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Morning sickness? There's a tea for that

Sabine Devins · 30 Jun 2010, 12:08

Published: 30 Jun 2010 12:08 GMT+02:00

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At 18 weeks, I feel like I've already run the gamut of pregnancy side-effects. The queasy mornings and aching breasts of the first trimester have morphed into back aches and a host of digestive woes — and I haven't even hit the halfway point.

If I were back home in Canada, I’d probably walk into a pharmacy and purchase a suitable medication thought safe for pregnant women. But in Germany doctors and chemists encourage a more natural remedy. Yes, to cure what ails during pregnancy, there's a tea for that.

“It's a tea-drinking culture here,” the pharmacist at my local Apotheke explained. “It’s very old, dating back to when monasteries were also healing places for the sick, and now it’s practically a tradition to turn to tea first.”

As someone used to finding a pill to cure my little complaints, I've actually been happy to dose myself with tea. Being pregnant means I’m extra careful about what I put into my body, and having natural alternatives that actually work is a great comfort.

“Every pill package here comes with a warning saying that the product is not tested on pregnant women. I would hate for someone to come into my pharmacy and say 'you recommended that I take this to treat my cold and now my child has a birth defect',” my pharmacist said.

In my first trimester, I was fortunate enough to have a fairly easy time with morning sickness - most of it went away when I ate breakfast - but peppermint tea also would have helped, I was told.

After discussing digestive issues with my obstetrician-gynaecologist, she wrote me a prescription, but told me to try fennel tea, or Fencheltee, first. I have yet to fill the prescription and will probably stick to the tea.

Against the leg cramps that I'm waiting to start any day now, I'm to drink chamomile tea, or Kamillentee. To combat the increased mucous my body produces (“A totally normal thing,” says my doctor), I drink the occasional cup of thyme tea, or Thymiantee.

There is even an herbal tea mixed specifically for pregnant women, appropriately called Schwangerschaftstee, or “pregnancy tea.” I got my leafy mixture at my local Apotheke, where the pharmacist explained that the particular brand, mixed by Bahnhof Apotheke, came highly recommended by Ingeborg Stadelmann, midwife and author of a well-known German guide to pregnancy. You can also find the tea at organic grocery shops and local drug stores.

The blend varies and most pharmacies work with midwives to make their mix, but almost all agree they should have Alchemella or Lady's Mantle (Frauenmantel), lemon balm (Zitronen Melisse), nettle (Brennnesseln) and raspberry plant leaves (Himbeerblätter). The first two ingredients are meant to calm and relax while stabilising the influx of hormones in the body. Nettles help the body build up the extra 30 percent blood flow it needs to support the work of growing a baby. The raspberry leaves are the most important. They contain vitamin C, important for boosting my weakened immune system, and calcium and iron to boost the baby's growing bones.

But as wholesome as it sounds, the tea isn't the tastiest and I have a hard time swallowing the recommended two to three cups a day.

But progressing through my pregnancy and beyond, I can look forward to many other infusions. The pharmacist told me to stop by before my final month of pregnancy to get a blend with more raspberry plant leaves. This is meant to prepare me for birth by relaxing the cervix, which I learned from her has the cringe-worthy name of Muttermund, or “mother mouth.”

After Baby Devins makes its entry into the world, I'll have to stop drinking peppermint tea, as midwives say it hinders milk production, and switch to a blend of breastfeeding tea (Stilltee), made of fennel, caraway, anise and fenugreek. According to my experienced mom friends, it's delicious.

Story continues below…

The same midwives who put together the Schwangerschaftstee also blend teas for the postnatal recovery time, called Wochenbett, which will help my body deal with another roller coaster of hormones as it goes back to its new normal.

If I were an expat in the North America, I wouldn't have as many natural options. The US Food and Drug Administration says more than two-thirds of pregnant women there take some sort of prescription drug during their pregnancy. The same organization cautions against drinking too much herbal tea, claiming it is unknown how some herbs affect the foetus - not something German health experts seem too worried about.

In Canada I would also struggle to find German-style herbal tea blends to help calm my hormones or clear my sinuses. Former Berliner Susanne Wengenmeier told me that after moving to Vancouver she misses the tea remedies she found so readily available and effective during her time in the city.

“I was in the drug store and went to their 'natural' section to find the teas that cure everything and there was nothing! I was so disappointed,” she said. “I then felt really German.”

But if there is one complaint I have about steeping away my ailments, there is one persistent pregnancy problem that the teas definitely do not help - my ever-shrinking bladder.

