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Herb Use, Vitamin Use, and Diet in Low-Income, Postpartum Women


Address correspondence to Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, 1 Boston Medical Center Place, Dowling 5 South, Boston, MA 02118. E-mail:



Little is known about herb use among underserved postpartum women and their patterns of communication about herb use with prenatal providers.


We interviewed women from the postpartum unit at an urban hospital about herb use during pregnancy, socioeconomic factors, prenatal vitamin use, and diet. We asked women if they discussed use of herbs and vitamins with their prenatal care providers and asked about their satisfaction with these discussions. We reviewed inpatient chart medication lists for herb use.


Of 160 women surveyed, 39% reported using herbs during pregnancy. Sixty-five percent of participants took a prenatal vitamin. Fifty-seven percent of herb users (n = 40) reported taking prenatal vitamins. Herb users were significantly more likely to report making any dietary change during their pregnancies than non-herb users (P = .03). Only 38% of herb users discussed it with their prenatal providers, and 82% were satisfied with the conversation. Of all 160 participants, 125 had prenatal vitamin use documented, and no women had herbal medicine use documented in the medical record during their birth hospitalization.


We report a higher frequency of herb use during pregnancy than other studies. The fact that women of all backgrounds and economic statuses report using herbs during pregnancy makes it even more important for all women to be asked about their use of herbs.

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