Natural Pain Relief for Pregnant and Nursing Moms


There is nothing worse than getting sick when you’re pregnant or nursing.

Why, you ask?

Because when it comes to pain relief, your safe options are beyond limited; whatever you put into your body (even popping a seemingly harmless Advil pill) goes right to your baby, whether through the placenta or directly in your breastmilk.

Some medications may be better than others in terms of toxicity, but it’s not because they’re on an “approved” medications list that they should be your first and only option. There are tons of safe alternatives you can try first! Anything that could harm your fetus/baby (even a tiny bit) should never be your first resort… especially for a virus going around, when all you’re doing is alleviating your symptoms anyway.

Before Liam, I was that “whiny sick person bundled under the comforter begging for someone to bring her chicken soup”person. Now, with a 14.5 month old who has zero sympathy for my symptoms, I have no choice but to suck it up.

Over the past two years, I learned to stop being a baby when I’m sick. Yes, I know how awful it is to feel under the weather, but I always try to ask myself, Is this really as awful as I’m making it seem? Do I really need to take anything right now or do I just need to rest? It helps me prioritize and really know whether the small risk is worth it (I haven’t taken any medication, even painkillers,  in over 2 years!)

If you’re pregnant or nursing and need some temporary pain relief, here are a few options you can try that have worked for me. Like I said before, it can’t hurt to try!




A concoction of tea (whichever one you want – I made it with pregnancy tea while I was pregnant, milkmaid tea during the early days of nursing, green tea in the morning, and even chamomile tea before bed), whole cloves (about 4-5), the juice of half a lemon, a nice, big squirt of honey, and some fresh, grated ginger. I drink it with a straw so I don’t swallow the cloves. The best sore throat remedy!


Don’t bash it until you try it: mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon honey. Microwave for 8 seconds, stir, and shoot it down. Works like a charm! And don’t worry, the sweetness of the honey balances out the vinegar taste… It’s really not as bad as it sounds and it works like an over the counter numbing spray! Expect about 3-4 hours of sore throat relief.



I love essential oils for all sorts of things, but they really shine when it comes to pain relief and cold prevention (I wrote about my favorites last year in this post.) It is important to know what you are doing when it comes to essential oils, because although they are natural, they are powerful substances that should be treated as such. Although many oils are unsafe for pregnancy and nursing, a lot of them are such as cardamon, German and Roman chamomile, lavender, frankincense, geranium, ginger, neroli, patchouli, petitgrain, rosewood, rose, and sandalwood.


For migraines and stress, I love peppermint and lavender. Peppermint reminds me of Vicks – I smear 2-3 drops along my temples and sinuses for some cool relief. Nursing moms, do not overdo peppermint – heavy use has been proven to reduce milk production – but a little bit is okay!  Lavender has been my go-to lately, especially before bed, to unwind. I add a few drops to my pillow every night and it has really changed my sleep for the better – I fall asleep a lot quicker than I used to and feel a lot more refreshed in the morning.

Frankincense is another useful oil during pregnancy and even over the course of your nursing journey. It is known for its comforting properties, and is useful for helping overcome stress, anger, anxiety, and despair. It can also break up phlegm deposits in your respiratory tract and lungs, and can relieve bronchitis-related congestion.




Homeopathic medicines are FDA approved and available in health food stores and drugstores everywhere. When used as directed, they are completely safe for everyone— including pregnant women, newborns, children, and adults—and you need not worry about toxic side effects as you do with conventional medications. Homeopathic remedies are composed of plants and minerals and work with your body’s own natural processes to heal you gently and naturally.

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Last Christmas, while I was out of the country visiting family, I started to feel very sick, developed a fever, and felt nauseous for 3 days straight. As a consequence, I couldn’t produce any milk at all for Liam… which was terrifying. I didn’t want to take medication and decided to take homeopathy for my symptoms first: Belladonna for nausea and body pains, Nux Vomica for fever and nausea, and Oscillococcinum for its strong antiviral properties. In a day or two, the nausea subdued and the fever went down. Whether this was just my body naturally getting better on its own or the homeopathy’s doing, I’m not sure: all I know is I got better quickly without having to take any risky medication.

For basic morning sickness, you have a few options based on your symptoms:

Pulsatilla: Your nausea is worse in a warm, stuffy room, better in the open air, and better from walking slowly. You crave rich, sweet, fatty foods, but they make you feel worse. You are not thirsty. You tend to be weepy with changeable moods; you want comfort and reassurance. Eating the wrong foods can bring on headaches with a bursting pain over your eyes.

Nux vomica: Your nausea is strong, especially in bed on waking, but you’re unable to vomit. You are very hungry but feel worse after eating, with indigestion and cramping. You may be irritable and oversensitive to noise and light.

Colchicum: You are extremely sensitive to the smell of food and may gag at the very thought of food. Your nausea can last all day and is worse from motion. You want carbonated drinks. You prefer to lie with your knees drawn up, since stretching out your legs can cause nausea.

Ipecacuanha: Your severe, constant nausea is not even relieved by vomiting. You salivate profusely and may have to spit frequently. (Note: This remedy is homeopathically prepared and diluted Ipecacuanha and is NOT interchangeable with the common drugstore Ipecac used to induce vomiting.)

Sepia: Your nausea is worse from the smell and thought of food. You have a sinking feeling in the stomach that makes you feel faint; eating may relieve it but only temporarily. You crave vinegar and pickles, as well as sweets. You have a sensation of heaviness or sagging in the pelvis. You may feel indifferent to your loved ones because you’re exhausted; but physical exercise makes you feel better overall.


Ginger is fantastic for nausea. I cannot even begin to tell you how many Gin-Gins I sucked on during my pregnancy (they got me through the first trimester!) If you happen to feel nauseous while pregnant or nursing, buy ginger hard candy or grate fresh ginger and add it to a cup of hot tea. Peppermint is another great fix for nausea… so go ahead, chew that mint gum!




During pregnancy, Arnicare Gel can be used for back pain, swelling, and muscular aches. During pregnancy, it can help with minor injuries, like discomfort from an active baby who kicks, causing soreness. During labor, it can help the muscles do their work with a minimum of physical stress and strain, and may even speed the labor itself. Postpartum, Arnica homeopathy is often prescribed by midwives to help strained tissues recover from childbirth.

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Robin, my midwife, used Arnica oil on my perineum as I gave birth to Liam, and she also prescribed me Arnica homeopathy for the week after delivery to help my body heal naturally. Arnica helps with the “bruised all over” feeling that many women feel after birth. It helps stop pain and bleeding and ease the effects of physical and mental shock.  I was stunned to see how quickly I felt like myself again and the significant progress I made each day recovering from my natural birth.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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