When it comes to pregnancy, women tend to fall into one of two groups: those who will only follow their doctor’s recommendations and are wary of trying anything deemed “alternative” for fear of harming their babies, and those who would prefer avoiding anything medicalized and see alternative or more “natural” therapies as better for their developing babies.
It’s important to keep in mind that no one group is always right and the other always wrong. In some instances, traditional medicine is definitely needed, such as when insulin is needed to treat diabetes or a C-section can be life-saving for a baby.
However, there are times when alternative or complementary practices are perfectly fine, too. But just because something is advertised as “natural” or “alternative” doesn’t mean it’s always safe — or even effective. Here are some alternative practices that are safe in pregnancy (though we do recommend checking with your doctor or midwife to be sure they are OK for you before you start anything new).
- Massage. Prenatal massages can be a glorious thing. They can be a way to treat the back pain and muscle soreness that many pregnant women experience, and they are also just a great excuse to set aside some personal time for you. Be sure to follow our tips here about how to find a masseuse and enjoy the experience.
- Acupuncture. There is some scientific evidence that acupuncture in pregnancy can help alleviate back pain. This alternative practice is becoming more mainstream, which is good news for pregnant moms looking to get some relief!
- Acupressure. Nausea from morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, can be one of the worst parts of being pregnant, and thankfully acupressure is safe to use and may help a bit. You can often find bracelets that apply this type of pressure in many stores or online, or you can research acupressure points that you can treat yourself at home.
- Moxibustion. This is the practice of burning an herb close to your pinky toe, with the goal of helping your breech baby to turn. Does it help? Maybe, but more studies are needed. Does it hurt? No — so feel free to give it a try!
- Certain vitamins and supplements. Not all treatments for pregnancy-related symptoms must be in the form of a prescription. For example, vitamin B6 and the supplement ginger root have both been used to treat pregnancy-related nausea. Since supplements such as these are not regulated by the FDA, you’ll want to purchase them from reputable companies to ensure they are the dose they advertise and free of impurities. And keep in mind not all supplements are safe in pregnancy, and some vitamins at high doses can be harmful — always check with your doctor or midwife before starting anything new!
- Hypnosis. Hypnosis in labor has been reported by many women to help relieve labor pain, while others who have tried the technique did not find any benefit. The bottom line in pregnancy: using hypnosis as a way to meditate and relax is perfectly fine, but be wary of anyone or any method that promises it can fix everything or make all your pain go away.
Reviewed by Dr. Diana Huang, May 2020
- Many moms embrace alternative medicine during pregnancy.
- Check with your doctor before using any therapy.
- Massage, acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, and hypnosis might all be helpful.