Dr. Paula Gardiner in Daily Rx: Discussing Tea Time with Prenatal Docs?

Pregnancy natural herb use and prenatal vitamin discussions with physicians: Pregnant women have so many things to consider and discuss with their doctors as they prepare for birth, including the use of supplements or natural remedies. But is this subject getting enough discussion time between patients and physicians?

A new study found that while more than a third of the women studied did use herbs, less than half of these women discussed the matter with their doctors.

According to the authors, “Of all 160 participants, 125 had prenatal vitamin use documented, and no women had herbal medicine use documented in the medical record during their birth hospitalization.”

Lead researcher Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH (Master of Public Health), of the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University Medical Center, and team interviewed 160 new mothers from the inpatient postpartum unit at Boston Medical Center between the years 2008 and 2010.

This hospital “has a long history of serving the health care needs of immigrant and low-income populations, with 50 percent of its patients having an annual income below $17,000.”

The women were asked a variety of questions about the use of herbs, including ginger, chamomile, ginseng, evening primrose, echinacea, castor oil, peppermint and raspberry leaf (perhaps in the form of teas, rubs, pills, lotions or oils), and if they discussed herb use with their doctors during prenatal appointments.

Ginger and peppermint which, according to the authors, are both used to ease morning sickness, were found to be the two most commonly used herbs.

Overall, 39 percent of the women reported using herbs during their pregnancy. Thirty-eight percent of herb-using women discussed the matter with their prenatal physicians. Of those who did discuss herb use, 82 percent reported feeling “very” or “fairly” satisfied with the discussion.

By comparison, 65 percent of the new mothers reported taking prenatal vitamins. Among the prenatal vitamin-using women, 82 percent said they discussed vitamin use with their prenatal physicians. Ninety percent of women who had these discussions reported feeling “very” or “fairly” satisfied with the discussion.

These findings led the authors to conclude that herb use is common enough to warrant discussion and the recording of herb use in a patient’s history.

“Some providers may be uncomfortable with discussing and documenting these topics because of a lack of knowledge or training around them,” wrote the authors. “Our study points to the fact that women appreciate and are satisfied with these discussions when they do occur.”

More research is needed to determine the health effects of herb use in prenatal health, but this study hints that it is perhaps something that should at least be discussed. Further research to confirm commonality is also needed, as this was a relatively small sample from a single low-income, inner-city hospital.

The study was published online by the Journal of Midwifery &Women’s Health on April 17. The authors report that support for this study was received by the National Center For Complementary & Alternative Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

View all posts