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Alternative & Homeopathic Remedies in Pregnancy: What’s safe, what’s not?

By Jamie Vincent

Alternative & Homeopathic Remedies in Pregnancy: What’s safe, what’s not?

From morning sickness, to nausea, back pain, heartburn and constipation, we’ve got recommended alternative and homeopathic remedies for your top pregnancy complaints

You’re eating clean, organic food, taking prenatal vitamins, avoiding raw fish, drinking plenty of water and you gave up alcohol, but what can you do about the morning sickness that plagues you morning, noon and night?  Do you need a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine, such as Zofran®, or are there safe, non-prescription alternative remedies that will work, including homeopathic treatments?

Homeopathic or alternative treatments have been used during pregnancy and birth for centuries. There isn’t always research to measure their effectiveness, so like many pregnant women, you may be wondering—what works? What’s safe? And what should you avoid?

Alternative medicine includes treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, and herbal remedies. Homeopathic remedies are based on the principle that “like cures like.” Remedies are made from very minute amounts of the same substances that might cause the symptom or illness, but in these minute amounts the substance stimulates the body to heal itself. Holistic medicine begins with the basic philosophy that mind, body and spirit work together.

Homeopathic remedies are usually very individualized treatments, and for this reason it’s best to find an experienced Homeopathic provider who has experience in working with pregnant women. These treatments aren’t regulated by the FDA, unlike prescription medications; they’re generally recommended as directed by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the U.S. And although your cousin may swear ginger root tea cured her morning sickness, you may need to try more than one remedy to learn what works best for you.

Always tell your healthcare provider what medications, over-the-counter products and alternative or homeopathic therapies you’re using; you may even be surprised if they recommend some of these from our list of popular therapies here for you to try as well.

Although complementary and alternative remedies and medicines may be available without a referral from your provider, it’s important that your pregnancy care provider is also aware of what you’re taking so that information can be included in your medical record, and to ensure they don’t conflict with other medicines or treatments you might receive.


Common pregnancy symptoms and alternative or homeopathic remedies:

When receiving alternative or homeopathic care in pregnancy, share with both your pregnancy care provider and your alternative care provider all medications, supplements and any teas or tinctures you may be taking.

Morning Sickness


  • Eat small frequent meals with Vitamin B rich foods, for example whole grains, nuts, avocados, liver, fish and chicken
  • B6 supplements
  • Fresh ginger root tea or dried gingerroot capsules
  • Sea bands (acupressure bands placed around the wrist)
  • Taking prenatal vitamins with food; switch to smaller capsules if the larger pill is difficult or ask for a liquid prenatal


  • Strong foods, strong smells
  • Having a prolonged empty stomach

Call Your Healthcare Provider:

  • If you have persistent  nausea and vomiting, also known Hyperemesis Gravidarum
  • You may be prescribed an anti-nausea medication such as Reglan® or Zofran®
  • You may receive IV fluids if you’re severely dehydrated

Heartburn and Indigestion 


  • Eat small frequent meals and drink between meals, rather than with meals
  • Take an antacid
  • Marshmallow tea that contains mucilage, one cup up to 4 times a day (avoid if you are diabetic or have gestational diabetes as it may increase your blood sugar)
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus Fulva), which also contains mucilage, as a lozenge, powder or tea
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula) in a tincture or tea up to 3 times daily


  • Avoid laying down right after eating
  • Avoid greasy or spicy foods
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as Zantac, unless otherwise directed by your provider


Back Pain or Sciatica


  • Stretching
  • Maintaining good posture
  • Wear supportive, comfortable shoes
  • Exercise, such as yoga or swimming
  • Warm baths, hot and cold compresses
  • Sleep with a pillow between your legs
  • Acupuncture by an acupuncturist experienced with pregnant women
  • Chiropractic adjustment by a Chiropractor experienced in treating pregnancy related back pain
  • Massage by a massage therapist experienced with prenatal massage
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) tincture in hot water


  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting, or exercising on concrete or pavement

Call Your Healthcare Provider:

  • Lower back pain may be a sign of preterm labor. Contact your provider if the pain is rhythmic, persistent or worsening.



  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat high fiber foods, such as vegetables, fruit, e.g. prunes, dates, figs, freshly ground flaxseed
  • Use fiber supplement, such as Metamucil®  or Docusate Sodium (Colace®)


  • Binding foods such as bananas
  • Avoid mineral oil as it can deplete vitamins A, D and E



  • Apply arnica gel every time you go to the bathroom


  • Avoid bearing down and constipation (see remedies above for constipation)

Call Your Healthcare Provider:

  • Severely painful hemorrhoids may be thrombosed (have a blood clot within the vein)

Leg Cramps


  • Calcium, magnesium and potassium-rich foods and supplements
  • Stretch, rotate your ankles, and stay hydrated
  • Red raspberry leaf tea as a source of calcium and other nutrients up to four eight-ounce cups a day


  • Avoid moderate or strenuous exercise right before bedtime


What are alternative methods for inducing labor?

It’s worth noting that even though these methods are popular, none of these are proven in research to induce labor:

Intercourse: It’s believed prostaglandins in semen may help soften (ripen) the cervix. Intercourse also may stimulate an orgasm, which is a uterine contraction and can encourage the start of labor.

Acupuncture or acupressure: Pressing firmly for about 5 minutes per side every 30-45 minutes for up to 10-15 times on the acupressure point between the thumb and forefinger or on the inside of the shin bone about 3 finger widths above the ankle bone. This can be uncomfortable.

Herbal remedies: Evening primrose oil; castor oil, is a laxative that may bring on very strong, frequent contractions as well as diarrhea, which can put you at risk for dehydration.  Castor oil may be associated with your baby passing his first stool (meconium) while still in your womb, so although it may be advised by some practitioners, it’s not recommended by leading medical and nursing experts.

Stripping the membranes: Your provider may try to stimulate prostaglandins (naturally occurring hormones which prepare the cervix for labor) and contractions after 39 weeks by placing a finger through the cervix and between the lower portion of the uterus and the membranes. This can be very uncomfortable and may cause some spotting.


Read these tips on How To Achieve The Healthiest Pregnancy

Jamie Vincent, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby. 

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