PREVENTING & MANAGING COVID HOLISTICALLY IN PREGNANCY
What is the best way to approach, prevent, and heal from various illnesses like COVID-19? This is an update to a post I did early in 2020 with more knowledge and experience over the past two years. While most people will only experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, it can spread to someone that will become very ill, and we can become ill from the virus multiple times with some people having ongoing recurrent symptoms or illnesses ranging from mild to moderate and severe, as well as new illness from the normal evolution of viral variants. This is absolutely not a reason to fear the virus or to seclude yourself from society, especially not fearing asymptomatic carriers. People are asymptomatic carriers are thousands of bacteria and viruses that we are preventing and healing every moment. You're touching and breathing them all the time. This is simply a common sense approach to preventing the spread of any illness. In fact, we actually need the healthy and robust in our society to get illnesses so they won't spread so quickly, as they do with novel viruses that no one has had before. Likewise, the newest omicron variant showing positive benefits for reducing illnesses from all the other variants. Some symptoms of all the COVID variants include congestion, cough, fever, loss of smell, taste, or appetite, strong headaches, difficulty sleeping, respiratory distress, and exhaustion. It is common to need 3-6 months to recover after a moderate or severe illness.
While there are vaccines, they have many side-effects that are similar to the risks of the virus itself and risks we won’t fully understand for at least a generation. In fact, the side effects of these COVID vaccines exceed all side effects of all other vaccines combined. In my family, we've had people contracting the virus with every experience from mild to moderate to death, and we've had people experience severe side effects to the vaccine. Don't mislead yourself with the media hype. Do your research, through truth-telling sources, no matter what health options you're considering.
With that being said, I do think it is important to reduce spreading illness – the main way being staying home when you’re ill and letting others know you’re ill so they can decide about visiting you. The concept of not reducing illnesses spreading has been around since time immemorial, we just used to call it listening to your body and using respectful common sense, now we call it quarantine and we do it when people are perfectly well because in our modern culture people are reluctant to slow down and use medications to mask their symptoms so they can remain at work and school.
Do use basic hygiene such as: avoiding touching your face and mouth, completely cover your mouth/ nose when you cough/ sneeze, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds under warm water regularly (but overdo the soap and antibacterial products of any kind, as your body needs healthy bacteria for wellness). If you've taken my Esali Birth Course, you'll remember the history of birth when birth moved from home to the hospital and doctors weren't washing their hands between patients. Yuck!. Incredible that we've only had this knowledge for a short amount of time. When receiving home-based care, notify your midwife if you, or anyone in your home, are ill for any reason so your visit can be rescheduled. It is incredibly difficult to care for 15 or more families when a midwife gets sick, and almost impossible to be able to attend a birth while being ill, and this obviously isn't COVID-specific (or at least it should be obvious). We risk getting other mothers, newborn babies, and their families ill, and physically don’t feel well, while also obviously, needing time to heal ourselves so we can be available for our other clients and even our own families at home. We are human, just like you. Let's make respectful, common-sense choices.
PREVENT COVID IN PREGNANCY
As with all things, your healthy balanced food is what provides your body with the necessary nutrients for full body function (and nourishing your baby), and prevent illness. Your mood balance will allow your gut health to thrive and your immune system to function optimally. Your balanced sleep will give your liver and kidney time to detoxify your system, and your regular bowel movements will create the opportunity to eliminate those toxins. We should always strive to start with prevention. If we look at the high rate of co-morbidity in COVID deaths, it should be rather obvious why so many are fearing this virus. Those with diabetes and autoimmune disorders are at the top of the risk list, each having a direct link to food, mood, sleep, and elimination functions. I feel like we're in the middle of a Captain Obvious episode right now...
Stock your kitchen with nutrient-rich, immune-boosting foods such as:
Organic Orange & Yellow Fruits & Vegetables: Lemons, Oranges, Squash, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Peppers, Starfruit, Papaya, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin and similar
These foods are rich in Vitamins A and C (the natural kind supported by all the other vitamins and minerals in whole foods) which means they aren’t taxing to the liver and are more bioavailable. Organic fruits help you avoid toxic pesticides that make your immune system work harder. These foods also help strengthen your amniotic sac to help prevent early rupture of the membranes, and prevent bacterial growth.
