Is it safe to take herbal medicines during pregnancy?

Gail Woodland, Senior Information Pharmacist, Welsh Medicines Information CentreSource UKMiPublished
  • Recent surveys in the UK suggest that many women in the United Kingdom use herbal medicines during pregnancy.
  • In general, herbal medicines should be avoided by pregnant women.
  • Herbal medicines are not necessarily safe alternatives to conventional medicines during pregnancy. Their constituents are likely to have pharmacological activity and they might possess toxic constituents. Contamination cannot be ruled out and different products often vary with regard to the concentration and source(s) of their constituent herbs.
  • The way in which a herbal medicine is administered might affect its safety, e.g. as a tea or concentrated extract, orally or topically.
  • Possible interactions with any conventional treatment should be taken into account.
  • Women who wish to take herbal products during pregnancy should consult a healthcare professional when considering the risks and benefits involved.
  • Healthcare professionals should consider why a woman wishes to take a herbal medicine. Undiagnosed illness that remains untreated by conventional methods might result in maternal and foetal toxicity.
  • Any herbal medicines taken should be from a reputable source and taken at the recommended dosage.
  • Suspected adverse reactions (including congenital abnormalities) following maternal exposure to a herbal or complementary medicine should be reported via the yellow card system.
  • Healthcare professionals can contact the UK Teratology Information Service for assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment where exposure to herbal medicines has occurred.