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Which natural health products are safe for pregnant women?

The buzzwords “all natural” and “natural product” are very appealing to health conscious consumers. This is especially true among pregnant women since medications in the market come with health warnings against use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. During my pregnancy, I resorted to natural plant products such as herbal tea to alleviate pregnancy complaints such as nausea and heartburn.

Unfortunately, not all natural products are safe for pregnant women as research studies show. Researchers at the Univesity of Montreal looked at the type of natural health products pregnant women consume and their possible link to miscarriage and preterm delivery.

The most common products consumed were:

  • chamomile 19%
  • green tea 17%
  • peppered mint 12%
  • flaxseed oil 12%

The study tracked 3354 women from Quebec for several years. Many of these women used the above mentioned natural health products before pregnancy. About a third of these stopped taking the products while the rest continued to do so.

Only one product was linked to increased rate of preterm labor – flaxseed oil. In the general population, the rate of preterm delivery is 2 to3%. In women taking flaxseed oil during the last 2 trimesters, the rate is as high as 12%. The strong correlation to premature birth is only true with flax seed oil, not with flax seeds itself.

Flax seed oil is also known as linseed, and comes from the ripe seeds of the flax plant Linum usitatissimum. Flax seed oil is taken as a nutritional supplement because it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid, considered to be good for cardiovascular health.

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