Herbal medicine use during pregnancy in a group of Australian women Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:There are limited data on the extent of women's use of herbal medicines during pregnancy, despite the fact that knowledge of the potential benefits or harms of many of these products is sparse, particularly with respect to their use in pregnancy. We aimed to measure the prevalence of herbal medicine use in a group of pregnant women attending a public tertiary maternity hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Secondary aims were to explore why women took the herbal medicine, where they received advice, what form the supplements took and if they perceived the supplements to be helpful. METHODS:Consecutive pregnant women were approached in the antenatal clinic and the birth centre at around 36-38 weeks gestation. A questionnaire was developed and self-administered in English, as well as being translated into the four most common languages of women attending the hospital: Cantonese, Vietnamese, Turkish and Arabic. Back translation into English was undertaken by different professional translators to verify accuracy of both words and concepts. Data collected included demographic information, model of pregnancy care and herbal supplement use. Descriptive statistics were used initially, with stratified and regression analysis to compare sub-groups. RESULTS:Of 705 eligible women, 588 (83%) agreed to participate. Of these, 88 (15%) completed the questionnaire in a language other than English. Thirty-six percent of women took at least one herbal supplement during the current pregnancy. The most common supplements taken were raspberry leaf (14%), ginger (12%) and chamomile (11%). Women were more likely to take herbal supplements if they were older, tertiary educated, English speaking, non-smokers and primiparous. CONCLUSION:Use of herbal supplements in pregnancy is likely to be relatively high and it is important to ascertain what supplements (if any) women are taking. Pregnancy care providers should be aware of the common herbal supplements used by women, and of the evidence regarding potential benefits or harm.


publication date

  • December 2006