Dear Honest Midwife,
I'm at 33 weeks with my first baby and planning a home birth. Lately I've been having serious swelling. My midwife checked my urine and says I'm spilling protein. She put me on a high protein diet and told me to take alfalfa tablets. The swelling hasn't gotten better and I've been following her directions and feeling worse. She checked me yesterday and I still have protein in my urine. I asked what we should do and she told me to keep following her directions. I really want to resolve this naturally. Do you have any other suggestions?
Several years ago I too had a home birth client develop swelling, increased blood pressure, and protein in her urine. I did some of the same things your midwife did: I recommended a diet high in protein and that she eats a lot of cucumbers and raw garlic. (I had her chop it up into small pieces and swallow the pieces whole, as another midwife had suggested to me.) I watched as she did everything I suggested and did not seem to get better. I was pretty mystified: all the midwifery books I read seemed to indicate that if she would only eat this special diet and take these supplements, all of these worrisome symptoms (which are signs of a serious disease called preeclampsia) should go away. When they didn’t, I still didn’t want to ruin her dream of a home birth. I waited as long as I could; finally, when she started seeing spots, I decided at 36 weeks that we should go to the hospital and have her checked out.
It turned out that by the time we got to the hospital, her baby was already showing signs of distress. His heartbeat was a normal rate, but it had no variability except for some late decels, a dangerous pattern that is easily detected on electronic fetal monitoring but very rarely detected at home. She had to have a c-section and her baby was placed in the NICU. It was a long time before I really realized that I had been playing with that baby’s life every time I hemmed and hawed about whether the mom’s symptoms were bad enough yet for me to rain on her home birth parade.
Maybe if I had risked her out earlier, before her baby was suffering, she could have been medically treated and stayed pregnant longer. Maybe her baby would have been in better shape and could have withstood an induction. She might have had a vaginal birth; her baby might have stayed with her instead of going to the NICU. We can never know what might have happened if I had transferred care as soon as I saw a problem, instead of having faith that natural remedies would save the day. I am very glad that we went in when we did because that baby is now a healthy thriving young man thanks to the interventions he needed and received.
I tell you this story, Monique, in the hope that you will seek medical care right away. You likely have a condition that is successfully treated in hospitals every single day. I know it isn’t what you’ve been dreaming of, but don’t risk your safety and that of your baby.