Mother’s Day is just around the corner. We receive quite a few inquiries about the safety of using herbs while pregnant or breastfeeding. If you're an expectant mother interested in using herbs during or after your pregnancy, this week’s article is for you. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in taking a holistic approach to supporting your body during this beautiful time. Below, we’ll share the proper use and type of herbs that are beneficial during and after your pregnancy.
When you’re expecting, the safety of you and your baby is always the first priority. When it comes to herbs, you’ve more than likely come across a lot of literature cautioning you against their use. This is mainly due to potential interactions with conventional medicines, as well as regulation practices. But herbal medicine has been at the center of maternal health for centuries. Before there were pharmaceutical drugs, there were herbs. Indigenous cultures from across the globe utilized herbs to support the health of both mother and baby.
Today, herbs can still be safely used during pregnancy. Here is what you should keep in mind:
- Enlist the help of an herbalist and/or Naturopathic doctor. Most traditional medical professionals receive extensive training to understand Western medicine and next to nothing on herbs for medicinal use. An expert in herbs and holistic medicine can more accurately guide you to what herbs are right for you at all stages of pregnancy and beyond.
- Only take the recommended dose. More is not better when it comes to herbs. Just because it is natural does not mean it is weaker and more is needed to be effective. The opposite can absolutely be true! Dosing is a precise thing. Follow the directions for dosing given by your health professional/herbalist for the safety and more accurate dose for you!
- Use organic herbs and herbal products. You are already exposed to a multitude of toxins in your surroundings. Your body does not need another thing to defend against when you’re carrying another life. Organic herbs are free of pesticides and harmful chemicals, making it a better choice whether or not you’re expecting. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, what you consume becomes nourishment for your baby as well; using the cleanest ingredients possible is always a plus in this case.
- Know your allergies. Do you have allergies to any foods or environmental substance? Knowing this is KEY! Many people experience mild reactions to allergens without knowing the cause. Finding this out can help you avoid any potential reactions from herbs or otherwise.
WHICH HERBS CAN I USE DURING PREGNANCY?
There are an array of herbs you can use to support a healthy pregnancy. Below is a short list of herbs that are 1) safe and 2) beneficial for expectant mothers. Remember, each pregnancy and woman is different. This is a general list. We recommend working with a knowledgeable herbalist or ND to understand what specific herbs and dosing is right for your health and pregnancy stage.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This herb is typically taken as a tea. It is known as a uterine tonic, helping to tone the uterus. It is rich in iron and some women report more ease with contractions and labor and delivery. Overall, it is one of the best herbs for reproductive health! Some women use it for nausea during the first trimester, but it is best used in the second and third.
Ginger is a God-send during the first trimester. It is a common herb for nausea, which can occur as early as 2 weeks (although, more commonly between weeks 4-12.). If you suffer from morning sickness or nausea, warm ginger root tea or tincture is safe and helpful.
Like ginger root, peppermint tea can be helpful in curbing morning sickness and disruptions to your digestion. Extremely large amounts can promote menstruation, so this tea works best in moderation (1 cup a few times a week.). If your body shows signs of having excessive heat, a cooling tea like peppermint may work better for nausea than a warm herb like ginger root. An herbalist or naturopath is trained to know your body’s constitution and can best guide you on what herbs -- warmer or cooler-- are best for you.
Nettle leaf is one of the most well-known maternal tonics. It is abundant in iron, calcium and other necessary nutrients during pregnancy. This beautiful herb helps relieve water retention by supporting the kidneys. Post-partum, nettle can help stimulate breast milk. It’s also been known to relieve varicose veins as well!
Also known as methi, this common Ayurvedic herb is rich in folate and B12, both important for brain development. Fenugreek has been known to prevent/treat gestational diabetes, to boost lactation, and to prevent abnormal breast enlargement during pregnancy. This herb is commonly eating in Indian dishes rather than as a stand alone herb. While fenugreek is a welcomed herb for most pregnancies, it is safest and best utilized in the last few weeks of pregnancy for its ability to stimulate the uterus.
Oats are known as galactagogues, or herbs that can produce lactation. They are also a nervine, a category of herbs that can help combat stress and promote a healthy stress response. Expectant mothers should definitely increase their intake of oats for this reason alone! They are also rich in magnesium and calcium, two nutrients pregnant women should have in abundant supply!
Bringing new life into this world is an incredible experience! Making sure that both mother and baby are in exceptional health are of the utmost importance. Whether you’re expecting or your little one is here already, herbs are a source of nourishment and support. When used safely with the help of an expert, the rewards are great!
If you’d like support, schedule a health consultation with us today. We can happily work with yourself and your wellness team to make sure you have the happiest and healthiest pregnancy.
And to all mothers, and mothers-to-be, Happy Mother’s Day!