Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Herbal Supplements Are Not for Pregnant Women

I have been asked about the miracles attributed to herbs for as long as I have been a perinatal nurse. In lay wisdom, we say,don't use pennywort ( increased risk of miscarriage ) if you are pregnant. In the Far East pennywort is part of everyone's diet. What are the contraindications of using herbs? Is there a reason we do not promote the use of herbs in this country?

Herbs are not recommended in pregnancy in this country because the Food and Drug Administration doesn't test them for pregnancy or for anything else, for that matter. If you start to research every natural " herb advertised for every condition from depression, ( St. John's Wort ), Evening Primrose Oil (  ADD ), Chamomille ( sleep ) and the list goes on and on and on, we would be cured of all our woes and aches and pains and chronic, not to mention acute conditions. If most commonly used herbs all around were added to the list Fennel, Valerian, Echinacea would rank highest.

I have blogged before about the caution necessary to take when pregnant and considering natural supplements. But now I have come upon a new study that calls into serious question the use of what we apply topically. What we spread on our bodies. For prevention of stretch marks to fading mylasma.  Again the list is long.

This study examines spreading almond oil on our bellies for the prevention of those angry looking stretch marks. Sometimes we even spread it on our breasst and hips for the same effect. It seems that women who use almond oil topically are shown in this study to be at increased risk for preterm birth.

Other studies have concluded that licorice and chamomille increased episodes of threatening labor and preterm birth. Length of use and many socio- demographic variables are well addressed and across the board this study suggests that herbal use increases risk for preterm delivery, low birth weight and small for gestational age babies.

Of course, more conclusive evidence is always called for from more studies with more variables. However, I still believe that herbal does not equal natural and that caution should be advised and practiced. The FDA is quick to point out the hazards of mercury in fish, listeriosis in unpasturized products and alcohol, all the time. At every initial ( usually twelve week office visit )  pregnancy educational session designed for most practices many dos and don'ts are discussed. Sometimes it is not conducted by a registered nurse. Please note that herbs are not mentioned. I am mentioning them here. Don't consume what you know is not safe, for sure and please include herbal and even topical substances when you first suspect you may be pregnant.