Sources: Papers On Health

Simple remedies such as we advocate are found of

immense service in mitigating both the pains of child-birth and the

troubles coming before and after it.

To see that the medical man is one thoroughly competent is the first

duty of those responsible in such a case. Incompetent and careless

doctors are the cause of much trouble. Get, then, the best you can.

Much may be done, however, to prevent trouble by very simple means.

The sufferings usually accompanying pregnancy and the birth of children

in civilized countries are largely confined to the higher classes.

Working women escape much of the pain their more luxurious sisters have

to endure. Travellers tell us how, among the Red Indians, Negroes,

South Sea Islanders and others who live more in a state of nature than

we, the women suffer but little in childbirth, and return to their

ordinary occupations almost immediately after the event. The adoption

of a simple and natural diet, healthy exercise combined with sufficient

rest and rational clothing, have been found to ensure an easy delivery

as well as good health for mother and child.

The diet of the pregnant mother is of great importance. Too much food

is worse than useless. Food should only be taken of such a kind and

quality as can be easily assimilated. The mother is best who takes only

so much light food as she can easily convert into good blood. More,

simply loads the system with useless waste or fat.

The diet during pregnancy should be mainly vegetables, fruit, salad,

rice, tapioca, milk, eggs in moderation, and a small amount of

wholemeal bread. A little meat or fish once a day is allowable for

those whom it suits, but rich, spicy dishes, pastry, strong tea, coffee

and all alcoholic drinks are very injurious. Three meals a day with no

"snacks" of any kind between, are sufficient. For those who have reason

to dread a hard confinement, oatmeal is best avoided. To avoid fluids

while eating is important, especially for those who have a weak

digestion. One may drink half-an-hour before meals or three hours

after, but if plenty of fruit and salad is eaten and little salt used

with the food there will be little thirst. Too much fluid should not be

drunk, if thirst is felt, water very slowly sipped will quench it

better than copious draughts. During pregnancy there is often a craving

for acid fruits, this is nature's call for what is needful at such a

time. Fruits and green vegetables supply a large quantity of most

valuable salts which go to make good blood and build up all parts of

the body. Never force the appetite. Food that is neither relished nor

digested will do more harm than good.

It must never be forgotten that the blood of the child is being

directly derived from that of the mother, consequently if the diet is

of such a nature as to induce over-abundance of fat, the child will be

born too fat. This does not mean a healthy child by any means, and it

may mean considerable extra pain for the mother. A mother inclined to

thinness need not fear that this diet will reduce her. The taking of

cream, eggs, bacon and other fat foods often has the opposite effect

from that desired. A thin person adopting the above light diet will

generally get into good condition.

Under the head of exercise, the first we would recommend is general

housework, provided windows are kept open, avoiding the more laborious

parts, and always being careful not to get over-fatigued. Light

gardening, walks, if not too long, and light gymnastic exercises are

all beneficial. The exercises described in the appendix, practised for

ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day, are quite suitable for the

expectant mother, while deep breathing (see Breathing, Correct Method

of) is most valuable.

The subject of dress should be particularly studied. Garments which

are light, warm, porous, and which in no way impede or restrict the

movements and natural functions of the body, should be worn. It has

been found that those who wear no corset nor tight band or bodice will

suffer but little, if at all, from morning sickness. Corsets, by

holding immobile the waist muscles, prevent their getting strong.

Anyone who is accustomed to corsets, when she leaves them off for a day

will complain of "such a tired feeling, as if she would break in two."

