By Kimla McDonald, CNM, Guest Blogger
A recent news story and a phone call from a
pregnant client made me think about how midwives approach the appropriate use
and safety of herbs and herbal products during pregnancy.
It seems that Mel Brown, (the former “scary” one of
the Spice Girls) enjoys a cup of herbal tea now that she is pregnant for the
third time. According to Mel B’s “what I
ate yesterday” story, she likes herbal tea before bed. A quick Google search for “herbal
tea-pregnancy” results in an across-the-board “ask your midwife or doctor”
about what is safe, even from reputable medical advice sites like the Mayo
That is just the kind of call I recently got at
work, from a client having her second baby with our midwifery practice. “I’ve
been cramping, and wanted to know if it’s because I ate cilantro yesterday” was
the message dutifully jotted down by our receptionist.
At 4:30 pm on a busy day in the office, these are
the phone calls you may feel you don’t have time to adequately answer,
especially if you’re not familiar with recent literature or research on herbal
products. If you try to do your research before answering a question like that,
another Google search might be in order, where you’ll find that the FDA
is concerned about Salmonella in cilantro. Who knew?
About half of our clients are using herbal products,
according to consumer surveys. The other half are probably thinking about it.
Do you know which herbs should be avoided during pregnancy? Which ones interact
with prescription medications? What
sources of information you can trust to find the answers to these questions?
Here are two reputable databases that you can go to for information that is
both useful in your own practice and can provide clients with knowledge that
will help them make sense of the barrage of “pregnancy tea” ads they find when
they search for answers on their own. And as we know, informed choices are what
midwives help their clients make.
entirely on herbs, providing hyperlinked access to the scientific data
underlying the use of herbs for health.
The PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset is a collaborative government effort to collect and compile results of
scientific research on dietary supplements.
And of course, PubMed at the National Library of Medicine is a free resource providing access to
articles on just about any medical topic you can imagine.
McDonald, CNM, is a practicing full-time CNM at a private practice in
Annapolis, MD, doing both birth center and hospital births. McDonald started out as
a doula in San Francisco, became an apprentice to a homebirth midwife in New
Orleans, then finished her studies for midwifery in the DC metro area. She has
also worked as a documentary film producer, landscape architect, nonprofit fund
raiser, and worked for several years with the Center for Mind Body Medicine in
Washington, DC, producing educational conferences on nutrition and alternative
and complementary medicine. She has studied yoga, traditional Chinese medicine,
Healing Touch, and nutrition.