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