Tests, screenings, routine procedures, and medical interventions pop up all throughout pregnancy. Which ones really matter? What are these tests for? Do I really need to do what the doctor is telling me?
I’m here to walk through the choices you have to achieve a holistic pregnancy.
I am in no way a medical professional; the advice on this blog is to be viewed as opinion only and NOT to be used in place of a medical professional. Please – consult your medical provider for any and all health needs or questions.
What is a Holistic Pregnancy?
My definition of a holistic pregnancy: trying your best to make natural, 100% health-supporting choices throughout pregnancy. Ultimately, finding what is the best way to take care of your body and your growing baby by avoiding potential unnecessary medical interventions while sometimes using medical interventions as a helpful tool. Because modern medicine is amazing and life-giving.
I really appreciate this website’s definition, “[A holistic approach to pregnancy] starts with the least invasive approach but uses the full range of therapies as needed. A holistic approach to childbearing includes both low-intervention approaches and the appropriate use of technology in a thoughtful and well-considered manner. A holistic approach respects the normal processes of pregnancy and birth but recognizes the need for assistance if appropriate. Each situation is unique, requiring individual choices and care.”
Why Would You Want to Have a Low Intervention Pregnancy?
You might want to have a low intervention pregnancy because:
- you want to be in control of your health and your babies health
- after you have done your own research, you don’t feel comfortable with some common medical interventions
- a low intervention pregnancy often leads to a low intervention birth
- you have health conditions that don’t allow for common medical interventions
- the side effects of some common medical interventions during pregnancy don’t sit well with you
- you know that your mama instincts know best
For most of us natural mamas, a low intervention pregnancy is an important foundation for raising a family with a holistic approach.
In my mind, it’s kind of like this. Why do everything you can to eat an all-organic diet to support your body during pregnancy if you’re just going to be ingesting toxic ingredients given in common prenatal care?
How Can I Achieve a Holistic Pregnancy?
Use your B.R.A.I.N. during each and every step of pregnancy.
B– Benefits, what are the benefits of what’s being offered?
R – Risks, what are the risks of what’s being offered?
A– Alternatives, are there any alternatives?
I – Intincts / Intuition, what does your gut tell you? You are the only person who knows you and your baby best.
N– Nothing, what happens if you do nothing? What if you wait a little bit before doing what is offered?
The above video is referencing medical interventions during birth BUT I think the BRAIN acronym is an excellent tool to use during any medical decision.
So, it all begins with your first prenatal appointment. Most offices have you come in right away for at least an ultrasound and blood work.
- What are the benefits of having an ultrasound at 8 weeks (or whatever week you are) gestation?
- What are the risks of having an ultrasound at 8 weeks gestation? P.S. your medical provider might say there are none… do your own research.
- Is there an alternative to an ultrasound? In this instance, a heart doppler or even a standard pregnancy test will do because mostly they are looking for a pregnancy confirmation at that time.
- What does your gut tell you? Is it necessary for your peace of mind to have an ultrasound in early pregnancy? Is this not necessary for you specifically?
- What happens if I don’t have an ultrasound at this point in my pregnancy?
The whole point of taking a holistic approach to pregnancy is that these sorts of things are a little bit fluid. You can have your own take on prenatal care while still attending to your health and your growing baby’s health.
A Low Intervention Pregnancy Doesn’t Mean No Interventions
I don’t deny everything in pregnancy. I especially do not deny medical interventions in pregnancy simply for the sake of being natural. My approach to holistic pregnancy is to find what path is safest and is cohesive with our other efforts to live a natural life.
So, yes, I did deny the Glucola drink that’s given for glucose screening. Instead, I tested my blood sugar levels at home for 5 days which I felt was even more accurate to rule out potential gestational diabetes.
Yes, I did deny all ultrasounds and non-stress tests. But, when my baby had a heart arrhythmia in the third trimester, I did weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests until her heart regulated – with absolutely no questions asked!
Do you see what I mean? I will say no to things I feel are unnecessary (after researching benefits vs risks thoroughly) but I will do what is necessary to care for my body and my growing baby.
Typical Medical Interventions During Pregnancy and Their Holistic Alternatives
Once again, I feel the need to say that I am not a doctor, midwife or any other medical professional. The following is my experience and my opinion – please use the resources below to do your own research.
1) Genetic Testing
This is one of the first things that will come up in prenatal care. Lab tests. Which, I think are fine and dandy, who cares? They’re non-invasive and give really helpful intel as to what is going on inside of my body.
But, genetic testing is a little bit different. These results can change your outlook on your pregnancy, cause anxiety and even cause pregnancy termination. What’s worse is that these tests are not very accurate… like, it’s pretty darn common to hear of false results in genetic testing.
We opted out of doing genetic testing.
Read the following articles to gather more information about genetic testing during pregnancy.
- BBC News – ‘I nearly aborted my baby because of an unreliable test’
- NBC News – Prenatal Tests Have High Failure Rate, Triggering Abortions
Other Lab Tests
Ask about what the test is for – there are some that may not be necessary for you, you can decline those tests. For example, if you might not need the test for chlamydia. Stay informed, ask questions and think for yourself.
