They may come from nature, but natural health products can still be dangerous during pregnancy. Read the following advice and warnings.
Not all natural health products (NHPs) are safe during pregnancy. This is why self-treatment is never recommended if you are pregnant. In Canada, all NHPs that are contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding must have a warning label.
In the absence of scientific proof on the safety of a medicinal plant, the medical establishment tends to advise against their use as a whole. There is agreement, however, that certain NHPs should never be used during pregnancy.
Here are the main plants pregnant women should avoid.
• Plants that stimulate the uterus: e.g. pennyroyal mint and feverfew (abortive plants), senna and cascara sagrada (powerful laxatives), bearberry (highly diuretic), horehound and golden seal.
• Plants with potential hormonal effects: e.g. sage, licorice, Chinese Angelica, black cohosh, ginseng and Siberian ginseng.
• Plants that can increase bleeding time: e.g. Ginkgo biloba and Chinese Angelica.
• Plants that contain a high concentration of active ingredients: All essential oils formulated for internal use.
Some safe options
Some plants can give women a helping hand during pregnancy. Ginger, for example, can help ease nausea. Taken as a tea (fresh or grated), ginger can, in fact, provide some relief, although not as effectively as conventional treatments. Ginger is also available in capsules and lozenges, but these are not recommended since they may contain traces of contraindicated substances, such as heavy metals.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) has also confirmed raspberry leaf to be safe for use and possibly beneficial for pregnant women.
Remember, before consuming any natural health product, always seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist.
To learn more:
Guide pratique des produits de santé naturels, Protégez-Vous, 2011 (In French only)
Une grossesse en santé, Protégez-Vous, août 2012 (In French only)
Mieux manger pour le plaisir et la santé : la femme enceinte, Protégez-Vous, février 2012 (In French only)
Des produits de santé naturels pour prévenir le rhume et la grippe, Protégez-Vous, novembre 2011 (In French only)