Midwifery and Naturopathic Medicine – Supporting the Body’s Natural Work

Seven weeks ago my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world, a little girl.  During my pregnancy, labour and deliver and post-partum period I was under the care of midwives.  It was a wonderful experience and in the process I found many parallels with naturopathic medicine. 

While I don’t claim to be an expert, midwifery care, in my understanding and experience, is based on the idea that pregnancy and child birth is a normal process that in the majority of cases occurs naturally, normally and without the need for interventions.  Pregnancy is not a disease or illness that needs treatment and those involved should be actively involved in all decisions made.  Allowing pregnancy and child birth to unfold naturally has advantages.  It is well documented that medical interventions in labour and delivery increase the risk of needing further interventions.  For example, a medical induction (medication to start labour) increases the risk of needing a C-section.  Of course, there are absolutely cases when medical treatment is needed and midwives are trained to identify these situations and refer to an obstetrician for treatment.  I’m incredibly grateful for this as a friend who was due at the same time needed emergency medical care and was transferred from her midwife to an obstetrician for medical treatment resulting in the safe delivery of her baby and her own safety as well. 

While medical care is vital and life-saving, knowing when it is not needed is also important.  In my case, I was very lucky to have a healthy, normal pregnancy (apart from some very unpleasant heartburn!) and planned to have a home birth with a midwife.  To my surprise, my due date (August 13th) came and went with no sign of baby.  And no sign of her for the following week either.  When she was 10 days past her due date most obstetricians would have scheduled a medical induction – the use of synthetic hormones to tell my body to begin contractions.  However, I wasn’t too keen on this option - as I’d mentioned above, this increases the risk of needing other treatments.  However, my midwife was reassuring that going past the due date by at least one week is actually very normal in a first pregnancy and does not create any risks for a while.  We waited patiently and sure enough, my labour started on its own shortly before reaching two weeks past my due date.  My labour progressed well and I was able to deliver a healthy baby girl at home as planned. 

This approach of allowing the body to work naturally is similar to naturopathic medicine.  Naturopathic medicine acknowledges that most of the time the body has the capacity to heal and flourish when provided with the right conditions.  When you break your arm, you don’t walk around with a broken arm the rest of your life, the bone heals.  Of course we can encourage this by putting on a cast and resting and taking a break from playing volleyball, but ultimately it’s the body that does the actual repair work.  Naturopathic treatments seek to provide the body with what it needs (more of a nutrient, appropriate activity or rest, improved function of an organ such as the liver) and remove factors that might be interfering with the healing process (such as an offending food allergen, a toxin or an emotional stress) and allowing the body to heal and restore balance.   The benefit of this treatment is that it’s very safe and often associated with fewer side effects.  Like midwives, NDs are trained to use modern medical testing, identify serious conditions that require medical treatment and to refer to a medical doctor appropriately and this care is extremely important.  When we were 1 week past my due date I was sent for an ultrasound to confirm that the baby was doing well and that intervention was not needed.   If you have a heart attack, an emergency room doc and a cardiologist can provide life-saving care.  But if your cholesterol is slightly elevated, there are huge advantages to working with diet and lifetyle changes before opting for medication.  By choosing naturopathic medicine, you’re giving your body the opportunity to heal itself in the context of safe and appropriate modern care.