Traditional Chinese have a delightful way of looking at childbirth. They say that the experience gives a woman a new life, one in which she can become healthier and more vigorous than before-providing she pays careful attention to her health. The Chinese traditionally recommend herbs to make sure that she does.

Toning The Uterus.

For centuries, pregnant women in Europe were also told to take herbs. Those who drank raspberry tea throughout their pregnancy reported an easier labor. Scientists, however, have not shown much interest in investigating raspberry. In 1941, a study using animals found that raspberry leaves contain a “uterine relaxant principle,” but this theory was never tested on people. Today, European doctors prescribe a number of raspberry preparations to ease morning sickness and to prevent miscarriage.

In the old European herbals, lemon balm, a gentle, relaxing herb that aids digestion and alleviates nausea, was also recommended for pregnant women. Native Americans in the eastern United States used partridge berry, like raspberry, this small plant works as a uterine tonic to make pregnancy easier. Modern women who have tried these same herbs when they were pregnant agree with their sisters from past generations-these plants make labor easier and keep you healthier during pregnancy.

Oat straw and nettles provide trace nutrients-especially calcium-that are important for a pregnant woman and enhance the assimilation of these nutrients from other sources. Dandelion and nettle teas are even said to prevent the development of high blood pressure and water retention, which add up to a potentially dangerous condition during pregnancy known as eclampsia. {Since this condition is dangerous to both you and your baby, you must be treated by an obstetrician if you do develop it.}

Morning Sickness.

One of the most common complaints during pregnancy is morning sickness, a combination of nausea, headache and dizziness that is experienced by about half of pregnant women during their first few months of pregnancy. To relieve this problem, take ginger first thing in the morning and repeat at the first hint of nausea during the day. You can drink a ginger tea or take a couple of capsules. Even a few ginger-snap cookies or a large glass of ginger ale can help! You can also make a tasty morning-sickness reliever by combing ginger with lemon juice.

The cause of morning sickness are not clear, but there is thought to be a connection with liver functions. This is a logical conclusion when you consider that the liver is responsible for breaking down the excess hormones produced during pregnancy. Other herbs that work to reduce morning sickness are wild yam, false unicorn root and, of course, liver herbs such as burdock.

Pain During Pregnancy.

As a fetus grows, it puts pressure on places in your body not used to carrying so much weight. Wild yam, skullcap and chamomile are safe herbs to help you relax and to reduce any pain due to muscle problems. American spikenard, an herb related to ginseng, helps to reduce lower back pain, a common complaint of pregnant women. If sore breasts and water retention trouble you, a tea of wild yam and dandelion might relieve both.

Tension and Stretch Mark Prevention.

For years, I have made Pregnant Belly Oil, and I have sold a thousand bottles by now, with not one report yet of stretch marks. I have been selling it at one craft show for so long that the grown-up children of women who used my oil years ago are now coming to buy bottles for themselves!

To prevent stretch marks, use a massage oil specially designed for the expanding skin of your growing belly. I like to add lavender and cocoa butter, since both have reputations for preventing stretch marks. Almost all pregnant women, who tend to be fussy about smells, like the fragrance of lavender.

Lavender is most fitting in an oil for pregnancy. A muscle relaxant, lavender flowers were traditionally heated and pounded into a poultice, then placed on the woman’s lower back to ease tension and loosen tight muscles during childbirth. As one of the first things a baby smelled, lavender also became a bonding fragrance. European mothers made lavender pillows for their children to sleep with as a reminder that they would always be loved.

It would be nice to see lavender return to the birthing room. Poultices are messy to make and use, however, especially during birth, when a pregnant women is likely to be changing positions. Since a women often appreciates massage during labor, the perfect solution is to use the lavender-scented belly oil as a massage oil.

Pregnant Belly Oil:

4 -} 400-International Unit vitamin E capsules

4 ounces almond {or any light vegetable} oil

1/2 ounce cocoa butter {available at drugstores}

15 drops lavender essential oil

Pop open the vitamin E capsules and squirt contents into almond oil. Heat mixture in a saucepan over low heat. Add cocoa butter. After cocoa butter melts, remove mixture from heat and let cool. Add essential oil and stir to blend. Massage the oil on your belly-or get someone to do it for you-at least once a day, or as often as you like.

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