This is easily accounted for, the muscles, unused to the task of

holding up the body, are flabby and useless. These same muscles when

called on, at the moment of delivery, are totally unfit for their work,

hence comes a large amount of the unnecessary suffering. The remedy

is--discard the corsets, bear with the tiredness for a week or two and

regularly practice the exercises recommended above, especially the

waist exercises of bending and turning. The muscles will soon gain

strength, and the corset be found to be quite unnecessary and most


In the commencement of pregnancy, when there is sickness and vomiting,

we have seen it cured, even when so severe as to threaten life, by

spreading over the patient's irritated stomach, a soft, fine soap

lather (see Lather and Soap). It acts in such cases like a charm. The

lather is well and gently spread with a soft brush all over the

stomach. Wipe it gently off with a soft cloth. Cover again with fresh

lather. Do this five or six times. Then treat the back in the same

manner, behind the stomach. In half-an-hour all retching should cease.

When the stomach has had a rest of some hours, a small quantity of

light food may be given. Half a Saltcoat's biscuit (see) thoroughly

masticated, and a little milk and boiling water may be enough to take

at one time. Do not force the appetite, wait until a desire for food is

felt. Pass by degrees to ordinary food.

If the mother, at any time, feels faint, on no account give brandy.

Drop five drops of tincture of cayenne on a lump of sugar. Dissolve it

in half a teacupful of hot water, and give this instead. In cases of

heartburn, take small drinks of hot water, say a tablespoonful every

five minutes. A very great help to the expecting mother is found in the

cold sitz-bath (see Sitting Bath). Baths known as "Matlock Baths" may

be had, which suit very well for this purpose; but a tub for washing,

of a suitable size, would do very well, or even a large sized bedroom

basin will serve. Put in cold water, three inches deep, and let the

patient sit in it. In winter have the water cold, but not freezing. The

rest of the body may be kept warm with a wrap, and if the patient feels

cold, the feet may be placed in hot water. Taken once or twice a day

this bath will have a tonic effect on the whole system, and a markedly

cheering effect on the mind. The time in the bath is shorter or longer

according to the patient's strength and power of reaction. Feeling will

be the best guide, but even a dip of half-a-minute will do good.

In regard to the actual birth, we repeat that those concerned should

see to the attendance of a really skilful medical man. Chloroform in

the hands of such a doctor is of immense value, but in unskilful hands

it is dangerous. Therefore let expense be no bar, where it is possible,

to the obtaining the best medical aid that can be had.

Many trivial matters greatly affect the mother during child-birth, and

the few succeeding hours. We have known a stupid remark by an

incompetent nurse spoil a mother's health for months. The greatest care

must be exercised by all concerned to say only cheerful and soothing

things to the sufferer. Even the aspect of the room is important. It

should look sunwards, if possible, and hideous pictures should be

removed, while perhaps some text speaking comfortably of the Good

Shepherd, who "will gently lead those that are with young," may be hung

up. Trifles these, but their effect is no trifle.

Do not keep the patient in too hot a room; fresh air is of great value.

Do not leave her for nine days in an unchanged bed. The necessary

sponging and changing should be done daily. Cleanliness means comfort

here, and comfort health. It is not early sponging and washing, but a

nine days' steaming in unchanged bedclothes which causes chills. After

cool sponging, a gentle rubbing under the bedclothes with hot olive

oil, over the body and limbs, will be very refreshing. All clothes,

etc., and the hands of the attendants should be most carefully washed

and cleaned before they touch the patient. Too much care in this matter

of cleanliness cannot be taken, as it is of the first importance as a

preventative of many troubles.

What are called "After Pains" often give much distress. Drugs and

alcohol should be strictly avoided. The difficulty here is in the

objection so many have to cold applications. These, after child-birth,

are not dangerous, but form a short and simple road to health. Making

handfuls of soapy lather (see Lather) and rubbing these gently over

the pains, both back and front, is most powerfully soothing, and has no

tendency to chill.

Where severe pains, indicating inflammatory action, are felt in the

bowels, this lather should at once be applied, and followed up with

cold cloths over the bowels, applied as to the chest in Bronchitis

(see). The bran poultice should always be applied at the same time,

putting it on before the cold towels, over all the lower back (see

Bran Poultice). Sips of hot water will also powerfully help in all

cases of such pain.

Treatment on these lines will deal with even very severe cases of After