Traditional Herbs During Pregnancy:

Its effect on mother and child

Most pregnant women in many countries of the world particularly in the African continent use herbs as an alternative to ante-natal and post-natal care. They believe that the use of herbs is natural, cheaper, and reduces the size of the foetus for easy delivery, without considering the side effects of these drugs on them and their growing foetus. The use of herbs as an alternative to orthodox medicine is good, but not 100% safe, especially when its treatment is not prescribed by a trained herbalist. A pregnant woman that uses herbs, either through self medication or as prescribed by a quack, can cause an irreversible damage to herself and her unborn baby.

Unlike the natural herbs, orthodox medicine has been tested. So that consumers are sure of the quality of products consumed and its efficacy. On the other hand, there is almost no need to test the efficacy of the natural herbs people use today. It is a case of test and see or a trial will convince you, among many other marketing slogans. You only know whether the herbs are good or bad after testing it, and often it might be too late.

Therefore, pregnant women have little chance of knowing if a product will do what the label claims it would do, and how safe it is for them and the unborn baby. In addition, reliable information about the product may be hard to find, and so leaves a question on its safety and effectiveness. Consequently, most medical professionals do not recommend herbal remedies for pregnant women, since its safety has not been established through adequate research.

The following highlights the complications that arise from the use of herbal medicine during pregnancy and how to avoid them.

1.         Examine the ingredient of herbal teas. Many herbal teas, even those marketed as safe during pregnancy contain natural ingredients that can cause uterine contractions and miscarriage if consumed in large quantities. Due to the brewing process, potentially harmful chemicals are more heavily concentrated in teas than in other food products.

2.         Avoid uterine-stimulating herbs, which can cause miscarriage, premature labour or birth defects. These herbs include anise seed and oil, and St. John’s wart some herbs, such as red raspberry leaf that stimulate the uterus, can aid in delivery. And sometimes it is safe for use late in the third trimester. However, consult a healthcare provider before use at any time during pregnancy.

3.         Stay away from herbs that can cause serious injury to mother and baby. Examples of such herbs include: Aloe-vera, comfocy, false unicorn root, Peruvian bark and wormwood. These are among those herbs associated with birth defects such as blindness. Pregnant women should avoid these herbs through out pregnancy, even in small quantities.

4.         Follow herbs dosage guidelines religiously, as indicated on the leaflets of the product, or as prescribed by a trained traditional herbalist. Over-use of otherwise safe herbs can cause health problems, especially during pregnancy when the digestive system slows down.


Although herbs are natural and recommended not all herbs are safe especially during pregnancy. Some of these herbs may contain agents that could harm the mother and eventually the growing foetus. So pregnant women should be cautious and ensure that they don’t take any herbal products without consulting their health care provider.

However, we must understand that this is not an attempt to discourage alternative medicine, which has come to be established all over the world in spite of its shortcomings. Rather, it is to discourage the abuse of herbal medicine, especially during pregnancy. Because this period in woman’s life is very critical and requires a lot of attention to ensure a save delivery and reduce mother and child mortality rate in Nigeria.

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