A reminder about sweet fruits and vegetables… as long as they’re balanced with plenty of dark leafy greens and protein, you can eat until your hearts content.
Nettles & Dark Leafy Greens
Nettles are a powerful wild food rich with vitamins and minerals which not only help to eliminate toxins and build a healthy blood supply, but also helps your liver to process toxins more easily. Other dark leafy greens have similar effects, though not as rich in nutrients as nettles. Nettles also has a decent amount of plant-based protein when added to soups or omelets in whole-food form.
Garlic & Onion
Garlic and onion are super tasty, and also help to balance bacteria in the body and rid the body of toxins to build an overall balanced immune system. Cook with them, cook just them, or pickle them and change up the flavor a bit. I love sautéed onions, including field garlic and wild onions available most of the year when it is relatively warm. So tasty with a little bit of day lily greens or chickweed pesto.
Eat collagen-rich and nutrient-dense foods including protein and dark leafy greens with every meal, and all the colors of the rainbow in whole-foods form to support a healthy placenta and overall wellness
Add Vitamin A & C foods (such as yellow and orange fruits and vegetables) to support the immune system, blood, liver, and kidneys
Add dandelion leaf to your meals or tea and continue drinking a pregnancy tea with alfalfa and nettles to support your liver and kidneys, which are significantly affected during the SARS-CoV2 virus. Dandelion root has a specificity to the liver, while dandelion leaf is more appropriate for kidney balance, and both are appropriate to add during pregnancy and beyond.
2 hours of sunshine daily (on your face and arms)… actually, ideally you would spend as much time in the sun daily as you can, exposing your skin for ½ as much time as it would take your skin to burn in your specific climate. You could alternatively supplement with at minimum 2,000 IU Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) daily, but it isn’t as ideal as real sunshine. Ideally, you would have your Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy levels checked to see if you need to supplement more, and keep in mind that low magnesium levels are a direct cause of low Vitamin D in addition to the lack of sunshine.
30 mg Zinc daily
POTENTIAL RISKS of COVID-19 in PREGNANCY
I didn't want to start with risks because that is a misleading fear-based mindset. If we focus most of our energy on balanced holistic wellness, we don't often get to the point of even needing to consider the risks. However, we have extremely high rates of autoimmune and neurological disorders in our world, and we simply aren't as well as we could be. We don’t know if these risks are a direct cause of the virus, as it is still too early to really pinpoint an exact cause, but they are being noticed in multiple countries and in multiple birth settings from home to hospital, particularly from women that have been moderately ill near conception or early pregnancy. People with known or underlying auto-immune, thyroid disorders, diabetes, or heart complications are more at risk for severe illness.
Liver and Kidney complications are well-known in hospitalized COVID patients. In my midwifery service at MOV Birth, I am seeing an increase in toxin concentrated urine for women that have had COVID in the second to last trimester, particularly when food and hydration choices are less than ideal. This may potentially increase risks for pre-eclampsia and similar disorders.
We are also seeing an increase in Miscarriage, Mid & Late Pregnancy Fetal Death, Stillbirth, Placenta Abnormalities, Postpartum hemorrhage, and Blood Clots. For my MOV Birth clients, the placenta abnormalities have been fairly common in 2021, particularly circummarginate placentas. In my network, although still relatively low, the miscarriages and mid-pregnancy fetal deaths have increased notably since August 2021.
