What are some alternative remedies to feel better during your pregnancy?

Many women turn to alternative therapies during pregnancy, whether to help with problems such as backache or morning sickness or simply to help them feel calm and relaxed. Before undergoing any therapy, do make sure that your practitioner is qualified and experienced in treating pregnant women.

This branch of Chinese medicine can be used from early in pregnancy to alleviate morning sickness, heartburn, pre- and postnatal depression, lower back pain and anxiety. It can also be used during labour for pain relief and to help boost energy levels - but do check that your hospital is happy for your acupuncturist to accompany you. One form of acupuncture, moxibustion, is sometimes used to turn breech babies: here the herb mugwort, in the form of a stick, or 'moxa', is placed on an acupuncture point and burnt (it will be extinguished before it burns the skin!).

Here, essential oils are used to promote general wellbeing and alleviate specific ailments, such as morning sickness and fluid retention. Different essential oils have different effects, so it's probably best to check before using, especially as some are not safe for use either throughout pregnancy or at certain stages. Oils can be massaged into the body when mixed with a carrier oil - this works best when done by an experienced masseur using appropriate techniques, by burning essential oils in a vapouriser, or adding a couple of drops to a relaxing bath.

Aromatherapy oils to avoid during pregnancy:
  • Clary sage
  • Rosemary
  • Majoram
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Melissa
  • Myrrh
  • Comfrey
  • Jasmine
  • Basil

Chiropractic/McTimoney chiropractic
Chiropractic literally means 'done by hand' and involves the manipulation of the spine to ease back pain. As well as helping during pregnancy, it has been shown to reduce the length of labour; after pregnancy, your chiropractor can help ensure that your stretched out joints and loosened ligaments return to normal. McTimoney is a particularly gentle form of chiropractic, which makes it especially suitable for pregnant women. Treatment is recommended from the third month of pregnancy onwards.

Massage of specific points on the feet and hands to treat the whole body, based on the principle that all the bodily structures including organs and glands are represented in these 'reflex areas'. The aim is to encourage the body's own recuperative powers. Stimulation of specific points releases blockages in the energy pathways and improves nerve function and blood supply throughout the body. In pregnancy it can be used to boost energy levels, alleviate musculo-skeletal problems, relieve heartburn, reduce oedema (swelling) and normalise hypertension.

Based on the principle that a little of what is making you ill can cure you, homeopathic medicines come in minute doses, which will trigger your body's natural healing system. It is safe to self-prescribe for common ailments, but a qualified homeopath will be more helpful. In pregnancy, homeopathy can be used to treat morning sickness, constipation, mild urinary problems, diarrhoea, heartburn, anaemia, varicose veins, backache, cramps, thrush or emotional distress. It can also be used during labour to alleviate panic, encourage contractions, or even slow them down. Your homeopath can prescribe a labour kit and advise what you should use and when, or she could accompany you at the birth.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that expectant women who are massaged throughout pregnancy have better sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, less back pain and fewer labour complications. Properly tailored pregnancy massage can be very effective in relieving discomforts such as backache, headache and constipation and is useful in combating anxiety and promoting relaxation and general wellbeing. Research has shown that it is an effective form of pain relief and some women find it helpful during labour.

A holistic treatment that emphasises mechanical, structural and postural factors in the healthy functioning of the body. Osteopaths use a range of manipulative techniques to help the body find the most natural balance possible. It can bring great relief, freeing the body of unnecessary tensions and strains that may compromise the ability to adapt to the changes. Osteopathy is particularly beneficial in pregnancy as it can help your body adapt to the changes that are constantly taking place in terms of weight distribution and posture.