The use of herbal and complementary medical therapies has increased in many countries over the last decade, with women being the most frequent users. Many of the products in this category are specifically aimed at pregnant women, who are looking for safe and effective products, either for nutritional ingredients intake or for the treatment of pregnancy complications (nausea, constipation). Since many medicines are not allowed to be consumed during pregnancy, these women are looking for alternative supplements that are considered herbal and therefore safer than conventional medicines.
However, although the effects of certain herbal remedies have been documented, there is insufficient data on the safety of herbal consumption during pregnancy. From a study conducted over a period of 15 months in Italian hospitals and a sample of 725 women who had given birth up to three days before the study, the researchers sought to determine if there was a link between preterm labor and the frequent use of herbal food supplements by women during their pregnancy.
The results of the survey initially showed that 42% of the women in the sample had consumed herbal food supplements at least once while pregnant, with 64% were consuming herbal food supplements daily for at least 3 months. Indeed, the most consumed herbal food supplements were almond oil and chamomile, to cope with problems such as stretch marks, anxiety and sleep disorders.
According to respondents’ answers, women who used herbal food supplements frequently were more likely to give birth to obese or premature babies, than women who had not used such products. Particularly those who used almond oil were more likely to give birth prematurely, while those who used chamomile were more likely to give birth to obese babies.
Although the safety of using herbal supplements during pregnancy has not been sufficiently studied, research shows that their consumption is very popular and in most cases pregnant women do not seek the advice of their physician before purchasing such products. The sample studied showed that the use of these products affects both the duration of pregnancy and the baby’s weight, but it should be emphasized that the issue is still under investigation, in order to have a more objective and comprehensive view.