“I just don’t feel like it’s safe”, my friend said when I bumped into her in the street today. “What do you think?”
My friend is 27 weeks pregnant, under severe stress due to currently being alone, jobless, under financial pressure whilst trying to create a home base, and also resolving her visa status here in Thailand. She is 41, it’s her first pregnancy and she has high blood pressure. Under the circumstances, it would be a miracle if she wasn’t presenting with stress and high blood pressure symptoms. Her Thai obstetrician has prescribed 200mg of aspirin daily to control the blood pressure as she is at risk of preeclampsia.
She asked me if I think the high dose aspirin is safe. In my humble opinion, err… no.
Want to know more about what preeclampsia is, and why it’s so dangerous, this is a simple, clear and useful Link.
While low-dose aspirin 60-100mg is commonly prescribed for preeclampsia, aspirin during pregnancy at doses of over 100mg poses risks for congenital defects, pregnancy loss, heart damage for the developing child and bleeding of the brain in the foetus. You can read the Mayo Clinic’s discussion about that Here. And yes, she’s looking at alternate doctors for the remainder of her pregnancy.
So what DO I suggest for my friend to help lower her blood pressure on a tight budget, that’s easy to find and easy to prepare-buy-use here in Asia? And completely safe for her during pregnancy?
My first suggestion is she resolve the major issues which are causing the stress. So often contemporary allopathic ‘medicine’ is practiced in social isolation. While she is doing that, she probably could safely take 1/3 of the daily aspirin dosage prescribed.
Great exercise is of huge benefit in moderating the triggers for preeclampsia – lots of fairly steady-brisk walking and some intensive swimming.
And diet. What local foods might she get enormous benefit from right now?
One avocado contains 20% of the potassium required each day to control blood pressure. Not to mention rich in all kinds of other nutrients, great fats and minerals. It’s a complete food. Don’t feel for breakfast? Try an avocado, lime, mint & coconut shake instead. Avocados are in season right through the rainy season (now) until about next January. Absurdly cheap. I bought 5 avocados today for $2.
Most Thai markets and street food strips have a vendor, somewhere, with BBQ sweet potato. Absurdly cheap, you can eat your fill for 10 baht ($0.30). As well as fiber, some protein and a big hit of potassium, one sweet potato delivers about 400% of your daily Vitamin A needs!
Found EVERYwhere in Asia, a fresh, cool, green coconut is sheer magic. Apart from being rich in potassium and electrolytes to support growing mamas in the heat, they’re full of magnesium, calcium and manganese. At least one a day. When I was pregnant, I drank (on the advice of my excellent Thai obstetrician) 3 young green coconuts per day.
Dark Leafy Greens
Here in Thailand in a tourist city, the easiest thing to find EVERYwhere, at seriously cheap prices, is pak boong, commonly known as Asian water spinach or “morning glory” (it is neither LOL). One serving gives close to 10% of your daily blood-pressure-controlling potassium, plus a whole lot of fiber and other important nutrients. It’s a staple in our house, stir fried in a very hot wok with loads of garlic, chili, and a little ancient salt. If you are pregnant or you have high blood pressure and are eating out, INSIST on NO MSG and NO Oyster Sauce. Thai Oyster Sauce is a chemically laden disaster that has probably never seen a real oyster but is full of MSG, salt and preservatives – all bad for blood pressure and definitely bad for baby. Spinach, kale and bok choy are all great substitutes.
Rich in both potassium and fiber, a banana several times a day is recommended to help control blood pressure and to give the baby the complex carbohydrates it needs for optimal growth.
Clinical studies suggest that magnesium is involved in the regulation of blood pressure and that the increase in diastolic blood pressure in pregnancy could be due to a lack of magnesium. You can read that very important research Here. And so, I’m suggesting:
Daily foot soaks with Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt). One handful, every day, in very warm water for 20-30 mins.
And regular applications of transdermal Magnesium Chloride Spray throughout the day, and applied to the soles of the feet at night.
Preeclampsia IS serious and diagnosed in pregnant women when the blood pressure is over 140/90 on multiple occasions; the mother’s kidneys and liver are at risk of severe damage, as is baby’s health and the viability of the pregnancy. Very frequent monitoring of protein levels in the urine is essential. Lowering the blood pressure and reducing stress for the new mother are critical.
Should we second-guess doctors? Absolutely we should! We should evaluate ALL professionals with the tools we have. In today’s case, the greatest tool was my friend’s intuition when she said, “I just don’t feel like it’s safe.” We need to research wisely and well, using multiple sources and published clinical research to draw our own conclusions. Because we are responsible for our life and health.
High blood pressure when you are under sustained stress is, actually, quite normal. Medicating it with synthetic drugs is not the best, nor the most effective, solution. My friend now needs to simply take charge of her own health and pregnancy, to eat and exercise well, to monitor her health (and the baby’s) without stress, and to make superb natural choices for herself.
Grateful for a new life growing, for strong new mamas, and for the global community I interface with daily.