• Herbal Use During Pregnancy

  • Originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of Grow , a health publication published four times annually by Parker Adventist Hospital. Sign-up for your free subscription to Grow.

    Approximately one in 10 pregnant women take some sort of herbal product, potentially risking the health of their pregnancies and babies, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology .

    "Women tend to think that herbal products are safe because they are natural, but there are many that can cause miscarriage, premature birth or fetal defects," says Vandna Jerath, M.D., an obstetrician with Parker Adventist Hospital. 

    Herbs have limited regulation and inconsistent standards of purity and quality. Women should be cautious in using herbs while pregnant and up to three months prior to becoming pregnant, Jerath says.

    Typically, herbs that can be eaten in their original plant form or as a vegetable - rather than as concentrated pills, extracts or tonics - are likely to be safe. Herbs used in small amounts for cooking or seasoning are generally safe.

    Very few herbs taken as supplements are considered safe during pregnancy, Jerath says. Some that are likely considered safe - in specific forms - are:

    • Peppermint leaf: Helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and flatulence
    • Ginger root: Helps relieve nausea and vomiting
    • Slippery elm bark: Used to help relieve nausea, heartburn and vaginal irritations (likely safe when the inner bark is taken orally in amounts used in foods)
    • Oats and oat straw: Rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness and irritated skin
    • Red raspberry leaf: Rich in iron and considered a safe herbal tea when used in the second and third trimester; can ease labor pains and increase milk production.

    If you're pregnant, always check with your doctor prior to taking an herb. You also can find information online at the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus site .
     

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