Sabine Devins (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:30 June 30, 2010 by NYsteve
As a guy, and by no means pregnant...lol...I read this article with great interest. Over the last year I have become friends with people in Germany and chat with them on Yahoo Messenger. My closest friend, a woman in Kaiserslautern and I chat daily....if one of us is not feeling well it is amazing how our remedies follow this article.....me, if I have an upset stomach, reach for Pepto-Bismol (not available in Germany due to heavy metals)...her...chamomile tea. Headache....me..Tylenol or Excedrin...her..another type of tea. I am learning from her...no more Pepto....I stocked up on chamomile. It is a societal thing....you are BOMBARDED on US television with commercials for a pill for everything. The ones that scare me are the new pills they advertise and then list the side-affects a mile long......I like and appreciate the German/European approach and continue to treat my body naturally...
17:33 June 30, 2010 by dluckygurl8
It's surprising that a country as highly-advanced in science and technology and research and development as Germany would opt for natural remedies like teas and homeopathy. I'm impressed and I appreciate that pharmacists, Hebammes and doctors would almost always initially suggest a healthier, natural option.

Whenever I had trouble then with my pregnancy, my Frauenärztin and my Hebamme would suggest a certain tea or homeopathic remedy, believing that pregnancy (along with all its symptoms - nausea, cramps, exhaustion, etc) is not a sickness but a normal condition women experience. Even when a huge myoma grew as my unborn child was developing , which caused pre-term contractions, my doctor and Hebamme resorted to homeopathic remedies. Later on when my amniotic sac broke two months before the due birth date and I suddenly had to deliver my baby, the doctor and the Hebamme in charge just gave me a homeopathic remedy (I didn't have epidural analgesia or any anaesthesia!!!) and guided me as I pushed every time I had strong contractions. For the time that I was breastfeeding, I had to drink liters of Fencheltee and Stilltee for increased milk production (My Hebamme also suggested Vitamalz).

When I brought my baby home after staying in the Kinderintensivstation for 3 wks, he had rashes and blisters on his bottom. The Hebamme suggested we put Heilwolle (healing wool) for the rash to heal fast and use cotton pads soaked in warm water (while he had rashes - but later shifted to cotton pads with olive oil) instead of baby wipes when cleaning his bottom.

To this day, my husband (who's been using homeopathic remedies for 25 yrs) and I would resort to natural remedies when sick. Whenever our baby suffers from clogged or stuffy nose, we usually go to the Apotheke to get him Anisbutter. Oh, and my baby has been a tea drinker since Week 1. :)
18:10 June 30, 2010 by marimay
This article is great! I have no plans to become pregnant any time soon but i wrote all the teas down along with their benefits. I am all about natural alternatives and I love teas the most. Thank you so much for this information! I doubt I ever would have found out about any of this on my own, for I do not plan to live in Germany much longer...

The previous article about the gynecologist visit was a crack up, as I had gone myself only the week before. It was as if i wrote it. It was nice to know that my experience was totally "normal", lol.

Thanks again! :)
10:42 July 1, 2010 by teacup
sorry, but during my own pregnency I drank all those tea mentioned by Sabine, I still ended up with an emergency c-section, and my breast feeding problem was never solved by any tea, no matter how many different brands and how many liters of stilltea I drank.

From my personal experience it is all psychological and purly a matter of habit, culture and belief - just like do you believe in budda or christ.
14:47 July 2, 2010 by Gretl
I guess it is where you come from in the USA. As a Seattlite, natural remedies are widely available, and there are herbal apothecaries if you know where to look with midwives available. I will say, some herbal remedies can be dangerous. I took one to help with labor, only to find out that it can cause the baby's heart to speed up, and if you use to much (because with herbs, potency can fluxuate greatly), it can kill. This is why Europe killed off their first healers - witches. Luckily, my baby was safe.
12:56 July 8, 2010 by teacup
I agree with Gretl. While I am not a big fans of pills, I also think natural remedies are being over used, esp in Germany / Europe. From a TCM point of view (with my asian roots) even herbs, vegetable, fruit can create chemical reaction when combined wrongly or "overdosed"... yet many people simply believe, just because it is "natural" it must be the best and harmless.
06:47 July 17, 2010 by schmidt581
I loved the title of this article!! There certainly is a tea for every kind of issue!

My husband comes from Berlin, Germany and he grew up drinking tea for many upset stomachs and sleepless nights. It is very much a cultural thing.

I am a few weeks from delivering our 5th child and I have certainly experienced a fair share of morning sickness! I've put together a great resource about everything I've learned, both through experience and research, on a website at http://www.MorningSicknessCompanion.com.

Sign up for my FREE Morning Sickness Companion mini eCourse at http://MorningSicknessCompanion.com
15:15 August 6, 2010 by Arlete Soffiatti
As a Brazilian, I am used to this along with ointments and natural procedures to heal simple health problems. Here in Germany, at the same time they are crazy about naturals, they lack what I consider basic knowledge in the area. My daughter´s peadiatriacian, for example, told that some new research found out that honey is a good remedy for cold and used to improve the imune system. I asked him if he was kidding. We have been using honey, lemon and watercrass as cold syrup since Brazil was discovered and propolis is a saint remedy even against pimples. When I had food intoxication and ended up in hospital, the doctor asked if I had taken any medicine, I said no just some salt under the tongue . For what? To increase my blood pressure. And he said: are you kidding me? I told him this is common sense in Brazil.
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