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Alternative Therapies Considered Safe During Pregnancy

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on December 15, 2020

Check with your doctor before using any alternative therapies during pregnancy. Your doctor will not recommend a product or therapy until it is shown to be safe and effective.

These alternative therapies have been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant women. They may help relieve some of the side effects of pregnancy.

Nausea in early pregnancy:

Backache:

Chiropractic manipulation holds the best track record. Make sure the chiropractor you choose is trained/comfortable with treating pregnant patients. Warm compresses and gentle massages are also good for backaches.

Turning a breech baby:

Exercise and hypnosis may be beneficial.

Pain relief in labor:

Epidurals are most effective, but immersing yourself in a warm bath can also relieve tension.

These are widely used alternative therapies in labor:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Patterned breathing
  • Emotional support
  • Self-hypnosis

Acupressure can also work for some women.

Alternative therapies to avoid:

These alternative therapies have the potential to harm your developing baby when you use them in a concentrated formulation (not as a spice in cooking). Some may cause birth defects and encourage early labor.

Have any doubt about the safety of an alternative therapy? Contact your doctor before using it.

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
  • Slippery root
  • 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
  • Thyme

Check with your doctor before trying any alternative therapy during your pregnancy. Be especially cautious in the first trimester, a crucial time for your baby's development.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Medications and Pregnancy." 

Womenshealth.gov: "Pregnancy and medicines fact sheet."

American Family Physician: "Over-the-Counter Medications in Pregnancy."

Cleveland Clinic: "Medication Guidelines During Pregnancy."

RxList website.

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