Purpose: The present study aimed to explore the use of herbal products among a sample of Italian pregnant women and the possible influence of herbal consumption on pregnancy outcome. Methods: The study was conducted over a 10 month period (2 days a week, from January to October 2009) at the Maternity wards of Padua and Rovereto Hospital. Data were collected through a face-to-face interview on the basis of a prestructured questionnaire including socio-demographic characteristics of the enrolled subjects, specific questions on herbal use, information about pregnancy and newborn. Results: In total, 392 interviews were considered. One hundred and nine out of 392 women (27.8%) reported to have been taking one or more herbal products during pregnancy, in the 36.7% of cases throughout all pregnancy. The most frequently herbs taken by interviewees were chamomile, licorice, fennel, aloe, valerian, echinacea, almond oil, propolis, and cranberry. Four out of 109 women (3.7%) reported side-effects: constipation after a tisane containing a mix of herbs, rash and itching after local application of aloe or almond oil. The decision to use herbal products was mainly based on personal judgement and on the conviction that these natural substances would be safer than traditional medicines. Users were more often affected by morbidities pregnancy-related and their neonates were more frequently small for their gestational age. An higher incidence of threatening miscarriages and preterm labours was observed among regular users of chamomile and licorice. Conclusions: This research underlines that the use of herbal products during pregnancy is common among Italian women, not always appropriate and in some cases potentially harmful. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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