Alternative therapies in pregnancy

An at-a-glance guide to the alternative therapies that can help you during pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, it’s only natural that you’ll want to do things, well, naturally, which means that certain medicines are out of bounds. So what can you do for the morning sickness, the backache, the migraines, the heartburn (not that pregnancy is one long list of ailments…)?


We’ve all heard about alternative therapies but before you rush headlong into trying anything that’s going, it’s worth doing your homework to see what’s most likely to help your particular problem and whether it’s safe to try during pregnancy. Some of these therapies are covered in more detail elsewhere on this site, but this should point you in the right direction.

The General Regulatory Council For Complementary Therapies (GRCCT) holds a database of practitioners from all therapies, so it’s worth checking to find an expert near you:

The use of essential oils to promote general wellbeing and alleviate specific ailments, such as morning sickness and fluid retention.
Different essential oils have different effects, so it’s probably best to ask at your pharmacy or health shop when you buy them or before using them, especially as some are not safe for use either throughout pregnancy or at certain stages. You can read more about essential oils in pregnancy in the ThinkBaby pregnancy section.
Oils can be massaged into the body when mixed with a carrier oil – this works best when done by an experienced masseur using appropriate techniques [link to massage piece], by burning essential oils in a vapouriser, or adding a couple of drops to a relaxing bath.
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This branch of Chiinese medicine uses ultra-fine needles, which are inserted into the skins at specific points to relieve pain, promote wellbeing and treat specific ailments.
Pre-pregnancy it is thought to help improve chances of IVF success, while during pregnancy it is used to alleviate morning sickness, pre- and postnatal depression and lower back pain. F
or nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, acupressure wristbands can offer relief. If you find that your baby is breech, it may be worth trying moxibustion (heating acupoints in the foot with the herb mugwort) in the last month of pregnancy to encourage your baby to turn and thus avoid a Caesarean section. It can also be used during labour, but you should check that your hospital is happy for your acupuncturist to accompany if this is what you want.
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Chiropractic/McTimoney chiropractic
Chiropractic literally means ‘done by hand’ and involves the manipulation of the spine to ease back pain.
It’s particularly beneficial during pregnancy as the combination of putting on weight and physiological changes such as the softening of ligaments all put increased stress on your posture and lead to aches and pains. Chiropractic can help ease all of these, and as a bonus it has been shown to reduce the length of labour.
After pregnancy, your chiropractor can help ensure that your stretched out joints and loosened ligaments return to normal.
McTimoney is a particularly gentle form of chiropractic, which makes it especially suitable for pregnant women. Treatment is recommended from the third month of pregnancy onwards. As well as treatment, you will also be offered advice on improving your posture along with exercises to keep you in line.
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Bowen Technique
Pioneered by Thomas Ambrose Bowen, born in Geelong, Australia, in 1916, this is particularly useful for treating back pain and associated problems.
In pregnancy it can help with backache/sciatica, breast tenderness, swollen legs, carpal tunnel syndrome and general wellbeing and energy levels.
Post-pregnancy, it can be used to re-align after childbirth and ease mastitis, and is said to be excellent for babies with colic. Treatment usually takes about 45 minutes and the therapist makes up to four gentle, rolling moves with his fingers or thumbs at specific places on the body, over muscles, tendons or joints, after which he will wait for a few minutes to allow the body to absorb the effect before continuing.
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Massage of specific points on the feet and hands to treat the whole body, based on the principle that all the bodily structures including organs and glands are represented in these ‘reflex areas’.
The aim is to encourage the body’s own recuperative powers. Stimulation of specific points releases blockages in the energy pathways and improves nerve function and blood supply throughout the body. In pregnancy it can be used to boost energy levels, alleviate musculo-skeletal problems, relieve heartburn, reduce oedema (swelling) and normalise hypertension.
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Based on the principle that a little of what is making you ill can cure you, homeopathic medicines come in minute doses, which will trigger your body’s natural healing system. As a result, they are relatively safe to use, even in pregnancy.
It is safe to self-prescribe for common ailments, but you are more likely to achieve good results if you consult a qualified homeopath. In pregnancy, homeopathy can be used to treat morning sickness, constipation, mild urinary problems, diarrhoea, heartburn, anaemia, varicose veins, backache, cramps, thrush or emotional distress.
It can also be used during labour to alleviate panic, encourage contractions, or even slow them down. Your homeopath can prescribe a labour kit and advise what you should use and when, or she could accompany you at the birth.
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A holistic treatment that emphasises mechanical, structural and postural factors in the healthy functioning of the body.
Osteopaths use a range of manipulative techniques to help the body find the most natural balance possible. It can bring great relief, freeing the body of unnecessary tensions and strains that may compromise the ability to adapt to the changes.
Osteopathy is particularly beneficial in pregnancy as it can help your body adapt to the changes that are constantly taking place in terms of weight distribution and posture.
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