It’s National Complementary Therapy Week right now, which raises the question – are complementary therapies safe during pregnancy?
What Treatments can I do?
The short answer is yes and, whilst massage is one of the safest, there are a whole range of other complementary therapies that are safe for you too.
Of course, you need to check with your doctor before you embark on any therapies like homeopathy, massage or acupuncture, but generally they are non-invasive therapies and therefore low risk in pregnancy.
The downside this year is that many practices are currently closed and, as you’ll be more aware of the need for social distancing, popping along to a new treatment space might not be top of your list of things to do right now.
The good news is that lots of these complementary therapies can be done (to some extent) at home.
We definitely don’t suggest throwing needles around for an at-home acupuncture session, but pain and stress relieving options like a pregnancy massage, an aromatherapy session, or an evening of meditation, can be very effective and possible from the comfort of your own home.
Why Use Complementary Therapy during Pregnancy?
Complementary therapies may not necessarily have proven scientific backing, but they are used frequently to help ease pregnancy symptoms like nausea, lower back pain or stress and trouble sleeping.
So, lets get into the truth about aromatherapy and pregnancy safety, massage and pregnancy, and a few other pregnancy therapies you can do at home.
1. Aromatherapy and Pregnancy Safety
Aromatherapy and pregnancy safety is not a hugely researched area, but if you are using essential oils moderately (and not ingesting them) then this can be another at-home remedy to morning sickness or stress and tension.
As with all other at-home therapies you should check in with your doctor before starting, especially if you have any other pre-existing health issues like epilepsy.
It’s also not recommended to use essential oils during your first 13 weeks, as there’s some risk, however small, that they could cause uterine contractions that might affect your baby.
Oils that are safe during pregnancy
Lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang are popular oils to use once you reach trimester 2 and all have a calming effect on your body.
If these scents aren’t the ones for you, the National Association of Holistic Aromahterapy (NAHA) lists any of the oils below as safe to use if diluted properly:
|Frankincense (German and Roman)||Geranium||Ginger|
|Sandalwood||Orange (sweet)||Tea tree|
Oils to avoid during pregnancy
This is quite a long list – mainly because there’s not enough research to prove they’re safe during pregnancy.
Don’t ingest essential oils
Essential oils should never been taken orally, even if you’re not pregnant. Lots of them can be toxic when ingested which can be harmful for you and your baby.
Always dilute essential oils
You shouldn’t use undiluted oils during pregnancy either.
If you’re adding them to your bath mix about three drops to a base of oil or full fat milk, to help spread it thought the water. And before using essential oils for a massage, mix a few drops with base oil, such as nut oil or coconut oil.
For a massage it’s best to carry out a patch test 24 hours before using an essential oil, by dabbing a small amount on your skin and checking for any kind of reaction.
Don’t over-use essential oils
It’s also best not to use essential oils every day, and of course don’t use anything you are allergic to (keep reading for more pregnancy massage tips!)
Check the benefits of essential oils
Always check which oils are best for your pregnancy problem. Common oils are lemon oil, which is said to work for nausea, sweet orange for constipation, orange blossom (neroli) for heartburn and lavender for sleeping better.
Some oils are extremely versatile and always good to have in your cupboard. We’d recommend stocking up on lavender, sweet orange and peppermint.
Check with your hospital before using for labour
Some women choose to use aromatherapy during labour so if this is something you’re interested in check whether your hospital can accommodate your request.
You may want to add a vaporiser to your hospital bag – just be sure not to add essential oils to your birthing pool, if this is the labour you have chosen!
2. Acupressure during Pregnancy
Acupressure requires physical pressure to be applied to specific points that run along your body’s meridian system (or life-energy path).
It is often used to control pain in labour but can also help reduce backache and even pelvic discomfort throughout your pregnancy.
Acupressure is safe for you and baby but as it might increase blood flow to the uterus and stimulate uterine contractions it’s essential to check with your doctor before tyring any treatments yourself at home.
Once doctor approved, you can administer acupressure to yourself – or ask a partner/housemate to help you out. You need to first find a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply, and then use firm pressure to massage each point.
Specific massages are readily available online – here is a great one for relieving stress.
There are six major acupressure points that are known to bring on labour – read more about them here.
There are many products you can buy to take your therapy further. Ear seeds are a popular home remedy, which consist of small seed-like circles which you place on certain points of the ear to stimulate pressure points.
These 24K gold ear seeds (£29 from vie healing) are particularly glamorous.
Acupressure mats are another trendy at-home option at the moment, they are designed to produce a similar effect to an acupressure massage and have been reported to help with headache, backache, neck pain, stiff muscles, insomnia to name a few.
The Satori Acupressure mat and pillow set (£59.99) is made from organic linen and comes in a lovely relaxing blue colour.
3. Massage While Pregnant
If you’re asking yourself “Can I have a massage in pregnancy” then the answer is a resounding yes! Pregnancy massage can be a great tool for reducing stress, easing tense muscles and improving sleep.
Massaging your ever-changing pregnant body needs to be a little different though - for a start you can’t lie on your tummy for a prenatal massage, when you have a baby in there!
Even though you can't get out to your massage therapist right now, it doesn’t mean an at-home massage during pregnancy is an impossibility. With a few adjustments pregnancy massage is easy to do at home - you just need to enlist the help of a family member or someone from your household bubble.
Adjustment tips for pregnancy massage at home
You can’t lie on your tummy, and it’s recommended not to lie on your back (as it can put pressure on a major blood vessel and disrupt blood flow), so you’ll need to find a comfortable seated position for your massage.
