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Health & Balance

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Alternative Therapies and Pregnancy

As with certain medications, there are many alternative therapies deemed unsafe for pregnant women.

Before taking an alternative remedy, be sure to talk with your health care provider.

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Safe Alternative Therapies During Pregnancy

The following alternative treatments can safely be used during pregnancy:

  • Nausea: Acupuncture, acupressure, ginger root (250mg capsules 4 times a day), and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, 25mg two or three times a day) work well and are considered safe for pregnant women.
  • Backache: Chiropractic manipulation and massage may help.
  • Turning a breech baby: Exercise and hypnosis have proven beneficial. Trials are underway to investigate moxibustion, a traditional Chinese treatment that burns an herb close to the skin and is stated to be beneficial in turning a breech baby.
  • Labor induction: Evening primrose oil, black haw, and red raspberry leaves seem to work for cervical ripening. The risks and benefits of these agents are still unknown, because the evidence is based on anecdotal case reports and are therefore not recommended. Conventional methods are more reliable for these purposes.
  • Pain relief in labor: Epidurals are most effective, but other methods like immersion in a warm bath and acupuncture can be effective. A high-tech nerve stimulator called TENS may also be effective if used in conjunction with other pain control treatments. Relaxation techniques, patterned breathing, emotional support, and self-hypnosis are already widely used alternative therapies in labor.

Unsafe Alternative Therapies During Pregnancy

Some alternative treatments are not recommended during pregnancy. The following substances have the potential to harm a developing baby when used in a concentrated formulation (not as a spice in cooking). Some are thought to cause birth defects, and some to encourage early labor.

Avoid these oral supplements:

  • Arborvitae
  • Beth root
  • Black cohosh
  • Blue cohosh
  • Cascara
  • Chaste tree berry
  • Chinese angelica (Dong Quai)
  • Cinchona
  • Cotton root bark
  • Feverfew
  • Ginseng
  • Golden seal
  • Juniper
  • Kava kava
  • Licorice
  • Meadow saffron
  • Pennyroyal
  • Poke root
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Saint Johns wort
  • Senna
  • Tansy
  • White peony
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow
  • Yellow dock

Large doses of vitamin A can cause birth defects.

Avoid these aromatherapy essential oils:

  • Calamus
  • Mugwort
  • Pennyroyal
  • Sage
  • Wintergreen
  • Basil
  • Hyssop
  • Myrrh
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme

If you have a question about the safety of an alternative therapy, always ask your health care provider before using it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on August 17, 2015

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