The use of dietary and herbal supplements among pregnant women in the U.S. has increased in recent years, according to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The study, conducted by researchers at Penn State University, examined the prevalence and types of herb and supplement use among U.S. pregnant women versus non-pregnant women of reproductive age (18 to 40 years) over a 10-year period. Researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey and obtained records for 2002, 2007 and 2012.
They found that in 2002, 13.6 percent of pregnant women and 20.4 percent of non-pregnant women reported using supplements. That usage increased to 16.7 percent in pregnant women and decreased to 16.2 percent in non-pregnant women for the year 2007. In 2012, 15.4 percent pregnant women and 15.9 percent of non-pregnant women said they took dietary or herbal supplements.
The most commonly used herbs and supplements among pregnant women in 2002 were Echinacea, ginseng, ragweed or chamomile, ginko biloba and peppermint. In 2012, the most used supplements among pregnant women were fish oil, melatonin, probiotics or prebiotics, acai, and cranberry.
Anything a pregnant woman consumes may affect her developing fetus, thus it is recommended that women of childbearing age who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant talk to their doctors before taking any medications or dietary supplements. Researchers also suggested that physicians gain more knowledge of herb and supplements so that they can better counsel their pregnant patients on intergrade them safely throughout their pregnancy.