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Safe Complementary Medicine in Pregnancy

by Jane Wangersky | February 14th, 2013 | Pregnancy

herbal remediesThough I didn’t know it at the time, when I drank raspberry leaf tea before going to the hospital for my induced labor, I was using complementary medicine. (If I’d refused the induction and just relied on the raspberry tea, that would’ve been alternative medicine.) Of course, “complementary” suggests that the two treatments, the tea and the Pitocin, worked together to make my labor shorter than either one would’ve done on its own. And it’s true that my baby was born before the doctor could get there. However, many “non-mainstream” treatments used together with conventional medicine still need to be researched a lot more before we can be sure they’re really effective.

There are a few complementary treatments that have been found harmless and possibly helpful for pregnant women. The Healthy Woman, a guide published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tells of several. As always, ask your doctor about taking any of these.

You’ve probably heard of ginger ale or ginger tea as a treatment for morning sickness and other nausea (I heard of a pregnant woman who kept an electric kettle next to her bed so she could make ginger tea first thing in the morning without getting up). Researchers found a gram of ginger a day for three weeks had no harmful effects on pregnant women.

You’ve also heard of acupuncture, the traditional Chinese treatment using needles. It’s been found to help pregnant women with severe vomiting problems, as well as women in labor.

Moxibustion is an extension of acupuncture, which involves burning an herb called moxa (less elegantly called mugwort) at one of the acupuncture points to stimulate it with heat. This may help in turning breech babies into their right position, head downwards. While needles and burning herbs may not sound like something you want to endure during pregnancy (or any other time), they have the potential to help you avoid a C-section.

As research on traditional medicine continues, we’ll probably learn some “new” ways to help modern medicine work better. In the meantime, be sure to get medical advice on any non-mainstream treatment you want to try, especially during pregnancy.

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