Miranda Castro
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:: A Question of Tone in Pregnancy: Caulophyllum and more ::

First published in Homeopathy Today

Caulophyllum (or blue cohosh) has long been used by Native Americans as a birthing herb, hence two of its common names: squaw root or papoose root. Caulophyllum's special gift is in working with women whose tissues have lost their tone, especially the tissues of the uterus. Its reputation for establishing effective contractions in labor is deserved. It works like a dream ... when it is called for.

Some homeopathic books advise pregnant women to take Caulophyllum (in potency) during the last weeks or even months before delivery to prepare them for an easy labor. Taken in pregnancy, Caulophyllum CAN pave the way for a trouble-free childbirth if it is indicated, but if it is taken routinely and unnecessarily it can also cause some difficulties in labor. If taken repeatedly when not indicated, proving symptoms may develop.

Caulophyllum can be taken to prepare women for easier births but is primarily indicated for sedentary women with poor muscle tone, or for those who have a history of gynecological problems or difficult births. Women who are fit, who have healthy muscle tone, should avoid them ... or take them only on the instruction of an experienced herbalist or homeopath.

Caulophyllum is a beautiful homeopathic medicine for women in their childbearing years ... for certain conditions during pregnancy, labor or after birth. In late pregnancy Caulophyllum is useful for annoying Braxton Hicks contractions. In long drawn out labors it is needed for extremely painful, ineffective contractions which do not "work," in other words, the cervix does not dilate. The pains "fly about" the abdomen, from one place to another. Sometimes the labor slows down and even stops altogether. After labor the uterus doesn't contract properly and becomes prolapsed, or the placenta is not expelled easily. Exhaustion, trembling, thirst and chilliness accompany the above complaints. Strangely the chilliness is no better for being covered.

So what about the use of Caulophyllum at the end of a pregnancy to bring on labor? Since a normal pregnancy can range from 37 to 42 weeks, it is almost impossible to predict a baby's birthday accurately. The question of overdue babies is a vexed one because come the ninth month (by dates) doctors and midwives get itchy fingers and want that baby out! In many Western countries the rise of inductions and Cesareans confirms a trend towards births that are managed by medical professionals rather than births where nature is encouraged to take its course. I am not talking of the wonderful life-saving work that medics are able to offer women whose births have become complicated. I am simply questioning the wisdom of unnecessary interventions that appear to be designed for the convenience of doctors and hospitals.

A colleague was called recently by a pregnant woman who had passed her due date and was being threatened with an induced labor. She asked whether she could take Caulophyllum. The homeopath hesitated to recommend a homeopathic remedy since she was healthy and happy in all other respects. She had tried vigorous exercise but it hadn't worked. She jumped at the suggestion to have a spicy meal. She went to a restaurant nearby whose specialty of the house (quite coincidentally) was a salad reputed to bring on labor in women who are ready to deliver! She ate the salad and four hours later went into labor. Six hours later a beautiful baby greeted her spicy parents!

Had the spicy dinner not worked then a few doses of Caulophyllum might have been called for, as it can help to start a labor that is late (according to dates) but ready, i.e., the baby is ready to come out and the mother's body is correspondingly ready to deliver. I suggest women take it in the 30th potency (30C) three times daily for up to two days, and then repeat it 3-7 days later if the labor still has not begun. There are other homeopathic medicines that may be indicated at this stage in a pregnancy when labor is delayed, but they really do need to be determined by a professional homeopath who has the skill to work out the correct one.

Here are some guidelines for those who wish to us homeopathic medicines safely during pregnancy. 

Only treat yourself for minor complaints that are recent i.e., mild morning sickness or constipation, a cold or flu, cramps, tiredness, heartburn or insomnia and so on. Chronic complaints (those that are recurring and/or deep-seated) should always be treated by a professional homeopath. 

Use low potencies (6X, 6C, 12X and 12C) as these are nice and gentle and therefore safe for you and your baby.

Take the remedy for a short period of time and monitor the results carefully. The right remedy will work fairly quickly in an acute situation:
- 6X--take three to four times a day for up to a week;
- 6C and 12X--take two to three times daily for up to five days;
- 12C--take once or twice daily for up to three days.

Keep good notes. This is an important habit to develop with homeopathy and self prescribing. You will learn about yourself, your unique patterns of illness as well as which homeopathic medicines are helpful for you. It can be frustrating to be faced with a similar flu to the one you had two years ago and, for the life of you, you cannot remember which remedy you took, and it worked like a dream ...! You will need to record the name of the remedy and your reasons for choosing it, the potency as well as how long you took it ... and don't forget to make a note of how (and if!) it works.

Monitor the effects of your remedy carefully and if it has definitely helped, you can repeat it if your symptoms return, but only if it helps!

If your symptoms keep returning then the homeopathic medicine is only working superficially and you will need to seek the advice of a professional homeopath.

Always check in with your health care provider to make sure your symptoms are not serious, especially if they are persistent, as some seemingly innocuous symptoms can be indications of a more serious situation developing. For example, itching in late pregnancy can be a sign of a more serious liver disorder (obstetric cholestasis) which can lead to premature labor, stillbirth and an increased risk of hemorrhage after delivery.

My point is this, we need to question unnecessary medications or procedures in pregnancy and childbirth, whether they are allopathic, herbal or homeopathic. This is a perfect time to use common sense and "kitchen cupboard/closet" solutions that are known to be gentle and effective, rather than take anything that could have side effects. Caulophyllum can pave the way for a trouble-free childbirth if it is indicated, but if taken routinely, then it can cause an unpleasantly difficult labor. This is unusual but not impossible. If a homeopathic remedy is taken repeatedly when it is not needed, then proving symptoms may develop ... the symptoms that the homeopathic medicine is capable of curing ... in a person who is experiencing them. (For example, it is not unusual for small babies who are routinely given chamomile tea at bedtime to become irritable and sleepless.)

Because homeopathic medicines are non-toxic, they are safe, especially in pregnancy, but it's sensible not to take something for every little complaint. Ask someone who knows--a mother or midwife--to come up with ideas before turning to medical alternatives. It makes sense to avoid unnecessary medications at any time in one's life, not just during pregnancy. If you use homeopathic medicines indiscriminately and with scant attention to the rules, you may end up confused and disillusioned. Use them wisely and sensibly, and you will make a lasting relationship with a wonderful source of healing.

Miranda Castro 2012


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