Fetal Health and Development

Mamas on Bedrest: Is Echinacea Safe To Take During Pregnancy

January 10th, 2014

Hello Mamas,

I love getting your e-mails and Facebook questions. I love how you are taking charge of your health and your pregnancies and doing all that you can to make the best health care choices for you and your baby. I recently received this question from a mama and decided to share my take on herbs and supplements during pregnancy.

Q: Is Echinacea safe to take during pregnancy?

echinaceaFirst I want to start off by saying that I AM NOT an herbalist or expert in herbal medicine. While I am comfortable suggesting information on nutrition and nutritional supplements because I have training and experience in this area,  It is not my habit to recommend or advise people to take herbs because I don’t feel that I am qualified to make such recommendations. That being said, for this mama’s question, I did a bit of research.

Echinacea is one of the most commonly used herbs in North America. Most people use Echinacea to treat upper respiratory infections such as colds. In a November 2000 study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, Researchers in Canada evaluated 200 pregnant women who had contacted MotherRisk, a program that assesses risk during pregnancy. These women had either knowingly taken echinacea in pregnancy or taken it unaware that they were pregnant. The women were matched with 200 pregnant women who had not taken echinacea. Following delivery, the researchers assessed the rates of complications, live births, miscarriages and major and minor birth defects and malformations and found no statistical difference in outcomes between pregnant women who had taken echinacea during pregnancy and those who had not. They concluded that echinacea is safe to take in pregnancy.

The caveat to this study and one the researchers themselves admitted is that because there is very little study done on herbs, its tough to say whether or not they are safe. Many people assume that because herbs are “natural” they are okay. One must always keep in mind that herbs are taken for their medicinal properties, and yes, they do act on our physiologic systems. For example, I was not that echinacea can promote bleeding, so if a person has a bleeding disorder taking echinacea could negatively affect their bleeding patterns. These people especially should consult with their health care provider-and/or a really knowledgeable herbalist about the safety of echinacea for them and may need to refrain from taking echinacea.

When I have a mama or other women’s health client who wants to know about herbs, I refer them to one of my colleagues who has extensive knowledge in herbal medicine. Additionally, once they have consulted with an herbalist, I suggest that they take what they have learned and discuss it with their health care provider so that the provider can compare the notes on the herbs with the health history of the patient. I know it sounds cumbersome and like I am being a Nervous Nelly. However, like I said, I was unaware that echinacea affects bleeding. If mama had been taking aspirin or another anticoagulant, this could have been a problem. The uterus is a highly vascularized organ meaning it has TONS of blood vessels feeding it. It a woman is prone to post partum hemorrhage, perhaps taking echinacea is not a good idea for her. Ultimately the decision is up to mama, but this is critical information she needs to make her decision.

As my highschool chemistry teacher used to say, “When in doubt, check it out!” Find out as much as you can before you introduce anything into your system while you are pregnant.

What’s your take on herbs during pregnancy? Share your experience in our comments section.

I love your questions and am happy to find the answers you need. Keep them coming! E-mail me at info@mamasonbedrest.com.

 

References:

Gallo M, Sarkar M, Au W, Pietrzak K, Comas B, Smith M, Jaeger TV, Einarson A, Koren G.  Pregnancy outcome following gestational exposure to echinacea: a prospective controlled study. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000 Nov 13;160(20):3141-3.

Gallo M, Koren G. Can herbal products be used safely during pregnancy? Focus on echinacea. Canadian Family Physician. 2001 Sep;47:1727-8.

WebMD Health News: Study Shows Echinacea Safe During Pregnancy. November 28, 2000

Echinacea. Mayo Clinic Natural Standard® Patient Monograph, Copyright © 2013

Mamas on Bedrest: November is Prematurity Awareness Month

November 6th, 2013

November is Prematurity Awareness month.

