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Women's Health

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Pregnancy and Medicine

Are Alternative Pregnancy Medicine Therapies Safe?

Many pregnant women believe "natural" products can be safely used to relieve nausea, backache, and other annoying symptoms of pregnancy, but many of these so-called natural products have not been tested for their safety and effectiveness in non-pregnant women, much less in pregnant women. Therefore, it is very important to check with your doctor before taking any alternative therapies. He or she will not recommend a product or therapy until it is shown to be safe and effective.

Safe Alternative Pregnancy Medicine Therapies

There are some alternative therapies that have been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant women to take to relieve some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy.

  • Nausea in early pregnancy: acupuncture, acupressure, ginger root (250 milligram capsules 4 times a day), and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, 25 milligram two or three times a day) work well.
  • Backache: chiropractic manipulation holds the best track record.
  • Turning a breech baby: exercise, hypnosis, and traditional Chinese treatment (burning incense-like substance on the fifth toe) have proven beneficial.
  • Pain relief in labor: epidurals are most effective, but injections of sterile water near a woman's tailbone works surprisingly well, as do immersion in a warm bath, and a high tech nerve stimulator called TENS unit. Relaxation techniques, patterned breathing, emotional support, and self-hypnosis are already widely used alternative therapies in labor.

Alternative Pregnancy Medicine Therapies to Avoid

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 encourage early labor.

  • Avoid these oral supplements: Arbor vitae, 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, St. John's wort, Senna, Tansy, White peony, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow dock, vitamin A (large doses can cause birth defects).
  • Avoid these aromatherapy essential oils: calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, wintergreen, basil, hyssop, myrrh, marjoram, and thyme.

If you have any doubt regarding the safety of a medication, both traditional and alternative, contact your doctor before taking it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on June 17, 2015
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