Use of herbal medicines among pregnant women a attending antenatal clinic at Kiryandongo General Hospital, Uganda
Objective: To assess the knowledge and use of herbal medicines among pregnant women attending the antenatal clinic at Kiryandongo general hospital.
Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study
Setting: Kiryandongo general hospital in Masindi District, mid-western Uganda.
Subjects: Four hundred (400) pregnant women attending antenatal care (ANC) were interviewed about their knowledge and use of herbal medicines during pregnancy using self-administered questionnaires, during the months of July and August 2013.
Results: Of the 400 women who participated in the study, majority 246 (61.5%)was in the age range of 18 to 24 years old, married 379 (94.8%), stayed in a rural setting 293 (73.3%),had attained primary education 239(59.8%),peasant farmers 209 (52.3%), in monogamous marriage 247 (64.2%), of prime gravidae 117 (29.2%), and Banyoro by tribe 89 (22.3%). Three hundred and fifty (87.5%)of the respondents reported to have ever heard about the use of herbal medicines during pregnancy, with 169 (48.3%) reported having used herbal medicines during previous pregnancies or in the months prior to the study. One hundred and thirty two (37.7%) where found to be using herbal medicines at the time of the study, with the majority of them one hundred and eleven (84.1%) admitting that they will be using herbal medicines again in subsequent pregnancies. One hundred and fifty three (43.7%)considered herbal medicines to be safe during pregnancy and preferred them to conventional medicines because they have low side effects, are cheap and easy to access, and it is part of their tradition to use them during pregnancy.One hundred and ten (31.4%) believed that these herbs are neither dangerous to the mother nor the foetus.
Conclusion: More efficient ways are required to educate the general population about the dangers of self-medication during pregnancy especially to advise pregnant mothers not to expose their unborn child to the risks of herbal medicines. Pharmacological and case control studies will be vital in assessing the efficacy and risks associated with herbal medicine use during pregnancy. Midwives, obstetricians and General Practitioners should facilitate women’s wishes without condemnation, but this must be tempered with accurate information.