Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Prenatal Health Care

After choosing your pregnancy professional(s), you might wonder about complementary or alternative therapies that may help relieve some uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. These techniques treat you as a whole person taking into account your nutritional, emotional, spiritual and physical health.  I was curious about these prenatal care alternatives and thought this information might be beneficial to my readers so I decided to research and blog about them.

These therapies have not been tested or FDA-approved and the safety of many of these techniques has not been clinically established. Please consult your prenatal health care professional and research the alternative medical professional’s credentials before visiting them.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care during pregnancy is safe for both mother and baby. All chiropractors are trained to work on children, but only about 60 chiropractors throughout the world are Board Certified in Chiropractic Pediatrics and Pregnancy. (1)  Several physiological and hormonal changes occur during pregnancy to prepare the body for a developing baby. These changes can cause a protruding abdomen and increased curvature of the back, pelvic changes and changes in posture. Chiropractic care after pregnancy can be beneficial for both mother and baby. Some advantages of Prenatal Chiropractor Care may include:

-       Helps you remain active throughout your pregnancy.

-       Helps make your delivery more comfortable.

-       Helps reduce the need for analgesics during delivery.

-       Helps reduce the amount of time spent in labor. (2)

Since being diagnosed with scoliosis in 4th grade, I have been under chiropractic care. I continue to see a chiropractor when I have musculoskeletal pain and believe chiropractic care improves my life.

Massage Therapy

Pregnancy massage therapy can help reduce anxiety, decrease depression, and relieve muscle and joint pain. “Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care.” (3) Massage therapy during pregnancy may also reduce swelling and reduce sciatic nerve pain.

Because there is a huge variation in training for pregnancy massage therapy, some doctors may think twice before recommending pregnancy massage. Because many miscarriages happen in the first trimester and there is no data to show a link between a massage and a miscarriage, most doctors and massage therapist do not recommend massages during the first trimester. Avoid pregnancy massages if:

-       You’re experiencing nausea, vomiting or morning sickness

-       You’re at high risk of miscarriage

-       You have a high-risk pregnancy or preterm labor (4)

Acupuncture, Acupressure and Moxibustion

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help relieve pregnancy symptoms and is safe for both mother and baby. “Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for stress, morning sickness, hip and low back pain, breech position, mild to moderate depression, labor induction and shortening the length of labor.” (5)

Acupressure uses the same pressure points as acupuncture but applies firm pressure through massage instead of needles. Acupressure can help relieve morning sickness, back pain and contractions during labor. Shiatsu is the most common type of acupressure. Reflexology can be considered a type of acupressure, but focuses on the feet and hands. Reflexologists believe that the feet and hands are linked to other areas of the body and by applying pressure to specific points blocked energy is freed, blood flow is increased and toxins are ultimately removed from the problem area.

Moxibustion has the same basic principles as acupuncture. It involves burning mugwort herb near certain acupuncture points and is performed by an acupuncturist. Though moxibustion treats a small range of pregnancy symptoms, it treats them quite well. Research has shown approximately an 85% success rate of turning breech babies around by performing moxibustion outside of your little toe. (6)

Since acupuncture and acupressure can cause muscle contractions (including uterine contractions), it is very important to make sure your acupuncture practitioner specializes in reproductive health. Some acupuncturists are certified by The American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine and specialize in reproductive health.

Herbal Therapy

Herbal therapy uses natural herbs for their healing powers and there is an herb for almost every pregnancy symptom. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may have different strengths/qualities depending on the drug company. Herbal medicines need to be taken as seriously as you do when taking prescriptions medications while pregnant.

Always talk to your physician and carefully research companies before taking any herbal remedies. Certain herbs that need to be avoided during pregnancy are:

-       Barberry, black cohosh, blue cohosh, dong quai, feverfew, goldenseal, juniper, and wild yam are all uterine stimulants.

-       Autumn crocus, mugwort (safe for moxibustion, not ingestion), pokeroot and sassafras may be linked to birth defects.

-       Comfrey and mistletoe have toxic effects. (6)

Hypnosis

Prenatal hypnotherapy uses deep relaxation and the power of suggestion to help you cope with the fear and anxiety that often comes with pregnancy. The most common hypnosis is used during childbirth, but can also be used to turn a breeched baby or hold off preterm labor. Hypnosis takes into effect that labor may be more painful and less effective when you are scared. Once you are scared, adrenaline is released and causes muscle tension, which in turn causes the uterus to have to work harder to contract and relax and. Hypnosis helps you breathe more evenly, increasing oxygen, stimulating the production of oxytocin (contraction hormone) and endorphins (feel-good hormones), making contraptions more effective and less painful.

Hypnosis will not make labor pain free, and any techniques claiming to make labor pain free should be avoided. Hypnosis is not a last-minute option and must be learned before labor to be most effective.

Whichever practices you decide to partake in while pregnant and during childbirth depends on your ultimate goals. Once you have established goals for you and your baby and explored all your options, you will be ready to create a personalized birth plan that will be used to carry out your wishes before, during and after childbirth.

Sources:

1. www.c2hwellness.com

2. Straubury Chiropractic Publications, Chiropractic: the best kept secret in healthcare – Pregnancy, brochure, Staffordshire

3. http://americanpregnancy.org

4. www.webmd.com

5. www.babycenter.com

6. www.whattoexpect.com

 

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