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Pregnant Women Using Herbals Despite Lack of Safety Data

Older moms, those with education beyond high school have higher prevalence of use

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Many women use herbal or natural products immediately prior to or during pregnancy, though little is known about these products' safety or efficacy, according to two articles published in the May issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Cheryl S. Broussard, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues used the National Birth Defects Prevention Study to analyze 4,239 mothers of babies born without birth defects from 1998 to 2004. Overall, 10.9 percent of this population used at least one herbal product within three months before or during pregnancy. Ephedra and ginger were the most commonly used in early pregnancy, and teas and chamomiles were most commonly reported throughout the pregnancy. Those using herbal products during pregnancy were most likely to do so in the first trimester, and there was a higher prevalence of use in mothers older than 30 years and in those with education beyond the high school level.

Carol Louik, of Boston University, and colleagues evaluated rates of herbal and natural product use during the antenatal period in mothers of nonmalformed infants, using data from another case-control birth defect surveillance program. Using interviews of 4,866 mothers, they found that 5.8 percent used herbal or natural treatments. They found a higher prevalence of use in older mothers.

"The fact that overall use was relatively low (5.8 percent), and use of specific individual products was even lower, does not diminish the need for further investigation of their safety during pregnancy. Indeed, several studies have identified concerns that should be further explored, particularly in view of the fact that evidence of the efficacy of these products is largely unstudied," Louik and colleagues write.

Abstract - Broussard
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Abstract - Louik
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