Consumption of Chinese herbal medicines during pregnancy and postpartum : A prospective cohort study in China

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-210
Journal / PublicationMidwifery
Online published17 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


Objective: to investigate usage patterns and factors associated with maternal consumption of Chinese herbal medicines in China. Design: prospective cohort study. Information on the use of Chinese herbal medicines was collected from mothers by personal interview at hospital discharge and followed up by telephone at one, three and six months postpartum. Setting: seven hospitals in Jiangyou, Sichuan Province of China. Participants: 695 mothers who gave birth to a singleton infant. Measurements: prevalence, type, frequency and duration of herbal medicine usage. Logistic mixed regression analyses were performed to determine factors affecting the use. Findings: a total of 43.5% and 45.0% of mothers consumed Chinese herbal medicines during pregnancy and postpartum, respectively. Angelica sinsensis was the most popular herbal medicine among the participants (pregnancy 28.8%, postpartum 26.8%). Although herbal medicines were taken more regularly by postpartum users, the median usage duration varied from two to three months during pregnancy but 1-1.6 months postpartum. The majority of users (pregnancy 42.9%, postpartum 55.1%) were advised by their mother or mother-in-law to take Chinese herbal medicines. Antenatal alcohol drinking (adjusted odds ratio 2.75, 95% confidence interval 1.01-7.53) was associated with a marginally higher prevalence of herbal consumption during pregnancy, whereas mothers with a lower family income (adjusted odds ratio 1.52, 95% confidence interval 1.12-2.04) were more likely to consume Chinese herbal medicines in the postpartum period. Key conclusions and implications for practice: consumption of Chinese herbal medicines appears to be prevalent among Chinese mothers, especially those drinking alcohol whilst pregnant and women from a lower income household. Maternity health professionals need to be aware of the lack of evidence to support the use of Chinese herbal medicines during pregnancy and postpartum, and to provide their clients with scientifically based advice regarding herbal medicine use.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Chinese herbal medicine, Postpartum, Pregnancy