Article - What is integrative maternity healthcare?

What is integrative maternity healthcare?

I was the founding director of the first global conference on Integrative Maternity Healthcare, held in Auckland, which promoted a cross-disciplinary exchange of research, knowledge, experience and ideas; in a visionary and open minded environment.

SOMCANZ was a gathering for all maternity professionals to connect and communicate with each other. From midwives to medical herbalists, hypnobirthers to homeopaths, obstetricians to osteopaths, and every therapeutic discipline in between; with our collective goal being to uphold the principle that optimal health and wellbeing are inclusive of the physical, social, emotional and spiritual dimensions of life.

So what actually is integrative maternity healthcare? It’s when the contemporary and the traditional, the mainstream and the alternative complement each other as part of maternity care.

Among the integrative maternity healthcare services are alternative medicines like homeopathy, medical herbalism, Chinese medicine, ayurveda); the mind-body area (eg meditation, spiritual healing, music, dance); biological (eg diet, vitamins, minerals, supplements); body manipulation (eg chiropractic, osteopathy); and energy (eg reiki, qi gong, pulsed electromagnetic fields); and more.

For hundreds of years midwives worldwide have used naturopathic therapies during the antenatal, childbirth, postnatal and newborn periods.

The New Zealand College of Midwives Consensus Statement says complementary therapies such as homoeopathy, rongoa, herbal therapy, aromatherapy, naturopathy and acupuncture may have important effects on the progress of pregnancy, labour and birth, and the postnatal period for both the woman and her baby. It adds that midwives incorporating these therapies into their practice should either have undertaken a recognised education programme or refer clients to appropriately qualified practitioners.

These days many expectant women, many of whom want to pursue a healthy lifestyle, may want integrative medicine as well as mainstream as part of their childbirth journey. Couples may wish to blend modern obstetric medicine with traditional naturopathic therapies, as part of a holistic approach to the whole person.

Integrative Maternity Healthcare covers so many modalities, it is impossible for me to give you specific advice – but here are my top pieces of advice.

  • As early as possible in your pregnancy, start regularly seeing a medical herbalist or naturopath – alongside your LMC or midwife - to manage your wellness.
  • From 35-weeks’ gestation, you might consider using tonics such as Nature’s Sunshine 5W which is said to help tone the uterus, and evening primrose oil to assist the cervix to ripen, and seeing an acupuncturist.
  • Get a range of things that may help during your labour – including aromatherapy oils, homeopathic drops, and Bach’s Flower Rescue Remedy to put in your drinking water, and hiring a TENS machine.
  • Fill yourself with quality information - read great books on childbirth and attend seminars. In my book Oh Baby…Birth, Babies and Motherhood Uncensored, I have a chapter on labour and birth, and I run a seminar on labour and birth.

My advice is about you as an expectant woman focussing physically and mentally on pregnancy wellness.

Kathy Fray is an author on childbirth and infants; a self-employed North Auckland LMC midwife; co-creator of the BabyOK Babe-Sleeper infant sleep-secure; and founding director of the SOMCANZ integrative maternity healthcare conference. She is a wife and a mother of three teens.

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