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HERBAL MEDICINES IN PREGNANCY & LACTATION
Exposures to over-the-counter products are frequent in pregnant women. Perhaps this is a paradoxical response to the decreased use of prescribed medications during pregnancy for fear of teratogenicity. For many women, natural health products such as herbal medicines or supplements may seem a reasonable alternative as the lay media often portrays natural medicines as safe. While the true incidence of natural product use in pregnancy is not known, some studies suggest that as high as sixty percent of pregnant women use natural therapies including herbal medicines either during pregnancy or while planning.1 Pregnant women often consider the use of natural products such as peppermint tea or ginger to help with symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and vomiting 2 In one study of midwives practicing in North Carolina, half of the respondents admitted to recommending herbal medicines to their patients for pregnancy related conditions. 3 Further to this intended use, it must be remembered that nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned and unexpected exposures to medicines and supplements in the first trimester are not rare.