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It is best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any natural medicine or other drugs during pregnancy. Natural herbs and vitamin supplements, unlike prescription drugs, do not have to be tested to prove they work and are safe before they are sold.

Natural Herbs & Vitamins During Pregnancy

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association

Although medicine has replaced almost every natural supplement with a synthetic substitute, there is a debate about the effectiveness of natural herbs and vitamins in providing essential nutrition to pregnant women as well as aiding in the relief of some common discomforts. Many herbalists believe that herbs are often better, cheaper and healthier than their medical counterparts. However, most medical professionals do not recommend herbal remedies for pregnant women, since safety has not been established through adequate research.

Unlike prescription drugs, natural herbs and vitamin supplements do not have to be tested to prove they work and are safe before they are sold. As a result, the quality and strength of an herbal supplement can vary between two batches of the same product and between products from different manufacturers. Consumers have little way of knowing if a product will do what the label claims and if it is safe. In addition, reliable information about the product may be hard to find which can lead to questions on safety and effectiveness.

What are possible complications of taking herbs during pregnancy?

Although herbs are natural, not all herbs are safe to take during pregnancy. The FDA urges pregnant women not to take any herbal products without talking to their healthcare provider first. These products may contain agents that could harm the mother and the growing fetus, and cause problems with the pregnancy. Many contain substances that can cause miscarriage or premature birth, uterine contractions, injury to the fetus, or jeopardize the mother's health. Few studies have been done to measure the effects of various herbs on pregnant women or a developing fetus.

What are some herbs I should be cautious about during my pregnancy?

Depending on the source, some information will list an herb as being safe to consume during pregnancy whereas another source will list the same herb as not being safe to take. Therefore it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any natural medicine or other drugs during pregnancy.

According to Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth by Penelope Ody, the herbs in the following chart should NOT be used at any time during pregnancy or when pregnancy is even a possibility.

According to Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth by Penelope Ody, the following chart of herbs should only be used in moderation during pregnancy. But it is always best to talk with your healthcare provider before taking any medication or herbal remedy.

What are safe and useful herbs to take during pregnancy?

The following herbs have found to be useful during pregnancy; however it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before trying them.

  • Alfalfa: plant containing a good source of vitamin K (necessary for blood clotting). This herb also contains enzymes, minerals and high quantities of vitamins A, D and E.
  • Chamomile: This herb is a great calming agent and helps with nausea and also contains some anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Nettles: this herb contains high levels of calcium, iron, and is helpful in providing nourishment to the mother.
  • Oatstaw: herb that is high in calcium and magnesium which can be an effective remedy for infections and to decrease stress/tension.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf: herb rich in iron that has also been effective in helping in the production of milk, decreasing nausea, preventing miscarriage, and easing labor pains.
  • Rose Hips: Great source of vitamin C that also helps with infection and exhaustion.

Is herbal tea safe to drink during my pregnancy?

Since the effect of herbs used in pregnancy has not been well researched, the FDA has urged caution on the use of most herbal teas in pregnancy and during breastfeeding. It is recommended to stay away from herbal teas while you are expecting unless instructed differently by your healthcare provider. You can make sure your tea is free of any herbs by reading labels carefully, or stick to regular (black) tea that comes already flavored. You can also mix your own tea by adding oranges, apples, pineapples, or other fruit juices, lemons, cinnamon, limes, pears, or mint leaves to boiling water or decaffeinated tea. Also, you should not brew a homemade tea from a plant growing in the backyard unless you know exactly what it is and if it is safe to consume during pregnancy.

According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, green tea is possibly unsafe when used orally in large amount because it contains caffeine. It is recommended that pregnant mothers closely monitor their intake of green tea to ensure moderate consumption. Some evidence suggests that high doses of caffeine might be associated with premature delivery, low birth weight, and loss of the fetus.

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