Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines During the Third Trimester

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To estimate the prevalence, indications, and associated factors for complementary and alternative medicine use during the last trimester of pregnancy.

METHODS:

A questionnaire survey was conducted of women with a live birth (N=700) admitted to the postnatal unit at the Royal Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, northeast Scotland. Outcome measures included: complementary and alternative medicine used; vitamins and minerals used; reasons for complementary and alternative medicine use; independent associated factors for use; views; and experiences. Descriptive and inferential statistical analysis was performed.

RESULTS:

The response rate was 79.6% of eligible women. Two thirds of respondents (61.4%) reported using complementary and alternative medicine, excluding vitamins and minerals, during the third trimester. Respondents reported using a total of 30 different complementary and alternative medicine modalities, of which oral herbal products were the most common (38% of respondents, 40 different products). The independent associated factors for complementary and alternative medicine use identified were: complementary and alternative medicine use before pregnancy (odds ratio [OR] 4.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.39–7.95, P<.001); a university education (OR 2.41, 95% CI 1.46–4.0, P=.001), and complementary and alternative medicine use by family or friends (OR 2.36, 95% CI 1.61–3.47, P<.001). There was no association with health care professional recommendations. Users were significantly more likely than nonusers to agree that complementary and alternative medicines were safer than prescribed medicines (P=.006), less likely to be associated with side effects (P≤.001), and could interfere with conventional medicines (P≤.001).

CONCLUSION:

Despite the majority of respondents, and notably users, being uncertain about their safety and effectiveness, complementary and alternative medicine modalities and complementary and alternative medicine products are widely used during the third trimester of pregnancy in this study population. Although prior use was the most significant independent associated factor, the role of family and friends, rather than health professionals, in the decision to use complementary and alternative medicine may be of concern.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

III

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