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11 Alternative Therapies For Relief in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Updated: Apr 25, 2023



Hello mamas! When it comes to pregnancy, more birthing people are exploring holistic methods — or considering continuing them — as they seek relief for common symptoms associated with being pregnant or giving birth.


Alternative healing treatments typically used alongside traditional medical care to address issues with a person’s mind, body, or both. There are a number of holistic options that birthing people can explore to determine what works best for them. Some, however, may need to be altered to accommodate pregnant clientele, or may not be advisable during certain stages in pregnancy. That's what this long blog is all about.

Here are eleven popular holistic therapies that can be integrated into a pregnant your prenatal care plan and, in some cases, your labor and postpartum, too!


PLEAE ADVISE: Each pregnancy is unique, and research and advances continue in the field of alternative healing. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you should always consult with their health provider before starting a new therapy.


You can always find a list of holistic practitioners in South Florida that offer the alternative therapies listed below here on the map!


Chiropractor


I had to start here because this is probably the most beneficial and overlooked alternative therapy for pregnancy and postpartum! I will focus more on the pregnancy benefits here.


As you know, with pregnancy comes many hormonal and physical changes, and some will have an impact on your posture and comfort. As your baby becomes heavier, your center of gravity shifts, and your posture adjusts accordingly. Basically things get f*cked up.


All of this can lead to a misaligned spine or joints. And when you have a pelvis that’s out of alignment, it can restrict the amount of space available to your developing baby. It also can make it hard for your baby to move into the best position to be born, which is rear-facing, head down. In some cases, it might affect your ability to have a natural, non-invasive birth.


Chiropractic care is a safe, effective practice during pregnancy. Routine chiropractic care can help manage pain in your back, hips, and joints. It will also establish pelvic balance, which can provide your baby with as much space as possible over the course of your pregnancy. This may lead to a faster, easier labor and delivery. Who doesn't want that?


Acupuncture


Acupunture is another holistic practice that is very overlooked in women's health. You may have heard it being helpful for fertility, but it is also great during pregnancy for nausea, heartburn, and fatigue. It is amazing for period pain, labor induction, pelvic floor issues, and postpartum recovery. It can even help turn babies! Acupuncture is generally my go to solution if you past your due date or not progressing after your water breaks.


Pre-birth acupuncture prepares the body for labor by using acupuncture points help to relax and soften uterine ligaments and bring blood flow to the pelvis. This encourages the baby to descend down into the birth canal in the proper position, while preparing the cervix to soften and dilate and the uterine muscles to effectively contract when needed.


Acupuncture is an Eastern practice and when done properly by a trained professional is generally considered safe for most pregnancies and severe reactions or complications are rare. You may experience mild pain or swelling at the needle insertion point, but these aren't long-lasting. Most moms fall asleep during the treatment, which is an added bonus!


Massage


Massage is great whether you are pregnant or not! There is a lot to be said about massage and maternal health, so I will elaborate more in another blog. But here are the basics:


Prenatal massage therapy is a massage done during pregnancy, preferably after the 12 week. Prenatal massage can help reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.


*Most massage therapists won't give pregnancy massages during the first trimester due to risk of miscarriage.


*The circulatory changes that happen in pregnancy put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh. It is best to avoid massages on the legs, including deep-tissue massage, deep acupressure, shiatsu, cross-fiber friction, and percussive tapping.


An induction massage is a technique used to induce labor through massage. It is an alternative for women seeking natural ways to encourage labor to start. Induction massages can often be effective within 24-72 hours, but sometimes two or three sessions are necessary. It is important to note that this technique will only work if both the baby and the mother are ready, which is why I recommend using when closer to your guess date.


* Induction massages are an excellent alternative for moms who are afraid of acupuncture. They are also great for mothers-to-be who are suffering from anxiety, stress, and fatigue close to their guess date.


Postpartum massage is a full body manages occurs within the first 12 weeks of giving birth. This greatly improves postpartum hormone balance. Estrogen and progesterone hormone levels are very high during pregnancy and decrease after delivery, so this massage helps regulate all of that!


*If you have had a cesarean delivery, talk to both your doctor and massage therapist to be sure it is safe. Some massage therapists will not work on people who have had surgery in the last 6 weeks.


Hypnotherapy/Hypnobirthing


Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis — an altered state of consciousness — to help birthing people feel physically, mentally and spiritually prepared for labor. There is also ongoing research into the effects of hypnotherapy on postnatal depression.


Hypnobirthing follows a similar path, this method uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help reduce fear, anxiety and pain during childbirth. By practicing regular hypnosis, visualization and deep relaxation techniques, women can reduce the fear often connected with childbirth. Hypnobirthing is usually associated with having an unmedicated birth.


Hypnobirthing continues to be an increasingly popular technique for birthing people anxious about labor. I used Hypnobirthing in my last pregnancy to help overcome a loss I had experienced, and I believe it was helpful in the beginning stages of labor. I personally know many other moms who after applying these techniques to their second births have had better birth outcomes, less birth trauma, and more positive postpartum experiences.


