Use the seven guidelines for pregnancy herbs to prevent adverse effect of herbal preparations during pregnancy and labor.Used for hundreds of years as the only medicinal products in a community, herbs are once again being used in a variety of preparations to achieve therapeutic results. Reports of a few negative outcomes have created concern for their safety, particularly during pregnancy.
It is important to have information about the safety of herbs, particularly when compared to modern medicines. During pregnancy, that concern is even greater.
Here are seven important guidelines on the use of pregnancy herbs to ensure their safety.
Verify that the herb is safe for pregnancyIt is important to know that their are no recommendations to avoid the herb during pregnancy and that no adverse effects have been reported.
This information is generally available on the bottle if you are buying herbal supplements. Reading labels is important, so always pay attention to the cautions or contraindications of any medicine, herb, or supplement.
Only take the recommended amountThis seems like an obvious statement, but most adverse effects happened because larger amounts were taken. Do not take more than the amount recommended by the manufacturer. They have stated limirs for a reason. Generally those limits are far below levels that can be toxic. But you need to assume they know more about their product than you do, and follow their recommendations.
Work with trained herbal practitionersIn some situations, experienced practitioners have recommended larger doses for short term use when a particular effect is desired. In this case, the mother should ask the practitioner what their training and experience is with pregnancy herbs. They should also ask how often they have recommended the product to be used in this way before. Pregnancy is no time to be a guinea pig.
Avoid Blue Cohosh or PennyroyalCaution should be exercised when using blue cohosh or pennyroyal because of the toxic effects that have occurred in a handful of cases. Some have felt that these herbs should never be used during pregnancy. On the other hand, some midwives who have used them successfully, have been less eager to give up their potential benefits.
They point out that if we discontinued all drugs that had several reported adverse reactions; our pharmacies would be emptied of all medications, prescriptive and over-the-counter. At least, prudence would recommend using them in small quantities and never going over the recommended amount.
Use Qualified Written InformationIt's very easy to make a list of pregnancy herbs and post it on a webpage. But how do you know it is safe?
Information on herbs obtained from the internet should list the author, their qualifications and area of practice, and bear a relatively recent date of review.
The internet can be both an asset and a liability when it comes to information on herbal supplements. On the positive side, the latest information can be available, something one can not be certain of in a book. On the negative side, it may be harder to determine the quality of the information.
For instance I have come across an online article that provides clear, step by step instructions on how to induce labor with herbal tinctures. A link to this particular article is provided by several online childbirth sites. It should be noted that no author or date is listed. Specific instructions for induction are provided and including blue cohosh and pennyroyal - both with documented risks. There is no discussion on potential side effects. A searcher would not know who the midwife is that provided these instructions or even if she is still using this protocol herself.
Look for evidence-based guidelinesPractitioners who recommend or prescribe herbal products should make efforts to provide evidence-based guidelines. Current research on safety and efficacy should be referred to when available.
It is valuable for a mother to know the number needed to treat (NNT) and the number needed to harm (NNH). While it is very difficult to get this information on herbs or traditional medicines, without such statistics it impossible to evaluate the risk or benefit of any substance.
Ask if your birth professionals use pregnancy herbsA 1999 survey (McFarlin) found that at that time approximately 50% of certified nurse midwives recommend herbal stimulants, 64% of nurse midwifery training programs included the use of herbal preparations in their formal curriculum, and 92% of the CNM training programs included at least informal discussion of their use. No similar information was found for the practices of direct entry midwives; though the number that recommend their use is probably significantly closer to 100%. No surveys are known to exist to determine what percentage of physicians might recommend herbal supplements; though it is probable the number would be lower.
Safe Use of Herbs In Pregnancy
This series on herbs for pregnancy and childbirth will help you use herbal preparations safely.
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Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA