Background: Using Chinese herbal medicines during pregnancy and postpartum is common in the Chinese community.
Objective: The purpose of this current study is to explore the use of Chinese herbal medicines by women during pregnancy and postpartum in Taiwan.
Design: It is an on-going prospective longitudinal study design.
Setting and participants: We used multistage stratified systematic sampling to recruit 24,200 pairs, postpartum women and newborns, from the Taiwan national birth register in 2005. Subjects underwent a home interview 6 months after their deliveries between June 2005 and July 2006. A structured questionnaire was successfully administered to 87.8% of the sampled population.
Results: At least one Chinese herbal medicine was used by 33.6% and 87.7% of the interviewed subjects during pregnancy and the postpartum period, respectively. An-Tai-Yin, Pearl powder, and Huanglian were the most commonly used during pregnancy, while Shen-Hua-Tang and Suz-Wu-Tang were the most commonly used by postpartum women. Pregnant women aged 20-34, with high education, threatened abortion, chronic disease, and primipara appeared to use more Chinese herbal medicines than others in the sample. Postpartum women with high education, primipara, normal spontaneous delivery, and breastfeeding were found to use more Chinese herbal medicines; but women with pregnancy-related illness used less.
Conclusions: Chinese herbal medicines are frequently used by women during pregnancy and the postpartum period in Taiwan and those with high education and primipara used more such herbs. Due to limited safety information on these herbs, we would advise caution regarding their use either during pregnancy or postpartum breastfeeding period. Moreover, it is important for nurses/midwifes enquiring about such habits, and providing the adequate education to women during prenatal and postpartum care to prevent potential side effects.