What are alternative therapies?

Alternative therapies are generally considered to be treatments for common pregnancy issues that do not involve traditional medications. These can include massage, meditation and natural products to relieve annoying symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, backache).

Are alternative therapies helpful during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your health is very important. It is a time when your health is not only your own, but it is also shared with your growing baby. Many parents worry about the side effects of medicines during pregnancy. Though your healthcare provider will only prescribe medications and treatments that are safe for your pregnancy, some women prefer to use “all-natural” products to manage small issues during pregnancy.

This is thought by many parents to be safer. However, it is very important to discuss any and all treatments you may use during pregnancy with your healthcare provider. Some types of alternative therapies are not safe and can have negative side effects.

Are there many research studies on natural remedies during pregnancy?

There are not many research studies on the topic of alternative therapies during pregnancy. Mothers-to-be are understandably reluctant to sign up for experiments involving their unborn babies. Also, manufacturers of vitamin and herbal supplements are not required by law to sponsor expensive testing of their products. Even when properly done studies exist, the results can be confusing, since so many different factors can affect the development of a baby.

What alternative therapies are safe during pregnancy?

It is important to discuss any alternative therapies you would like to use during pregnancy with your healthcare provider before you try them. However, there are a few techniques that are generally considered to be completely safe to use both during pregnancy and during labor. These include:

  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Patterned breathing (Lamaze).
  • Emotional support.
  • Self-hypnosis.
  • Acupuncture/acupressure.
  • Massage.
  • Aromatherapy.
  • Visiting a chiropractor who specializes in working with pregnant women.

What alternative therapies should I avoid while pregnant?

The following substances have the potential to harm a developing baby when used in a concentrated formulation (not as a spice in cooking). Some are thought to cause birth defects, and some to encourage early labor.

Avoid these oral supplements:

  • Arbor Vitae.
  • Beth Root
  • Black Cohosh.
  • Blue Cohosh.
  • Cascara.
  • Chaste Tree Berry.
  • Chinese Angelica (Dong Quai).
  • Cinchona.
  • Cotton Root Bark.
  • Feverfew.
  • Ginseng.
  • Golden Seal.
  • Juniper.
  • Kava Kava.
  • Licorice.
  • Meadow Saffron.
  • Pennyroyal.
  • Poke Root.
  • Rue.
  • Sage.
  • Saint John’s Wort.
  • Senna.
  • Tansy.
  • White Peony.
  • Wormwood.
  • Yarrow.
  • Yellow Dock.

Very large doses of vitamin A can cause issues like birth defects. You should also avoid aromatherapy essential oils, like:

  • Calamus.
  • Mugwort.
  • Pennyroyal.
  • Sage.
  • Wintergreen.
  • Basil.
  • Hyssop.
  • Myrrh.
  • Marjoram.
  • Thyme.

Should I stop cooking with herbs and spices on the list of harmful substances?

You can still cook with some of the herbs and spices on the list. Typically, you would need to consume a much larger amount of the substance than you would use while cooking. However, it is always alright to ask your healthcare provider if you plan to use any of the substances on the list.

What will happen to my baby if I use something on the harmful substance list?

Luckily, the chances are greater that the baby will not be affected than that it will. If you ever have any concerns about something you have eaten or been exposed to in anyway, call your healthcare provider. Your team of healthcare providers are always happy to answer your questions.

What else do I need to know about alternative therapies during pregnancy?

Unproven therapies can be risky. It is very important to discuss any alternative therapies with your healthcare provider before you start. Each pregnancy is unique and something that works for someone else may not work for you.

Information about alternative therapies is constantly being updated. Have a discussion with your healthcare provider about any advances in alternative treatments.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/17/2019.


  • Pallivalappila A, Stewart D, Shetty A. Complementary and Alternative Medicines Use during Pregnancy: A Systematic Review of Pregnant Women and Healthcare Professional Views and Experiences. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806151/) Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Accessed 10/18/2019.
  • American Pregnancy Association. Herbs and Pregnancy. (https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/herbs-and-pregnancy/) Accessed 10/18/2019.
  • National Health Service. Are complementary therapies safe during pregnancy? (https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/are-complementary-therapies-safe-during-pregnancy/) Accessed 10/18/2019.
  • Johnson P, Kozhimannil K, Jou J. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Use among Women of Reproductive Age in the United States. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690756/) Womens Health Issues. 2016 Jan-Feb; 26(1): 40-47. Accessed 10/18/2019.

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