Q&A : Herbal Medicines & Pregnancy

Here are some questions about herbs that you may ask when you pregnant. Hope the answers can help!


Can herbal medicines be used safely during pregnancy?

chinese_medicineYes. Herbs and spices are consumed daily around the world by pregnant women as a natural part of the diet. By taking small amounts and using only herbs that are known to be safe during pregnancy, women can obtain relief for many minor pregnancy complaints; in expert hands, herbs also can be used for more complex pregnancy-related problems. However, herbs are also potent medicinal agents; therefore, great care and precaution are advised during pregnancy.

Whenever possible, avoid the use of herbs during the first trimester. If it is necessary to use herbs during this time, use only herbs with no known teratogenic or abortifacient properties under the supervision of a professional knowledgeable about the use of herbs during pregnancy and in the lowest possible doses. Carefully follow guideline for avoiding herbs that are contraindicated during pregnancy, and use only herbs that are considered safe when necessary.

Can herbs and supplements be used safely to reduce morning sickness?

herbal-drawersIn one double-blind, randomized cross-over, placebo-controlled study, ginger was found to be significantly more effective than placebo for relieving the symptoms of morning sickness. Although no reports of teratogenicity or mutagenicity due to ginger are found in the literature, some concern has arisen over its ability to inhibit platelet function. Ginger is considered safe to use in small amounts for the reduction of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy but should be used carefully, and dosage should not exceed the quantity used in the clinical trial (1 gm/day). For best results, ginger is taken as a tea or capsule.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been used since at least the 1940s to treat morning sickness. In a recent double-blind, randomized trial in pregnant women at less than 17weeks’ gestation, vitamin B6 was shown to have a statistically significant effect in reducing nausea and vomiting. The dose used was 30mg, but some experts postulate that slightly higher doses may be more effective.

Are herbs effective for the treatment of urinary tract infections during pregnancy?

Numerous studies demonstrate the safety and efficacy of cranberry juice for the treatment of urinary tract infection (UTI), a common problem of pregnancy due to the physiologic displacement of the growing uterus onto the ureters and increased urinary stasis due to bladder compression. Cranberry prevents the adherence of bacterial organisms to the bladder wall, thus reducing infection. Daily intake of cranberry juice as a dietary beverage is advisable for women with history of chronic UTI. For the treatment of acute UTI, a woman may consume up to 6 glasses of cranberry juice per day. Unremitting or worsening symptoms require medical treatment. Cranberry juice and reconstituted cranberry concentrate are considered completely safe during pregnancy; however, concentrated cranberry products should be avoided, because they have not been evaluated for use during pregnancy.

Should herbal laxatives be used during pregnancy?

Herbs, such as cascara sagrada and senna, that strongly promote bowel peristalsis and act as laxatives should be avoided during pregnancy because they can promote uterine contractions as well as bowel evacuation. Other methods of promoting bowel functioning should be used, such as dietary changes, exercises, and bulk or nutritive laxatives (e.g., flax, psyllium seeds).

How can herbs be used successfully to suppot lactation?

Herbs have been used for centuries to improve the quantity and quality of breast milk. Warm drinks in genderal may be beneficial, because adequate fluids are essential for proper breast milk production. Fenufreek is commonly used to promote increased lactation. It is generally recommended as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Herbal Products Association does not consider it contraindicated for breast-feeding mothers.

* Source : Complementary and Alternative Medcine Secrets (2002) – Pregnancy Aviva Romm, CPM, AHG p271-275