Unlike prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means the manufacturers of these products don't have to submit studies to the FDA about the safety and effectiveness of the products before putting them on the market. As a result, the ingredients in herbal supplements are not monitored and can vary from one batch to the next. Often, you may get very little of the herb you're buying, and other times too much. Occasionally, herbal products have even been found to contain contaminants such as lead, prescription drugs, and other substances that can pose serious health risks. Unfortunately, the FDA can only remove an herbal supplement from the market once it's proven unsafe.
The truth is, scientists have not thoroughly studied the safety of using herbal products in pregnancy. In fact, some smaller studies have shown that a number of these products can stimulate uterine contractions, which may increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm labor.
Some of the most questionable herbs include:
- Black Cohosh (used to treat menstrual cramps)
- Feverfew (used to prevent and treat migraine headaches and asthma)
- Dong Quai (used to treat constipation and menstrual cramps)
- Pennyroyal and Rosemary (used for digestive problems)
- Juniper (used for heartburn)
- Thuja (used to treat respiratory infections)
- Blue Cohosh may also be especially dangerous, as a few reports have shown this herb can cause heart attacks and strokes in babies whose mothers used the herb near term.