Vitamins and supplements for pregnant women are essential to get extra amount of folate and other necessary nutrients for the healthy development of the fetus during the entire term. Due to the growing acceptance of herbal products, a lot of pregnant women are inclined to select these types of supplements. For one, they might have already been taking one type of herbal supplement for an existing condition while others might be taking it to alleviate the physical discomforts that come with pregnancy. However, not all herbal supplements should be taken as they might cause possible side effects on the baby.
Quinine. Quinine is present in a lot of drinks such as tonic water. This is commonly utilized because of its somewhat tart taste. It was discovered that a woman who took over a liter of water everyday when she was pregnant caused the baby to suffer from withdrawal symptoms upon birth. The baby demonstrated nervous quivers a day right after it was born which slowly dissipated after two months. For this reason Germany's BFR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) cautioned women against taking quinine drinks while pregnant and that quinine drink should be classified as a medicinal item.
Ginseng. In a recent study at the Chinese University of the Hong Kong Prince of Wales Hospital, over 20 active ingredients of the ginseng plant was discovered to be present in a number of supplements. On an experiment conducted on rats, they have confirmed that pregnant rats that were given the active ingredient had abnormal embryo growth and consequently caused some abnormalities on the development of the fetus.
Of course, the effect on rat embryo and human embryo may not be exactly the same. However, this study shows that ginseng has an active ingredient known as ginsenoside named Rb1. Ginseng contains more than 20 ginsenosides each of which causes dissimilar effects.
There are some encountered complexities when researching on active components of herbal medicines because the herbal extract as a whole may not have the same total effect compared to a single component. The main explanation for this is that the active ingredients simultaneously work with and against each other. This is also one of the reasons why the procedure was not tested on women and thus will not have a definitive conclusion on the real effect of ginseng on the development of a human embryo. Just for safety precaution ginseng should be avoided during the first three months of pregnancy or as the proponents of the study recommends, at best for the entire period of pregnancy. We are not saying that ginseng is a hazardous substance as the findings were very based only on initial studies and more research and studies has to be conducted to get a solid conclusion.
Ginkgo Biloba. This is another supplement that is recommended not to be taken by pregnant women. Studies done at Wayne State University in Detroit discovered that one of the components of ginkgo biloba which is an alkaloid called colchicines in the placenta of a woman who has been taking the supplement. While Colchicines has medical value as an anti-inflammatory, taken in large doses can cause death. Still other studies found out that colchicines can negatively affect fetal development. The complication that can happen when taking ginkgo biloba is that colchicines is not expelled out of the body but rather stays and builds up in the womb just like taking in coffee excessively. The researchers made it clear that the study did not solidly established that ginkgo causes problems in the pregnancy; rather, they only observed the concentration of colchicines in the womb.