If nausea, heartburn or other annoying symptoms are plaguing your pregnancy, you might turn first to natural remedies, assuming they’re safer than prescription or even over-the-counter options. But that’s not necessarily true. Certain herbs, for example, can cause uterine contractions that could lead to preterm labor.
You also shouldn’t be in a rush to self-medicate. “Have your symptoms evaluated by an obstetrician before you try to treat them yourself, to make sure what you’re experiencing isn’t a sign of something serious,” advises OBGYN Joel M. Evans, M.D., founder of The Center for Women’s Health in Stamford, Conn., and author of The Whole Pregnancy Handbook.
Next, explore your options. As with all medicines, “It’s best to start with food and lifestyle changes, and use herbs and other remedies last,” says Morgan Martin, N.D., L.M., chairwoman of the Naturopathic Midwifery Department at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. For example, exercise can do wonders for constipation and insomnia. Massage and acupuncture can also ease many ills, but only consult licensed practitioners who have experience treating pregnant women.
The following remedies, available at natural foods stores or online, are all safe and effective during pregnancy; regardless, always tell your doctor or midwife what you’re taking. You’ll also find remedies that might ordinarily be safe but should be avoided for now. And, of course, exercise extra caution in your first trimester.
• Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep food in your stomach.
• Wear acupressure wristbands (such as Psi Bands), whch stimulate acupressure points.
• Prenatal vitamins can exacerbate nausea; take yours with food or at night so you can sleep through the side effects. Or try prescription liquid vitamins instead.
• Take powdered ginger capsules (250 milligrams up to three times daily); drink 4 ounces of fresh ginger tea (peel, slice thin and simmer in 8 ounces of hot water) two to three times a day; mix 5 milliliters of ginger tincture with enough water to fill a 1-ounce bottle; take five to 10 drops up to six or seven times a day; or suck on candied ginger or drink brewed ginger ale.
• Drink up to four 8-ounce cups a day of chamomile, peppermint or, after the first trimester, raspberry leaf tea.
Use tea bags or steep 2 teaspoons of the herb in 8 ounces of hot water for two to three minutes, then strain.
Avoid: Herbs that contain volatile (essential) oils can be dangerous during pregnancy; use them sparingly and topically only. In general, only use herbs in a dilute form, such as tea.