Junior Pregnancy and Baby, July 2005
Author of the Gentle Birth Bethod writes on avoiding water retention taking control of a caesarean delivery and pre-birth anxieties.
Gowri Motha, the pregnancy and birth guru, obstetrician and author of gentle birth method answers your questions.
In my last pregnancy I really suffered from water retention. Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m desperate to avoid it happening a second time. What can I do to avoid it – and if it does happen, how can I relieve it?
Common causes of water retention during pregnancy are stress, hormonal imbalance, eating too many carbohydrates and lack of exercise.
Stress can lead to excessive production of antidiuretic hormone, which results in your kidneys retaining more water.
This usually manifests as a generally waterlogged body – it’s likely that you’ll have swollen feet and hands, a puffy face and, in some cases, raised blood pressure. Stress also contributes to a mild form of depression that women try to relieve by eating wheat-based comfort food such as cakes and sugary treats, which tend to cause water retention.
Placental hormones, chiefly oestrogens and progesterone, are particularly noted for their water-retentive properties. In addition, your pregnant womb sits heavily on important pelvic blood vessels and lymphatic drainage channels, which can cause a slower return of the blood and fluids going up towards your heart. The result is water retention in the lower part of your body.
You can conquer the problem by reducing your stress levels. This could mean cutting down on your working hours of delegating certain duties and slowing down your pace. If possible, cut down on your working hours gradually and stop working from 32 weeks.
Eating properly is also crucial – the easiest way to prevent water retention is to avoid foods that cause it. I recommend that you cut wheat and sugar completely. Cutting out fruit juice, bananas, grapes and mangoes will also help. If giving up wheat does not have the desired effect, cut out gluten as well and treat yourself to weekly reflexology treatments. Reflexology helps to alleviate water retention by stimulating the kidneys and colon to eliminate wastes on a more regular basis.
Drinking fennel tea or a glass of celery juice with a dash of apple in it can also stimulate your kidneys to eliminate wastes. Exercise could also help both your kidneys and the colon eliminate efficiently. I would also recommend a brisk 30-minute walk every day, coupled with an easy 20-minute yoga routine. How do you think things will change in the next ten years?
I’ve been told I have placenta praevia, and will need a scheduled caesarean section. I’m terribly disappointed that my planned water birth isn’t going to happen. How can I make the best of it and have a positive birth experience regardless?
Even though I am a big advocate of natural and gentle birth, it is the preparation for birth that has the biggest impact on your baby’s temperament and on your satisfaction after birth. Beat in mind that mothers who plan to give birth in water often feel like stepping out of the birthing pool at the last minute to give birth, so one can never predict the outcome.
It is also helpful to know that in routine C-sections, the surgeons lower the sterile cloth screen when your baby’s head is emerging so that you and your partner can watch your baby being born. However, during a C-section for placenta preavia the surgeons have to move fast to minimise excessive bleeding and hence do not encourage viewing of the actual delivery.
All mothers, event if they are going to have a Caesarean section, benefit from visualising the birth of their babies through the vaginal passage.
I have received extremely positive feedback from mothers who listened to my visualisation tape priopr to giving birth – their mind were conditioned to regard the birth as natural even though they had a C- section and several mothers remarked to me that the actual physical procedure had very little impact on them. In fact the birth felt entirely natural.
My wife is due in two weeks’ time, and is incredibly anxious about the birth, how can I help her through it?
Removing fear is the first step and this can be achieved by understanding the mechanism of birthing. Mother Nature helps to prepare the body by releasing special hormones form the placenta throughout pregnancy, especially during the last two weeks. These help two weeks. These help to relax and expand the birth passages.
Keep in mind that most of the contractions during labour last an average of 40 seconds, with five whole minutes of total relaxation between contractions. Make the rest phases more pleasant by gently massaging your partner and offering gentle words of encouragement.
To make the birthing experience as painless as possible, your wife should avoid gluten and sugar in the last two weeks of pregnancy, eat only 2000 calories a day and exercise for 30 minutes daily during pregnancy. I have produced a comprehensive self-hypnosis and visualisation CD, which you should listen to every day to help you both prepare for a stress-free birth.
Send your questions to:
Q&A, Junior Pregnancy & Baby
4 Cromwell Place, London SW7 2JE
We regret our experts can only answer questions chosen for publication.