By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (November 17, 2005)—The homeopathic remedies Arnica montana and Bellis perennis may help prevent postpartum hemorrhage when given to women just after childbirth, according to Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2005;13:87–90). Postpartum hemorrhage is the third leading cause of maternal death in the United States.
Some vaginal bleeding following childbirth is considered normal; however, a blood loss of 500 ml (about 2 cups) or more during the first 24 hours after delivery is referred to as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Depending on the amount of blood lost, PPH can lead to anemia ranging in severity from mild to life threatening.
After the birth of the baby, the uterus needs to contract to help constrict the blood vessels and stop the bleeding. The doctor or midwife may assist the uterus in contracting by firmly massaging it after labor. The suckling of the newborn also helps the uterus to contract, hastening its return to its prepregnancy size and slowing blood loss.
The most common cause of PPH is a lack of uterine muscle tone. Women who have given birth to large or multiple babies, have had either a rapid or prolonged labor, or have received oxytocin (Pitocin) or general anesthesia during labor are more likely to have poor uterine muscle tone and to suffer from excessive blood loss after childbirth. PPH may also occur as a result of a tear to the vagina and surrounding tissues during labor and delivery, uterine rupture (as might occur during a vaginal delivery after a previous cesarean section), or certain disorders of blood clotting.
Drugs that help the uterus to contract, such as oxytocin or methylergonovine (Methergine), may be given following delivery to prevent PPH. Some problems are associated with the use of these drugs, however. For example, when oxytocin has been given to augment labor, it may not be as effective in slowing postpartum bleeding. In addition, these medications can have serious side effects including seizures and heart rhythm irregularities. For all of these reasons, safer alternatives to these drugs are desirable.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on “the law of similars,” which states that a substance that causes certain symptoms in a healthy person can cure the same symptoms in a sick person when taken in dilute amounts. Each homeopathic remedy has specific indications, or uses, for which it is uniquely suited. Bellis perennis (bellis), also known as the common daisy, is frequently prescribed for complaints related to the female reproductive system, including trauma to the pelvic organs. Arnica montana (arnica), derived from the plant Leopard’s bane, is commonly used to treat injuries associated with bruising, soreness, and bleeding. Both of these remedies are used by homeopaths in some cases of PPH.
The new study, as part of a larger, ongoing trial, investigated the use of the homeopathic remedies arnica and bellis for preventing PPH. Forty pregnant women took part in the trial and received either: 3 tablets of arnica and bellis immediately after delivery, repeated every five hours for the first day; then 3 tablets of each remedy three times on the following day; followed by 3 tablets of bellis three times a day until the bleeding completely resolved, or placebo according to the same schedule as the homeopathic remedies. Blood samples were taken from the women prior to delivery and again two and three days after delivery to detect changes in hemoglobin levels, an indicator of anemia.
Compared with baseline measurements, hemoglobin levels dropped significantly in the placebo group when measured two and three days after delivery. In contrast, hemoglobin levels remained stable in the homeopathy group, suggesting that these women lost substantially less blood than did women in the placebo group.
The preliminary results of this study suggest that homeopathy may have a place in the treatment of mild postpartum hemorrhage. Because PPH is a serious condition, a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner should always be consulted.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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