Sound Bath Therapy


Ahh sound baths, one of my favorite healing methods! Sound bath is a meditative experience where you are essentially “bathed” in vibrations and sound waves to calm their mind and support body relaxation. Depending on where you go, sound waves are produced by instruments such as singing bowls, the human voice, chimes and gongs. There are, also a number of sound bath options that don’t involve singing bowls, including downloadable recordings and sound bath apps.


Typically, you would lie on your bath when doing a sound bath. But if you are pregnant, I would choose a different position (like you left side) and let the sound waves wash over you. This process can be incredibly healing and stress relieving, but keep in mind during pregnancy, no instruments should be placed on the body, There are a few experts out there that caution against pregnant people specifically participating in singing bowl therapy sessions.


If are pregnant and you have used singing bowls in the past and wants to continue, please consult your midwife or doctor.


Cannabis


Surprised to see this on the list? Don't be! Cannabis (particularly CBD) is slowly picking up speed in the maternal health world, especially for treating postpartum issues. While there is still a lot of research to be done and stigma to smash, I can assure you that when used responsibly cannabis can be quite helpful. Please note that I am talking about medicinal use for the purpose of this blog, not recreational.


Cannabis can be used during pregnancy to treat nausea, muscle pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, seizures, depression, anxiety, and many other ailments. I have seen it used in labor and birth, and I must say those births have been amazing. Like who needs an epidural when we have weed?


However, it is important to consider your method of consumption, strains used, other medications you might be taking that are contraindicated, and frequency of use. There are also legal factors to consider given that not every state allows its use. Also, there is the CPS to consider should you be tested by your provider without permission. Generally, cannabis use in pregnancy, postpartum, (motherhood in all really) is still frowned upon by many medical professionals. So make sure you are protecting yourself, tracking your intake, and being careful with you who share that information with.


*If you do choose to use cannabis medicinally during you pregnancy, birth or postpartum, remember I am here to guide you. Also, get a medical card if you can! If you need help in this area, let me know. This is a no judgement zone!


Reiki


Reiki is on the rise these days and with good reason! This Japanese form of alternative medicine is also referred to as energy healing. Reiki practitioners use a technique called “palm healing” sometimes called “hands-on healing”. It is through this process in which energy is said to be transferred - through the palms of the practitioner to the client. Reiki sessions can help pregnant individuals cope with the emotions that stem from the effects of their constantly changing bodies and symptoms. Reiki is often most beneficial when paired with clinical therapy as it encourages both emotional and physical healing.


Unlike massages, Reiki does not touch or work on muscles. Pregnant clients have the option to follow the position they’re most comfortable with, which is usually on their sides.


* Personal tip - Reiki is a very powerful form of healing and involves real energy exchange. Take your time when selecting your practitioner to make sure the vibe and trust is there. Get to know them before you work with them or get a reference from a trusted friend.


Float Therapy


Float therapy is a zero-gravity environment that mixes lukewarm water with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt in a sensory deprivation tank to allow a person to float and achieve “weightlessness.”


Benefits in this type of therapy for pregnant individuals include reduced swelling, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and strong promotion of parent-baby bonding because of the womb-like environment of the float tank.


Therapists say pregnant individuals can safely float during the first, second or third trimester of pregnancy, but a number of float therapy spas won’t allow pregnant floaters after 37 weeks of pregnancy because of the risk of their water breaking during the float.

Reflexology


Reflexology is a form of massage that is practiced on a person’s hands and feet. While opinions vary on whether reflexology is helpful during pregnancy, the idea behind the practice is that pressing specific energy points can help with morning sickness and heartburn, among other symptoms in pregnant people. It can also be used to stimulate contractions during labor.


Reflexology is often used as part of an "induction massage" as mentioned previously which is designed to use acupressure points on the body to trigger the start of labor. This method tends to be very effective and often works within hours to just a few days. I can vouch for this method as I used an induction massage with my second pregnancy at 41 weeks. I only recommend this if you are at your 40-week guess date or past it.


Because it can trigger contractions, birthing people interested in reflexology should seek out a therapist who is specifically trained to work with pregnant people. Please make sure whoever you use if fully certified.


Cupping Therapy


While I haven't tried this one myself yet, cupping is another emerging alternative therapy that seems to have a lot of benefits for pregnancy and postpartum. It is said help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and general well being. Cupping therapy is an alternative form of medicine where a therapist puts special cups on an individual’s skin for a few minutes to create suction.


For pregnant individuals experiencing stiffness, lethargy and exhaustion, experts say light suction can be used (for no longer than five minutes at a time) beginning after the ninth week of pregnancy. Therapists also cite postpartum benefits to cupping including a quick recovery, reduction of aches and pains, stiffness and general weakness.


Birthing people interested in this type of therapy should look for an experienced therapist who works with pregnant individuals. This is highly specialized, so make sure your practitioner knows their stuff!


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