugural conference on Integrative Maternity Healthcare (www.somcanz.com) that was a ground-breaking and revolutionary symposium, held in Auckland New Zealand, which promoted a cross-discipline exchange of progressive research, innovative knowledge, enlightened experience and radical ideas; all in a medically professional and universally holistic environment of visionary open-mindedness.
Until then, maternity health specialists locally could convene only under their individual professional organisational umbrellas – but SOMCANZ was at last a first gathering for all maternity professionals to connect and communicate with each other. From Midwives to Medical Herbalists, from Hypnobirthers to Homeopaths, from Obstetricians to Osteopaths, and every therapeutic discipline in-between; with our collective goal being to uphold the World Health Organization mandate:
Optimal health and well-being are inclusive of the physical, social, psychological, emotional and spiritual dimensions of life.
But what actually is “integrative maternity healthcare”. Simple: This is when the medical and the holistic, the contemporary and the traditional, the mainstream and the alternative, all respect how they complement each other, and form a united revolution of cohesive evolution, to create the ultimate in Best Maternity Care.
So what are Integrative Maternity Healthcare services? Easy: Alternative medicines (eg homeopathy, medical herbalism, Chinese medicine, Indian Ayurveda); Mind-Body (eg meditation, spiritual healing, music, dance); Biological (eg diet, vitamins, minerals, supplements); Body Manipulation (eg chiropractic, osteopathy); and Energy (eg reiki, qi gong, pulsed electromagnetic fields); and more.
For hundreds of years midwives worldwide have utilised naturopathic therapies during the antenatal, childbirth, postnatal and newborn periods – though in the modern West this is becoming somewhat of an “underground” activity due to spiralling legislative red tape.
NZ midwives particularly, do formally recognise that complementary therapies such as naturopathy and acupuncture can have significant influences on the normal progression of pregnancy, the spontaneous naturalness of childbirth, and give positive benefits during the postpartum, for both the woman and baby. However, to quote the NZ College of Midwives “Midwives incorporating these therapies into their practice should either have undertaken a recognised education programme or refer clients to appropriately qualified practitioners.” So LMCs often may have their own local network of complementary therapy specialists they can suggest women see.
Internationally, New Zealand’s unique continuity-of-care LMC system is recognised as literally the best maternity healthcare on the planet (!) – which sadly many local Kiwi women don’t always truly appear to appreciate, with oftentimes a trigger-finger knee-jerk reflex to make complaints – on a workforce that is notoriously overworked, underpaid and phenomenally dedicated. But because of NZ’s unique position on the World Stage of maternity healthcare, we also have no excuses not to formally evolve our own Maternity Healthcare system, into the Integrative Medicine paradigm. Plus we do have local internationally-renowned Obstetricians wishing to be part of the journey.
And relevantly, these days for expectant women, along with their oftentimes healthy lifestyle approaches, many do want Integrative Medicine as mainstream to their childbirth journey – especially because birth is fundamentally both a science and a heart-based experience. Woman, and commonly their partners too, are strongly desiring an integrational blending of modern obstetric medicine, with traditional naturopathic therapies, for they desire a healthcare approach that focuses holistically on the whole woman-baby dyad.
Integrative Maternity Healthcare covers so many different modalities, it is somewhat impossible for me to give you specific advice – but here are my Top 5 Must Do’s:
- As early as possible in your pregnancy, start regularly seeing a medical herbalist naturopath to manage your
- From 35-weeks’ gestation, get obsessed with ripening your cervix using tonics such as Nature’s Sunshine “5W” and Evening Primrose Oil and seeing an Acupuncturist.
- Get everything to support your labour – including aromatherapy oils, homeopathic drops, Bach’s Flower “Rescue Remedy” for your drinking water, and hiring a TENS machine. Don’t hold back – do it all – it’s about layering the affects.
- Fill yourself with quality information: Read great books on childbirth especially the labour-birth chapter in my own book “OH BABY…Birth, Babies & Motherhood Uncensored”. Attend great labour seminars, especially Hypnobirthing and my own Organic Birth. And avoid Google!
- Work part-time from 28-weeks, and not work from 32-weeks, because from my observation over years, doing so reduces Third Trimester medical complications – allowing your best chances of going spontaneously into labour, rather than needing an induction.
It’s about you as an expectant woman focussing physically and mentally on pregnancy wellness naturopathically; and to focus emotionally and spiritually on spontaneous childbirth normalcy.
If we want the normal – we need to focus on the natural.