By Dava Stewart
Low level laser therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation, possess analgesic properties, and to be a viable treatment for a range of conditions and illnesses. It has no known side effects and few contraindications. Of those contraindications, pregnancy is usually at the top of the list.
Naturally, extra caution is always observed when dealing with pregnant clients. No one wants to endanger either the mother or the fetus. One study published in 1993 showed that 7-day-old chicken embryos were damaged due to the use of a particular laser at an especially high setting;1 however, other experts have pointed out that there are big differences in how humans are gestated and chicken eggs, as well as the fact that the laser and the dosages in the study were much higher powered than those used for LLLT.2
Some researchers have suggested that using LLLT on the parts of a pregnant woman’s body that are distant from her uterus is safe.3
Since insurance companies and the AMA still consider LLLT to be an experimental therapy, there are no AMA guidelines to follow, which leaves clinicians and patients to make decisions on their own. The first step is to determine if other treatments are likely to be safer and equally successful. Patients sometimes have only partial information or depend entirely on the DC to explain treatments and options. Regardless of the patient’s level of education, a discussion outlining possible risks, along with alternative treatment options, is vital.
As researchers learn more about exactly how LLLT works from a biological standpoint and on a cellular level, the possible risks will also become more clear. Scientists are studying exactly how and under what conditions LLLT works at an intense pace. A simple search on Google Scholar, using the search term “LLLT” reveals 1300 results—and that is just in 2014.
The bottom line is that LLLT is not yet fully understood, and until it is, there could be risks to using it as a treatment on pregnant women. DCs should proceed with extreme caution.
1Avila R, Centurion C, Fabro S, Juri H, Samar M. “Histological Changes Produced by He-Ne Laser on Different Tissues from Chick Embryo.” Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery. 2009:11(2);87-89.
2Practical Pain Management. “Contraindications for Use of Therapeutic Laser.” Practicalpainmanagement.com. http://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/complementary/lasers/contraindications-use-therapeutic-laser. Published August 2010. Accessed November 2014.
3Hode L, Tuner J. “Contraindications: Pregnancy.” The New Laser Therapy Handbook. Chapter 8.2:474.