This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
The first sign of pregnancy is a cessation of the menstrual flow. This will generally be noticed between two and three weeks after conception, and about the same time the woman will discover her breasts to be enlarging, and notice that the rings around the nipple are darker, and cover more space than usual. She will also, to a greater or lesser degree, experience nausea in the morning, and often be afflicted by vomiting, while she will experience dull pains in the "small" of the back, a decided disinclination for exertion, and considerable nervousness. As the womb increases in size and weight (which becomes apparent between the second and third months after conception), it sinks lower into the cavity of the pelvis (or part of the trunk which bounds the abdomen below), and produces much suffering, especially when the pelvis is small or narrow. After the fourth month, the womb, finding insufficient accommodation in the pelvis, mounts higher, and seeks room in the more capacious and yielding belly. Then the distress in the back, and the sickness and vomiting are somewhat modified, or in some, comparatively disappear altogether. When the condition of pregnancy is first discovered, the woman, no matter how robust, should avoid all over-exertion or excitement, and should bear in mind constantly St. Paul's motto of "moderation in all things.": A state of indolence is productive of disastrous, or, at least, painful consequences. Judicious exercise, and a determination to be cheerful and contented, will do much towards suppressing the usual annoyances of preegnancy, while moping and idling will increase them, and will almost invariably bring about a hard labor. Thus the poor working woman, providing she does not labor too hard, or expose herself imprudently to the vicissitudes of the weather, rarely suffers so much in child-bed as the woman who lives only to be petted and admired, and who seldom breathes the air of heaven in its delicious purity. Among the many incidental afflictions of pregnancy, are costiveness and piles. These are produced by the pressure or the enlarging womb upon the lower bowel. This, becoming filled with hardened matter, in turn presses upon the womb, and endeavors to crowd it out of the way. The combined and continual pressure of the womb and bowel upon the water-pipe, causes great difficulty in making water, and their uninterrupted weight upon the ascending veins produces congestion in the lower bowel, and hence the appearance of painful and disagreeable piles. The stomach and bowels should be kept in the best possible order. To prevent or ameliorate piles, use seidlitz powders every day, and inject into the bowels half a pint of pure cold water every morning. With regard to nausea, if it continues after the first three months, eat nothing but plain, yet nourishing food, and use chamomile flower tea as a beverage.
The habit of swathing or bandaging during any period of pregnancy is decidedly injurious, unless the woman be of a very fragile form and debilitated constitution. The child quickens about the end of the fourth month, when its motions will often produce hysterics and fainting fits, and the mother (for such she then is) becomes peevish, irritable, thin and weak. Great care must be taken to combat this peevishness and irritability by fixing the mind upon pleasant thoughts, and mixing with lively company, if it be available. It will be as well, too, for the woman to lie down a little while, two or three times a day, and not to remain in an erect position too long without taking a little rest. During the last three months, the woman will generally suffer much uneasiness "all over," and will experience trouble in the attempt to get a perfect night's rest. They should not touch opiates under these circumstances. When varicose swellings of the veins of the legs are produced, a good plan is to wear a laced stocking over the affected parts, and this should be adjusted so as not to press too tightly upon the limb. It should be arranged so that the pressure will be equal throughout its length. Sometimes delicate women have convulsive fits in the last stage of pregnancy. These are dangerous, and no time should be lost in calling in an experienced midwife to take charge of the case. However, a two-grain opium pill administered internally, an injection of warm suds, and mustard plasters applied to the feet, and between the shoulders, will not fail of giving speedy relief. Also bathe the feet in warm water. The habitual use of the warm bath will often prevent these convulsions.
Palpitation of the heart, cramps of the legs and thighs, toothache, puffy swellings, suppression of urine (use parsley tea for this), lethargy and headache are always accompaniments of pregnancy. For cramps and swellings, bathe the parts with warm water and red pepper, or mustard. If the swellings are very troublesome, apply fomentations of bitter herbs. In order to prevent sore nipples (which, if neglected, merge into caked and broken breasts, bathe them daily several times with alum-water, or a decoction of white oak bark. This bathing should be commenced about six weeks before confinement. Fox-glove (digitalis) is recommended by many for palpitation of the heart; but I discountenance its use. A little compound spirits of lavender, in water, and moderate doses of Turkey rhubarb will alleviate the attacks.
All pregnant women should wear flannel drawers and keep the feet warm.
All expectant mothers may greatly render a coming labor more easy and painless, if, at about the eighth month, they thoroughly rub my "Herbal Ointment" (see page 472) externally on the abdomen once a day, and continue until labor, and at about the middle of the ninth month they should lubricate the vagina and womb with the ointment. This has the effect of making the mouth more dilatable, the soft parts more yielding, and consequently a safe and comparatively easy labor.
The time of labor to every expectant mother causes constant solicitude, and scarcely any woman approaches the period fearless of the result, but very anxious as to the suffering or safety of life. In the present condition of civilized woman, we well know that the phenomenon of childbirth is attended with pains of an agonizing character, but that the suffering is mostly owing to habits of life, dress, etc., now characterizing woman, is equally certain. It would be an anomaly in nature if a process, so natural to females as childbirth, was originally ordained to be agonizingly painful, and it is quite evident that the pain now characterizing nearly all cases of labor is an infliction imposed by nature in consequence of violation of some of her laws. We are glad to see intelligent women approaching this subject, and have seen no brighter gleam of sunshine than Mrs. Stanton's recent address at San Francisco, which no false delicacy should prevent being reproduced in every paper in the land. She said, "We must educate our daughters that motherhood is grand, and that God never cursed it. And the curse, if it be a curse, may be rolled off, as man has rolled away the curse of labor, as the curse has been rolled from the descendants of Ham." While saying that her mission among woman was to preach a new gospel, she tells the women that, if they suffer, it is not because they are cursed by God, but because they violate his laws. What in incubus it would take from woman should she be educated to know that the pains of maternity are no curse upon her kind. We know that among Indians the squaws do not suffer in childbirth. They will step aside from the ranks, even on the march, and return in a short time bearing with them the new-born child. What an absurdity, then, to suppose that only enlightened Christian women are cursed. But Mrs. Stanton says that one word of fact is worth a volume of philosophy, and gives her experience as follows: "I am the mother of seven children. My girlhood was spent mostly in the open air. I early imbibed the idea that a girl was just as good as a boy, and I carried it out. I would walk five miles before breakfaast, or ride ten on horseback. After I was married I wore my clothing sensibly. The weight hung alone on my shoulders. I never compressed my body out of its natural shape. My first four children were born, and I suffered but very little. I then made up my mind that it was totally unnecessary for me to suffer at all; so I dressed lightly, walked every day, lived as much as possible in the open air, ate no condiments or spices, kept quiet, listened to music, looked at pictures, read poetry. The child was born without a particle of pain. I bathed it and dressed it and it weighed ten and one-half pounds. That same day I dined with the family. Everybody said I would die, but I never had a relapse or a moment's inconvenience from it. I know this is not being delicate and refined, but if you would be vigorous and healthy in spite of the diseases of your ancestors and your own disregard of nature's laws, try."
While we heartily endorse all that Mrs. Stanton has said in this matter, we could not advise every mother to "dine with the family" on the day of her labor. It would be an exceedingly dangerous proceeding; but if every woman would be willing to practise the same initiatory training, which is so healthful, because in accordance with physiological laws, there is probably no doubt but that she would also be able to "wash her own baby" and "dine with the family," on even as substantial a dish as pork and beans proceeding.