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Are complementary therapies safe during pregnancy?

In general, you should avoid taking any unnecessary medicines or treatments when you’re pregnant. There are very few high-quality studies into the effectiveness of complementary or "alternative" treatments, and anything you take into your body can affect your unborn baby.

What are complementary therapies?

Complementary medicines and treatments include a wide range of treatments that are not usually used by most doctors in the UK. These treatments are sometimes described as alternative medicine. However, "complementary" is a better description, as they should be used alongside, but never replace, the treatment offered by your doctor.

Few complementary or alternative medicines are known to be safe during pregnancy, but there is some evidence to support the use of:

  • massage and aromatherapy for treating anxiety
  • acupuncture for back and pelvic pain
  • acupressure, ginger and vitamin B6 for morning sickness

In each case the benefits were small, or unclear, and more research is needed.

There are still times during pregnancy when they may not be safe. For example, your abdomen should not be massaged during the first three months of pregnancy.

Get medical advice

If you're considering using a complementary therapy, it’s important to tell your GP or midwife about what treatment you’re considering. If you then decide to use a complementary therapy, you should always consult a qualified practitioner.

You can get more information about qualified or registered practitioners from the organisations below:

Homeopaths do not have to be registered with a regulatory body. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council is a voluntary organisation that practitioners can register with, but they do not have to.

Complementary and alternative medicine can't replace conventional antenatal care. It’s important to attend regular antenatal check-ups throughout your pregnancy.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 27/05/2015

Next review due: 26/05/2017