In this video blog, Bedrest Coach Darline Turner highlights the importance of this campaign initiated by the March of Dimes to raise awareness of and to reduce preterm labor and premature births. The March of Dimes does an excellent job of presenting the statistics regarding prematurity and offering some solutions to slow and reverse the occurence of preterm births. Darline highlights these statistics but also emphasizes the need for increased support and compassion towards women who have high risk pregnancies. As any Mama on Bedrest can tell you, there is not any sort of regular support for high risk pregnant women and when a mama is put on bed rest, life comes to a grinding halt and there are few if any resources available to help a mama and her family keep life on track. This is where Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is striving to make a difference; to alleviate the logistical as well as the emotional fall out that occurs when a mama is placed on bed rest with a supportive community and educational tools and resources. So while it is crucial that we all are aware of and understand the largeness of the prematurity issue, its also important not to forget that in the midst of the numbers and research going towards alleviating the causes of preterm labor and prematurity, we cannot forget the human side-the necessary care and compassion that must be bestowed upon mamas and their families.

Mamas on Bedrest: You to Join Me in Support of a “Former” Mama on Bedrest

October 21st, 2013

Mamas, Sometimes life is simply devastating!

I was going through messages in e-mail and on Facebook and I came across a post from “Former” Mama on Bedrest Lynsey. She posted that she had been on bed rest for 14 weeks with twins and delivered her boys via c-section in mid August. She thought she was done and all was well. When her baby boys were just a week old, they were both diagnosed with neuroblastomas, a malignant form of cancer that develops around the sympathetic nerves (nerves controlling things like breathing, heart rate, etc…) and primarily affects infants and young children under age 5. What a blow! Here this mama was thinking she was home free, all is well, ythe babies are here and bed rest is over! Then, WHAMO! A sucker punch to the heart from out of nowhere.

When I read this message, my heart just sank. Scenarios like this just seem too cruel to be real. I find myself often asking the Divine Powers That Be, “How can you be so cruel? Why must it be so devastating?” 

The Almighty most certainly doesn’t answer to me and doesn’t have to justify him or herself, but I still have to ask. And more pressing I wonder, “What can I possibly do or say to make this mama feeling even a teeny, tiny bit better?”

Life is sometimes completely unfair. You have young teenagers getting pregnant at the drop of a hat while loving, mature, couples who have the means and desire to raise a family are unable to conceive. You have women who struggle to maintain their pregnancies and carry a baby to term suffer repeated miscarriages. You have women who must endure weeks on bed rest to bring their children into this world.  Then you have mamas like Lynsey who have done everything they could possibly do, finally give birth only to learn that they may not have their babies for very long. Why???

Well, I’ve not received any sort of heavenly answer to these questions, no heavenly guidance as to what I should do.

So I’m winging it-again! Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond was “conceived” to be a support for mamas who have high risk pregnancies, who are prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies and for mamas who struggle in the immediate post partum. Initially conceived with the intention of being a local support organization, it has grown and has embraced mamas from all over the United States, Canada, the Carribean, the UK, Belgium, Germany, The Middle East, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, I cannot get to every mama in every country, but because of the wonders of the world wide web (the internet) we mamas can come together and share ideas, tips and information for navigating this thing call “child bearing”.

One of the things that we do best is support mamas in need. So mamas, please share your words of encouragement and comfort to Lynsey. She, her partner and her boys have a long way to go and a tough battle to wage. We may not be able to stop in and give her in person support, but we can post to her here and give her words of encouragement. Love on her, mamas! Let her know that she and her family are not waging this battle alone.

Indeed this life can be devastating. Indeed this life can be cruel. But it is my firm belief that no matter what happens, it is our human obligation to love and support one another. I think that we are all aware of the fact that this could have been any one of us. For those of us who have lost children-either during pregnancy, during delivery or in the immediate post partum and beyond-we know this difficulty all too intimately. I am asking you to join me in supporting Lynsey and her family as the boys continue chemotherapy. Mamas, Keep Lynsey in your thoughts and prayers and Let’s pray these boys well!