Homeopathy: A natural alternative for pregnancy & postpartum issues

Morning sickness, heartburn and back pain are normal during pregnancy, but finding a solution isn’t always so easy. Although prescription and over-the-counter medications are usually out of the question, natural homeopathic remedies may be an option.

Here, find out what homeopathy is, if it’s safe and how it can help you during pregnancy and beyond.

What is homeopathy?
Developed in Germany more than 200 years ago, homeopathic medicine is a way to treat disease, conditions or symptoms with small doses of natural substances that help your body function better and heal itself naturally, said Pina LoGiudice, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist with Inner Source Health based in New York City.

According to the American Institute of Homeopathy, the term translates to “like disease,” meaning medicine given is like the disease the person is expressing, not like a specific disease category or medical diagnosis. Plants, minerals, and even poisons are used in very small doses, which are believed to have greater effectiveness.

“The same substance that can create illness in its energetic form can very often cure it,” Silverstein said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, homeopathic remedies are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the FDA doesn’t evaluate them for safety or effectiveness.

Homeopathic remedies are usually delivered in the form of sugar pellets to be dissolved under the tongue, but they are also available in ointments, gels, drops, and creams.

Because there have not been double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies conducted on homeopathy, some conventional medical experts do not consider homeopathy to be a legitimate form of medicine.

Remedies for pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding
Instead of looking at the disease or condition, homeopathic treatment is very specific to the symptoms, Silverstein said. So although many women will have nausea, some will only feel sick in the morning, while others will feel sick all day. Or some will constantly crave grapefruit, while others will vomit at the sight of it. The homeopathic expert can then tailor the remedy depending on the symptoms.

During pregnancy, homeopathic remedies can help things like morning sickness, heartburn, insomnia, back and ligament pain, hemorrhoids, and constipation. There are remedies to prepare the uterus for childbirth, induce labor, dilate the cervix, start contractions, and make contractions more effective.

After childbirth, homeopathic remedies can heal bleeding, bruising and vaginal tears, and help women recover from both vaginal and cesarean section deliveries.  In the postpartum period, remedies can help increase breast milk, unclog milk ducts, and benefit mood, postpartum depression, anxiety and fatigue.

“Most of us don’t understand how homeopathy works, but we see the results,” said Sara Chana Silverstein, a homeopath, master herbalist and an international board-certified lactation consultant who works in New York and Los Angeles.

Is homeopathy safe for moms?
A systematic review in the journal International Journal of Clinical Practice found that some homeopathic remedies— particularly those that contain mercury or iron, those that are not highly diluted, or  those that are an ineffective remedy compared to an effective conventional treatment— can cause serious side effects.

Yet unlike pharmaceuticals which suppress the body’s functions, homeopathic medicines help the body figure out on own imbalance and find equilibrium, LoGiudice said. Plus, pharmaceuticals often have side effects and can have risks during pregnancy, while homeopathic remedies are deemed safe by most experts. They can be taken with other medications if a mom needs them during pregnancy.

“The main risk is that the remedy doesn’t do anything for you. It’s either not the right match or the right one your body needs,” LoGiudice said, adding that because the medicines are so targeted toward specific symptoms, if they’re incorrectly prescribed, they simply wouldn’t work.

Should you try it?
Although homeopathy can be very effective at alleviating your ailments, it may not be the cure-all a patient wants, experts warn.

“We always look at symptoms as not something we necessarily need to eradicate but something we need to understand and work with,” Silverstein said. “Usually with homeopathy, my clients get significantly better but maybe not perfectly the way they want,” she said.  For example, a pregnant mom may not be able to be completely rid of nausea, but homeopathy could take it to a manageable level.

Homeopathic remedies are available in drugstores, health food stores and homeopathic pharmacies, but it’s best to speak with a homeopath, a naturopath or your midwife about what you should take and how much. If you visit a homeopath, look for a trained classical homeopath. Look for a naturopathic physician who attended a four-year naturopathic curriculum using the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ directory.