As I said above, after researching benefits vs risks of ultrasounds we decided to deny routine ultrasounds. The main benefit in my mind of having an ultrasound (in a low risk, “normal” pregnancy) is to see your cute baby and determine if there is anything physically abnormal about your baby. We just felt that the risks of baby ultrasounds weren’t worth the benefit.
That was our general rule for ultrasounds… but, when our baby developed a heart arrhythmia the benefits and risks changed. So, of course, we did ultrasounds and non-stress tests to monitor our baby’s heart!
Mama Natural has an excellent article about Baby Ultrasounds that shares both the benefits and the risks.
3) RhoGAM shot (US) / Anti-D (Most everywhere else)
Mothers with a positive blood type do not need to learn about the RhoGAM shot… skip to number 4 if you have a positive blood type.
If your baby’s father also has a negative blood type, you can skip ahead as well. If both parents have a negative blood type, the baby will have a negative blood type and remove the need for the RhoGAM shot.
I was told early in my pregnancy that I had a negative blood type and that at 28 weeks I would need to have a shot called RhoGAM to prevent the very serious effects of becoming sensitized. It was at that moment that I felt like some kind of weird vampire lady.
In a nutshell, when a mother’s negative blood and a baby’s positive blood mix the mother’s body will attack the baby’s blood like it is a foreign invader. The blood mixing is called sensitization and it can cause a slew of very serious health issues for the baby and mostly for future pregnancies and future babies.
There are quite a few serious risks if you chose NOT to get the RhoGAM shot and there are quite a few serious risks if you chose TO get the shot. Helpful, right?
I took months to research, pray and discuss this topic with others until my husband and I came to peace about what to do.
I will get the RhoGAM shot under the following circumstances and under these only:
- Direct trauma to the belly (car accident, serious fall, kicked by a horse – Farmland, USA here)
- After miscarriage, stillbirth or ectopic pregnancy
- Placenta abruptio or placentia previa
- After birth (after the baby has been tested and has a positive blood type)
I did not consent to routine RhoGAM administration at 28 weeks gestation.
At the time of writing this, I have received the RhoGAM shot 3 times. After a serious fall when I fell directly onto my belly, after the birth of my positive blood type baby, and after my nearly 12-week miscarriage.
Please do thorough research over this topic and make an educated decision – do not let your medical provider bully you into anything other than what you’ve decided is best and with an outcome that you can live with.
- MommyPotamus’s Should I Get a RhoGAM Shot?
- MommyPotamus’s Holistic Care for the RH Negative Mama
- The RhoGAM Shot: Why I Chose Not To Get It While Pregnant (spoiler: she only has one child and isn’t having more children)
- RhoGAM official website – you can read the ingredients list and side effect warning on their site.
4) Glucose Screening (also called glucose tolerance test)
Let me start by saying untreated gestational diabetes is very serious. There are serious effects of untreated gestational diabetes. It is possible to be a fit, healthy woman and have gestational diabetes (GD). Just because you may be at low risk doesn’t mean you’re at no risk for GD. Please, take this seriously and screen for GD in some form or fashion.
Secondly, the glucose drink that is offered to pregnant women needs to be called out. It is chock full of disgusting toxic ingredients. I know everyone complains about having to drink it but seriously, it is horrible for you.
Some common ingredients in Glucola:
- Brominated vegetable oil – an approved flame retardant and currently banned in Europe and Japan
- Modified food starch – a cousin to MSG, yuck!
- Food dyes like FD&C yellow #6, red #40 – most of you natural mamas are avoiding putting crap like this in your body anyways
- And there are other possible ingredients to look into as well.
The worst part is that the screening (notice it can’t be called a diagnostic) is not very accurate!
Thankfully, there are a slew of alternatives to the standard glucose drink. Ask your medical provider what the alternatives are to screen for gestational diabetes.
I declined the standard glucose tolerance test and instead tested my own blood sugar levels at home for 5 days based on Wellness Mama’s suggestions.
You can read more about glucose screening at Mommypotamus’s article Natural Alternatives to the Gestational Diabetes Test and Wellness Mama’s Glucola Pregnancy Glucose Test: What I Do
5) Group B Strep Testing
Okay, full disclosure: because I didn’t test positive for Group B Strep, I am not very knowledgable or experienced in this topic.
Mama Natural and Mommypotamus both have very in-depth articles about Group B Strep that you can read.
- Mama Natural – Group B Strep: What Is It? And How Does It Affect Your Pregnancy?
- Mommypotamus (who was GBS+ twice) – I’m Group B Strep Positive – Now What?
You Have a Choice – Your Body, Your Baby, and Your Pregnancy
Don’t be negligent in the name of having a natural pregnancy BUT do know that you get to decide these things. You can do the work and research to come to a decision that’s right for you.
Your doctor, midwife, OB GYN works for you… you hired them. Would you let anyone else you’ve hired tell you how something should be done? Would you let your tattoo artist tell you where you should have your tattoo placed? What color? The design? When to get it? NO! So, don’t let your medical provider push you into things just because they have some special letters behind their name.
When your medical provider pressures you to do something, just ask to have time to think about it and “do it the next time you’re in”. Give yourself the time to research and make a choice! Then when you come back for your next appointment, have your research handy and present your choice proudly and with the authority of a well-educated mama.
All in All – Take It One Step at a Time and Don’t Forget to Use Your B.R.A.I.N.