Top 10 alternative therapies for pregnancy and birth

What are the best complementary therapies to help you through pregnancy, birth and beyond

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Complementary medicine is the blanket term for a number of holistic therapies that aim to treat the whole person, on physical, mental and emotional levels, rather than targeting specific symptoms. Therapies include acupuncture and reflexology.

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How can it help?

“Treatments can be very helpful to use alongside conventional care,” explains Denise Tiran, a midwife and honorary lecturer at the University of Greenwich, specialising in complementary therapies. “Therapies can be used for pregnancy discomforts, such as backache, for pain relief in labour and recovery after the birth.”

Is it safe?

Yes, if used with appropriate advice and knowledge. It’s important to find a qualified therapist who is aware of the specific implications of pregnancy, as all therapies have some risks. “If they are powerful enough to do something good when used correctly, they will also have the potential to be harmful when used incorrectly,” says Tiran.

1. Acupuncture

One of the most widely researched therapies: studies have detailed the usefulness of acupuncture for relieving morning sickness and it can be used from as early as six weeks.

2. Alexander Technique

Learning the technique can help your body cope better with the stress and strain of carrying all that extra weight. The technique is also thought to have a calming effect and is good preparation for birth.

3. Aromatherapy

Many essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy, but a qualified aromatherapist will know which ones are safe to use. Single or combination blends can help treat nausea, alleviate anxiety, reduce swelling, ease headaches and encourage a good night’s sleep.

4. Flower Remedies

These are best used for maintaining emotional health throughout pregnancy, rather than treating physical ailments. Use them for challenging situations – if you are worrying about procedures, for instance, or if you are fearful of the birth. The most well-known flower therapy is Bach Rescue Remedy, used to bring calm in times of stress, but Bach has 38 others to choose from.

5. Herbs

Thought to be very useful, herbs can help to alleviate common and more complex pregnancy complaints. However, some herbs can put pregnancy at risk, so it is very important to seek a qualified medical herbalist.

6. Homeopathy

There are homeopathic remedies for every pregnancy eventuality covering pre-conceptual care, pregnancy-related ailments and recovery after the birth. You can self-prescribe for straightforward acute ailments, such as morning sickness and nausea. The Society of Homeopaths (www.homeopathy-soh.org) publishes a leaflet Homeopathy For Mother And Baby which will help you choose the right treatment.

7. Massage

Research shows that massage is an effective form of pain relief and some women find it very helpful during labour. Specific pregnancy massage can also help to ease discomforts such as backache, headache and constipation, as well as relieving anxiety and promoting wellbeing. Avoid deep, kneading massage in pregnancy.

8. Osteopathy

This can help your body adjust to the weight of your baby. Both osteopathy and chiropractic can relieve breathing difficulties and encourage the baby into a good position. Cranial osteopathy is recommended during pregnancy, as it is extremely gentle.

9. Reflexology

You can try reflexology after the three-month mark of your pregnancy, although it is not recommended for anyone with a history of recurrent miscarriage. Research shows that it boosts energy levels, relieves heartburn, reduces swelling and normalises hypertension.

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10. Shiatsu

Literally translated shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ and focuses on the same points and meridians that are used in acupuncture. Its aim is to re-establish energy flow and wellbeing. It is thought to be helpful in relieving aches and pains and morning sickness.

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