Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2018-01-01)

The Impact of Previous Pregnancy Loss on Lactating Behaviors and Use of Herbal Medicines during Breastfeeding: A Post Hoc Analysis of the Herbal Supplements in Breastfeeding InvesTigation (HaBIT)

  • Alessandra Bettiol,
  • Niccolò Lombardi,
  • Ettore Marconi,
  • Giada Crescioli,
  • Roberto Bonaiuti,
  • Valentina Maggini,
  • Eugenia Gallo,
  • Alessandro Mugelli,
  • Fabio Firenzuoli,
  • Claudia Ravaldi,
  • Alfredo Vannacci

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2018


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Introduction. Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) are commonly used among lactating women, despite the poor knowledge of these products and of their safety. Perception of pregnancy- and breastfeeding-related difficulties and consequent use of CAMs may differ in bereaved women, by force of the distress related to previous loss, although no literature evidence is available. This Herbal supplements in Breastfeeding InvesTigation (HaBIT) post hoc analysis explored the impact of previous pregnancy loss on lactating behaviors and on use of CAMs during breastfeeding. Methods. A web-based survey was conducted among lactating women with no previous alive child, resident in Tuscany (Italy). Data on lactating behavior and on CAMs use were collected and evaluated among women with previous pregnancy loss as compared to control women. Results. Out of 476 women answering the questionnaire, 233 lactating women with one child were considered. Of them, 80 had history of pregnancy loss. Cesarean birth was significantly more frequent among women with history of pregnancy loss as compared to controls (41% versus 22%; p=0.004). Proportion, length of exclusive breastfeeding, and occurrence of breastfeeding-related complications were comparable among the two cohorts. More than half of women used CAMs during breastfeeding. Use of CAMs was more frequent among women with previous pregnancy loss (54% versus 68%; p=0.050), specifically considering herbal preparations (16% versus 30%; p=0.018). Major advisors for CAMs use were midwives. 18% and 23% of women without and with history of pregnancy loss declared no clear perception on CAMs efficacy and safety. Conclusion. Overcoming the social taboo of pregnancy loss and training healthcare professionals for an adequate management of the perinatal period are essential for an effective and safe care. Despite the common use and advice on CAMs use during breastfeeding, it is important to acknowledge that limited evidence supports their safety and efficacy during such critical period.