It’s also not a good idea to do any rough massaging of the legs during your pregnancy because pregnant women are more prone to blood clots and deep tissue massage in your legs could dislodge them.
You may find you have to pick some different massage techniques at this time - try a gentle foot rub using circular motions, a back rub using gentle strokes and kneading, a shoulder rub using gentle pressure or a scalp massage by circling fingertips through the hair.
It may feel a faff to try out these adjustments, but regular pregnancy massage can relieve issues like: insomnia, joint pain, neck and back aches, cramps and headaches, and once your new masseuse gets the hang of it will be well worth the effort!
4. Reflexology in Pregnancy
Reflexology is a method of activating the healing powers of the body through manipulation of the feet (and occasionally your hands).
There are many ways this treatment can support your pregnancy journey. It’s great at helping you relax and is known to help you sleep better. It can also combat common problems like constipation, lower back pain and heartburn – not to mention help prepare your body for labour.
However sadly this is not a treatment to try at home – it’s essential that it’s performed by a therapist experienced in Maternity Reflexology, so you’re going to have to wait until treatment centres are open again for this one. Why not look up the closest professional reflexologist to you and when you’re feeling safe to venture out, put this on your list of complementary therapies that are a must to try out.
There are some great reflexology products out there to help hit some common reflex points, but be sure not to use them unless given approval by your professional reflexologist.
These Byriver foot massage flip flops are just £23.99 and great way to hit some reflex points whilst on your feet.
This Shiatsu heated foot massager machine is £89.98 and will massage your feet while you relax.
5. Naturopathy for Pregnant Women
Naturopathy is a very holistic complementary therapy, which is based on the healing power of nature. It generally aims to treat ailments with all round good-health through diet, exercise, supplements, etc.
Some key thoughts that guide Naturopathic practices are that nature has healing powers, that it is better to treat the cause instead of the problem, that you should treat the whole person and that prevention is better than a cure later down the road.
How to practice Naturopathy at home:
A few ways you can practice a more Naturopathic lifestyle at home during your pregnancy include:
- starting the day with a positive thought or gratitude list
- gentle stretching
- Epsom salts when you bathe
- a glass of detoxing warm water with lemon in the mornings
- healthy eating routines and diets (check out our pregnancy diet blog for ideas)
- keeping your living space clean, calm and clutter-free
- avoiding bright lights from electronics in the evenings
- practicing breathing exercises
- gentle exercise (we offer pregnancy-safe workouts on our website here)
6. Homeopathy in Pregnancy
Homeopathy is a safe, gentle and effective system of medicine with highly diluted remedies (ie not chemical drugs), so they cannot harm you or your baby.
Homeopathy uses very diluted herbal substances to treat concerns and centres around a mindset the ‘like cures like’, or that a substance that could cause a certain symptom could also cure them.
Many midwives are happy for women to use homeopathic remedies during labour and birth. However, make sure you discuss your plans with your midwife at your next antenatal visit – just to be on the safe side.
There are remedy kits providing “Homeopathy for Childbirth” available from many homeopathic pharmacies with instructions on how and when to use them. Or why not make up your own kit with the following remedies (all should be supplied in either 30C or 200C potency).
This list covers everything from varicose veins, anxiety and nausea through to helping with labour and turning a breech baby. You can find out more about each remedy here
Aconite, Arnica, Belladonna, Bellis perennis, Calendula, Cantharis, Caulophyllum, Chamomilla, Cimicifuga, Gelsemium, Hamamelis, Ignatia, Ipecacuanha, Kali carbonicum, Nux vomica, Phytolacca, Pulsatilla, Rhus toxicodendron, Sepia, Staphysagria
7. Pregnancy Meditation
Meditation is an amazing way to get in touch with your body, relax, focus, and take some time for yourself without the need for anything except some space to sit down.
Meditation is believed to help with sleep, relief of stress and anxiety, to be a positive preparation for breathing during labour, and even to lower risks of postpartum depression.
There are many ways you can meditate at home, just by sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing, by finding a class or guided meditation on youtube, or even by downloading an app like headspace which encourages you to set aside 10 minutes a day to allow you to practice mindfulness mediation.
Here are some tips for beginners:
- sit comfortably where you will remain stable and comfy for the whole mediation.
- set a time limit (start with shorter, like 5 minutes, if you are a beginner.)
- pay attention to your body, the feeling of the ground below your feet and your palms on your knees.
- count your breath, follow the sensations it creates and be aware of your chest rising and falling.
- notice when your mind has wandered and don’t worry about it! Just recognise the passing thought and then get back to your mindfulness.
- as you begin to end the meditation, do so gently. Begin to wiggle your fingers and pay attention to bodily sensations again, listen to the sounds you can hear and gently open your eyes.
How will these at-home techniques support my pregnancy?
Well, there hasn't been a lot of research with definite evidence that these kinds of treatments are effective for every woman.
But they do all have some records of success, so most of them are great therapies to try out at home. But we do recommend you check with a professional before starting out on any of them. If a specific essential oil, or acupressure point doesn't work for you, then there’s always a free massage from your partner or housemate!
Besides easing pregnancy niggles, such as aches, nausea or heartburn, many of these at-home complementary therapy techniques are deeply relaxing. And we all know that avoiding stress whilst pregnant is always a good thing!
And we have some good news to share with you... (aside from the fact you can enjoy a prenatal massage!)
We’ve just been voted one of the top 100 pregnancy blogs in the world by feedspot.com. You can check out the full list here