MANAGE SEVERITY of COVID-19
Some things to keep in mind if you do suspect you have COVID in pregnancy:
- If there is a noticeable change in baby’s movements, contact your provider. If you’re ill in labor, and planning a home birth, hospital birth will likely be advised
- Your oxygen should remain above 90%. You can use an O2 monitor to measure the percentage, but in general if you feel like you're struggling to breathe, get help and if it is hard to say a full sentence due to difficulty breathing, go to the ER
OK, now for some remedies that you can use without a trip to the hospital
- Walk, movement, massage, and light vibrations on your back and chest can help break up the mucous in the lungs caused by respiratory viruses that lead to pneumonia
- Echinacea angustifolia in ¼ dropperful doses every 15 minutes for up to 2 hours at a time, 3 times a day, and up to 2000 mg L-ascorbate Vit. C daily in 500 mg doses will boost your immune system
- Respiratory-supporting herbs such as Astragalus and Marshmallow Root in tea form can be very helpful. Astragalus is a powerful immune system booster (often used to treat cancer or balance the effects of chemotherapy) and can be added to soups and stews. Marshmallow root is very soothing to a dry cough and very tasty.
- Violets (the pretty little flowers you find in your yard in spring which also are white and yellow) are wonderfully supportive for flu and high in vitamin C. You can through them in a salad or make a syrup or elixir with honey.
- Diluted lavender and chamomile essential oils can soothe a cough when rubbed over the chest area. Be cautious with common respiratory essential oils that may trigger bleeding or miscarriage such as peppermint or rosemary, especially in excess
- Alternate between hot steamy showers, or a steaming pot with salt, and breathing cool air to break up mucous and improve breathing temporarily
- Apple Cider Vinegar & Epsom Salt foot or whole-body baths to reduce fever and aches
- 400 mg D-Alpha Vit. E or Garlic and Cinnamomum verum daily to help prevent abnormal blood clots (or 81 mg aspirin). Do NOT overdo this as your blood needs to clot normally to prevent hemorrhage
- Antibody infusions at the ER at early stages are helping prevent severe illness
- And because painful headaches can be quite common with COVID, many women are going to ask about pain medication. While I can’t recommend a pain medication, various searches indicate that no more than 4,000 mg acetaminophen daily in no more than 500 mg doses every 4 hours, but less is better, for fever or pain. We need fever to kill illnesses, but if you’re having trouble managing it with the previous treatments, especially if you can’t sleep, this might be an option. Stay clear of ibuprofen.
OK, I want to expand a little on some of the herbs mentioned here for information sake.
Elderberry is a well-known flu-remedy. It is known to reduce symptoms and overall length of the flu. It is a waste to take this as a preventative, really. It's expensive and better utilized once you start feeling signs of the flu. Some are concerned about its possible effects on stimulating the immune system so much it creates a cytocine storm; however, elderberry is actually an immunomodulator that balances the immune system and very nutritive to boost the body's nutritional stores. Likewise, if you are experiencing a cytocine storm, you’re likely already in the hospital. I would recommend staying away from highly-sweetened elderberry products, however, because sweeteners are inflammatory and you lose a lot of benefits by overloading with added sugar at a time of illness. The flowers can be used to support the system in respiratory illness and flu, and to stimulate sweating to release toxins. Don't use the stems or bark of this plant, of course, and as always, be wise about the amount of medicinal herbs you consume.
Echinacea is a well-known immune-boosting remedy. However, I want to point out that studies show it is really only valuable in small and frequent doses at the first signs of illness such as fatigue and sniffling. As soon as it progresses beyond this, switch to something else unless you grow your own or know your farmer has ample supply. Herbs will only be available for us when we use them intentionally. It is wasteful to use this over-used plant as a preventative. Native plots are practically non-existent due to its overuse, and cultivated plants aren't as highly medicinal as wild ones. It is also important to AVOID echinacea when it is blended with goldenseal. Goldenseal is a very strong antibacterial, but highly overused. It has many wonderful applications, but it is very hard on the bacterial balance in the gut system and is not practical for viruses or when there is not a known need for this action. Goldenseal can also stimulate contractions and is not appropriate in pregnancy.
COVID, and many other illnesses are quite manageable at home. You will know when you need something more than nourishment and rest. As you recover, be sure to eat well and stay hydrated while continuing to support your liver, kidneys, and blood health.