Herbs and Pregnancy

Over the last 40 years, the popularity of herbal and natural remedies has been increasing. But if you're pregnant and looking to go the herbal route, how do you know what's safe for you and your baby? Does ginger help with morning sickness? Are there really that many green tea benefits? Here, we examine four popular herbal remedies that pregnant women might want to take.

St John's Wort
Originally thought to relieve the body of evil spirits, St John's Wort has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to help premenstrual syndrome, minor wounds and burns, hemorrhoids, ear infections, viral encephalitis and seasonal affective disorder, among others. St John's Wort is also a popular home remedy for people suffering from mild depression.

Very little information about the effects of St John's Wort on a developing fetus exists. Since sufficient tests have not been done, most doctors will recommend that you not take St John's Wort while you are pregnant. There is some evidence that the herb causes uterine contractions in pregnant animals who have been given St John's Wort, which could indicate a risk of preterm labor in pregnant women who take the herb.

Also called purple coneflower, echinacea is commonly used to boost the immune system and ward off infection. While it has been shown to be mostly ineffective in fighting colds (the most common use), echinacea may be useful in the treatment of other infections, such as athlete's foot.

There has been one study on the effects of echinacea on pregnancy: between 1996 and 1998, a Canadian study followed 412 women, 206 of whom had taken echinacea during their pregnancy, and 206 of whom had not. Of the 206 who did take echinacea, 112 had taken it during their first trimester. Researchers found that there was no appreciable difference in the rate of minor and major birth defects, delivery method, gestational age, infant birth weight, maternal weight gain, fetal distress, or pregnancy outcome. The conclusion is that if you wish to take echinacea while pregnant, you may do so, but should probably check with your doctor just to be sure.

Used by people the world over, ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is a popular remedy for indigestion, nausea, gas, arthritis pain, and cold and flu symptoms.

Because of its anti-nausea properties, ginger is a popular natural remedy for pregnant mothers suffering from morning sickness. The findings on the safety of taking ginger as a remedy during pregnancy have been mixed. Some studies claim that it is no more effective than a placebo, while two separate double-blind studies have found that ginger does significantly reduce nausea in pregnant women.

If you would like to take ginger during pregnancy, know that most medical experts agree that low doses of ginger should be safe for pregnant women. But, as always, when in doubt, check with your doctor before you start yourself on a ginger-regime.

Green Tea
Hailed by many as a wonder beverage, green tea has several medicinal and person applications. It's antioxidant effect helps to prevent cancers, reduce cholesterol levels, fight infections, improve the immune system and sooth arthritis pains. As a mater of course, many people enjoy a cup of green tea every day; so is it necessary to stop if you're pregnant?

In general, if you drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverage, it is recommended that you switch to decaffeinated while pregnant. Since caffeine is a diuretic, it may deplete your water, which could harm you and your baby. That said, there is no evidence that caffeine causes birth defects, though it can potentially cause other complications, therefore it is safe to consume green tea while pregnant, but in moderation. If you usually drink a pot a day, try to limit yourself to one cup and remember to balance any caffeine consumption with extra water consumption.


Looking for advice on your pregnancy diet? Visit our forum to talk with other moms-to-be


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