|Anyone searching for evidence of miracles need look no further than the process of conception. Every month, as each ripe egg is released from its ovary and enters the Fallopian tube, the mucus at the entrance to the womb becomes less sticky. If intercourse takes place, millions of vigorously swimming sperm make their way through the mucus, into the womb, and into the Fallopian tubes. Here they congregate around the egg, causing it to spin round with the movement of their beating tails. Eventually one sperm penetrates the egg, the nuclei of sperm and egg fuse, and the process of cell division begins. The fused nuclei split into two cells, then four, then eight, then sixteen, all containing the 46 individual packages of information or chromosomes which will create a new and totally unique human being.
Seven days after fertilization the ball of cells embeds itself in the wall of the uterus. At 20 days the placenta begins to form, at 30 days the spinal cord, at 6 weeks the heart, and by 13 weeks all the body organs are formed. At 5 months the baby can be felt to move. At 6 months the lungs become functional and the nostrils open. At 7 months the baby turns into the head down position ready for birth.
A full-time pregnancy usually lasts 38 weeks, counting from the moment of conception to the time the baby is born. Conception usually takes place half-way between periods if your cycle is 28 days and regular. However, since many women's periods are not exactly 28 days, pregnancy is usually measured as being 40 weeks from the first day of the last period. Common pointers to pregnancy are missing a period, more than usually tender or swollen breasts and darker nipples, nausea, tiredness, a frequent urge to pass urine, and sometimes loss of appetite or cravings for unusual foods. To confirm your pregnancy you should have a pregnancy test. This can be done by your medical doctor, a family planning clinic, or a pregnancy testing service. If you use a home pregnancy testing kit from the chemist, read the instructions very carefully, and if you are still in doubt see your medical doctor.
Your chances of having twins are about 1 in 80! Identical twins develop from the same egg and share the same placenta; non-identical twins develop from different eggs and have a placenta each. Only three pairs of twins in every ten are identical. Triplets are much rarer, only occurring in 1 in 6,400 pregnancies. According to recent evidence, efforts to determine the sex of a baby by having intercourse at a particular time during ovulation or by altering the acid-alkaline balance of the vagina do not work.
Once you have established that you are pregnant, do go for regular antenatal check-ups, even it it means frustrating waits in hospital antenatal clinics or in your medical doctor's waiting room. Normally your medical doctor will share your antenatal care with a midwife and a hospital consultant. If you want to have your baby at home, write to the Supervisor of Midwives at your local Maternity Unit, stating you intend having a home birth and asking her to provide you with a midwife.
Antenatal care is important since it allows you to find out at an early stage if there are any problems. Ultrasound is a picture of the baby in the womb and can be used to monitor the size, shape and position of the baby at any stage of pregnancy. Recently there has been some suggestion that having more than five scans in one pregnancy may lead to impaired uterine growth, may be linked to speech delay and left-handed babies. The full significance of these results has yet to be determined. Amniocentesis (taking a sample of the amniotic fluid around your baby) is usually carried out between 16 and 18 weeks, but only if a previous baby has been abnormal or there is a family history of congenital problems, or it the mother is over 35. An earlier test, chorion villous biopsy, can be done at 10 weeks in some centres. Conditions such as spina bifida or Down's syndrome can be detected in this way. However, the procedure does involve a slight risk of miscarriage. You should also consider carefully what your attitude would be if your baby was found to be abnormal. Would you want to terminate the pregnancy or not?
Here, in brief, are some of the dos and don'ts of pregnancy. Treat your baby as a person from the word go - moderate exercise - swimming and walking in the fresh air are very good, but anything which involves repeated compression of the spine, such as horse-riding or trampolining, should be avoided; always keep 25 per cent of your energy in reserve. Do go to antenatal classes - they will teach you what to expect and how to breathe in order to cope with pain during labour. Don't wear tight clothes. Get as much sleep as you can and avoid late nights. Don't sit in hot baths for too long; 10 minutes is about the maximum, especially if you faint easily or have a tendency to bleed. Avoid serious travelling if you can, especially if you have had a threatened miscarriage or there are complications, or you suffer from travel sickness; most airlines do not like you to fly after 32 weeks or so, so if you must fly, check with the airline first. Stop working before 28 weeks (when maternity benefit can be claimed) if your work is very strenuous. Avoid soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert and blue-veined types, pates, cooked chilled meals and ready-to-eat poultry, unless piping hot, because they may contain the bacterium leading to listeriosis. The disease may precipitate miscarriage.
The old idea that an expectant mother needs to 'eat for two' has been comprehensively demolished in recent years. Everything depends on the efficiency of the mother's metabolism. An increase in iron and calcium foods and also a modest increase in protein intake, preferably in the form of oily fish, nuts, seeds, pulses and wholegrains is recommended. The latter, with generous helpings of raw vegetables and fruit, will help to guard against constipation. Tea, coffee, and alcohol should be avoided. Chamomile tea should also be avoided, especially in the later stages. As for sex during pregnancy, there are no rules really, except to say that if you do not feel like it your partner should respect your wishes. Intercourse during the first 16 weeks should be avoided if you have had a threatened miscarriage or previous miscarriages; it is also unwise if there is still occasional vaginal bleeding, or if you are excessively nervous and worried about the effects of intercourse on your pregnancy. In the later months of pregnancy, deep penetration should be avoided. There are women who claim that orgasms in the later stages of pregnancy make labour less painful.
Homeopathic remedies during pregnancy
During the first three months of pregnancy, the most vulnerable time, you should AVOID ALL MEDICATION if you possibly can - that means prescription drugs, recreational drugs, over-the-counter preparations from chemists and health-food shops, vitamin and mineral supplements, and homeopathic remedies. There is no evidence that homeopathic remedies cause any problems during pregnancy, but to be on the safe side they should not be taken in potencies less than 6c except for tissue salts. It is probably best to avoid low potency Apis altogether and take 30c if you need to.
There are many schools of thought among homeopaths as to the most appropriate treatment of pregnancy. There are homeopaths who only treat if there are symptoms to treat; others recommend a 'miasmatic clear-out', giving nosodes for all the diseases or weaknesses which appear in the family history; others favour a systemic clear out using Sulphur, Calcium carb., Lycopodium, and tissue salts; others favour constitutional treatment for both the mother and the father; others give Caulophyllum in the last stages of pregnancy to stimulate the womb.
In fact pregnancy is a very good time to treat someone because constitutional features tend to declare themselves very strongly due to the general mobilization of the Vital Force. Also by treating the mother's symptoms the baby can be treated as well. Indeed some of the mother's symptoms are the baby's. My treatment approach depends on the length of time I have known the parents and the family, the family's medical history, the health of the mother during pregnancy, and sometimes the health of the father too. Where possible I advise pre-conceptual constitutional treatment for both parents.
For minor complaints during pregnancy, homeopathic remedies should be tried first. If you feel very unwell, see your medical doctor before taking anything.