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Is It Safe to Use Arnica in Pregnancy?

By A. Gamm
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pregnancy pains may range from mild to severe, making the search for safe pain relief an important part of pregnancy for many women. Although controversial, some pregnant women seek relief through the use of arnica. Indeed, many health care professionals who recommend homeopathic treatments occasionally recommend light to moderate topical use of arnica cream as it is generally considered safe enough during pregnancy. Arnica is also sometimes used to ease labor pains and childbirth. Oral use of arnica products, however, is usually not recommended unless very diluted as it may lead to preterm labor or miscarriage.

There are several pain relief benefits associated with using arnica ointments during pregnancy. Several women use arnica in pregnancy to relieve muscle and joint pains that are commonly associated in pregnancy. Arnica has also been shown to help lower back pains and varicose veins. Due to the anti-inflammatory benefits of arnica, it is commonly used as a method for easing swelling associated with pregnancy.

While pain relief is one of the primary features of using arnica in pregnancy and childbirth, it is used for far more reasons. Many homeopathic health care providers sometimes recommend using arnica to help labor along and even speed up the process as well as to give the birthing mother additional endurance. Arnica, especially in its pill form, stimulates the uterine muscle, which relieves the stress of labor contractions on the muscles and may speed the labor process. The combination of pain relief and muscle stimulation may additionally increase a woman’s endurance during labor.

Although using arnica while pregnant has some potential benefits, there are several disadvantages that may also occur, especially while using the oral form of arnica. Due to the stimulating effect arnica has on the uterus, taking arnica in pregnancy may lead to preterm labor or miscarriage. Furthermore, the natural side effects of arnica may make other pregnancy symptoms worse, such as nausea and vomiting. As such, It is important to consider the potential risks and benefits before considering the use of arnica in pregnancy.

It is important to note that while homeopathic arnica has many possible benefits for women during and after pregnancy, the oral form of arnica is not considered safe according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as of 2011. This is because if certain side effects of arnica are left untreated, it may lead to more serious health risks, such as liver or kidney damage or failure. The FDA believes that more research is needed on arnica usage as well as several other homeopathic remedies.

What Is a Safe Massage Oil?

Prenatal massage is a great way to escape the daily discomfort of your changing body. Massage lotions infused with essential oils can help your muscles and your mind relax. 

One of the best oils for prenatal massage is sunflower oil. It is non-greasy and light in texture, absorbing quickly into the skin. It also has stearic acid and linoleic acid, which are suitable for promoting healthy skin. 

Avocado oil is beneficial for prenatal massage thanks to the presence of vitamins A, B, and D, which are great for dry skin. If you have dry and itchy skin, almond oil would be an excellent pregnancy-safe oil to use as it is oilier than others. If you don’t have almond oil, you could use regular olive oil instead, but it will have a more noticeable scent. 

Lavender and chamomile both have calming effects on the mind and are commonly found in aromatherapy. When added to a carrier oil, lavender is known as a balancing oil because it can reduce anxiety and relieve pain. So adding a couple of drops to your massage oil could enhance that rub-down and put your mind and body at ease!

It’s important to remember that undiluted essential oils are very potent - never add them directly to your skin or ingest them! Ingesting more than a small amount of essential oil could be poisonous. Always make sure to add them to your chosen carrier oil. 

Arnica During Pregnancy vs. Postpartum

There isn’t enough evidence to support the use of arnica taken orally during pregnancy. However, you can use it topically as long as you avoid using it around the breasts during breastfeeding. Once your little bundle of joy is on the outside, though, arnica may help during the recovery process. 

In Canada, arnica tablets are sometimes prescribed to new mothers to help heal the bruising, slow the bleeding, and ease the strain associated with birth. 

In a double-blind study that compared arnica to a placebo, arnica reduced lochia or postpartum blood loss. Moreover, there appeared to be no side effects from the prescribed arnica. 

Unfortunately, taking arnica orally is also known to prevent blood clots, which could hinder recovery. Always talk with your medical provider before taking a new medication, and remember to always take those medications as prescribed.

It is essential to listen to your body and let yourself recover from childbirth. Over-the-counter painkillers, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help manage postpartum discomfort. The addition of arnica in your aftercare plan could potentially speed up the time it takes your body to heal.

Safety vs. Risk During Breastfeeding

Ingesting teas, tinctures, or tablets containing arnica should continue to be avoided while breastfeeding. Using diluted homeopathic products in small amounts is most likely safe, primarily when used topically instead of internally. However, it can irritate sensitive skin, like that of a newborn, so use caution when snuggling up with your little one after using topical ointments. 

Arnica is considered unsafe for babies, children, and breastfeeding women. There is simply not enough known about this plant to give it the green light, which is common among herbs and homeopathic ingredients. When it comes to the unknown, it is better to be safe than sorry!

There are a lot of great, safe alternatives to arnica, especially in the world of postpartum care supplies. For example, instead of brewing a cup of arnica tea or drinking a tincture, consider pouring a cup of chamomile to relax, ginger to soothe your stomach, or dandelion root to act as a gentle laxative in those first days after giving birth.

Arnica is often used to heal bruises. Your postpartum care plan should include plenty of ice packs to reduce bruising, swelling, and general pain and discomfort, which will help eliminate your need for topical arnica. 

Until there is more definitive research on this favored flower as an oral supplement, it is a good idea to avoid it altogether as a pregnant or nursing person. There are some instances where it could be beneficial with a care provider’s guidance. However, there are also a lot of safe alternatives to get you through the uncomfortable and downright painful changes your body will go through!

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Jul 07, 2013

@SarahGen-- I think everything will be fine, but from now on, if you want to use arnica, use the cream version as that's safer during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

By ZipLine — On Jul 06, 2013

@SarahGen-- Did you ask your doctor about this?

My opinion is that the fetus is probably fine, but I'm no expert. You have to talk to your doctor about it.

My sister took arnica during her last trimester, the last week before she gave birth to ease discomfort and pain. So I know that arnica is safe to use during the last few weeks of pregnancy, but I have no idea about the first trimester.

By SarahGen — On Jul 06, 2013

I did not intend to use arnica during pregnancy, but I was already taking it when I found out that I am pregnant. I was taking arnica 30c homeopathic remedy when I found out that I am four weeks pregnant. I stopped taking it as soon as I found out.

Do you think my fetus was harmed?

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