Herb Safety in Pregnancy | Healthy Seminars

Herb Safety in Pregnancy

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Herb Safety in Pregnancy


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This course will attempt to answer a question that is rarely addressed in Chinese medical texts: Can herbs cause birth defects? We will study the mistakes that modern medicine has made on this issue and explore the potential for similar errors in modern Chinese medical reasoning.

Based on a survey of Eastern and Western research, we will assess the risk of fetal harm and developmental disabilities from herbs that are commonly prescribed to pregnant women and describe the ethical obligations for informed consent that are incumbent upon Chinese medical providers.

  1. The basis for pregnancy indications and contraindications in traditional Chinese materia medicas.
  2. Survey of birth defects and incidence in the general population.
  3. Lessons learned from modern history.
    1. Thalidomide: The story of a medical catastrophe.
    2. DES: A multigenerational pregnancy risk.
    3. Isotretinoin (Accutane): Warnings that went unheeded.
  4. FDA pregnancy categories.
  5. Natural substances and birth defects
    1. Morning sickness, ochratoxin A, and the dangers of contaminated food
    2. Polyphenols and prenatal constriction of the ductus arteriosis
    3. Licorice and the risk of pre-term birth and cognitive disorders.
  6. Evidence of herb-induced fetal harm from animal studies
  7. Epidemiological evidence of fetal harm from An Tai Yin and Huang Lian.
  8. Evidence of Chinese herb benefits from Cochrane Collaboration, and risk-benefit analysis
  9. The responsibility of informed consent
  10. Does modern evidence conflict with the traditional paradigm? Discussion on differential diagnosis as a form of risk management.

To me, Chinese medicine is more than a healing art; it’s a movement—a movement to change the system of medical care in America. My job as a teacher is to prepare my students to become the future leaders in this movement.

After graduating from acupuncture school in 1983, I focused my career on bringing acupuncture to community health care projects in Chicago, IL, working in areas such as substance abuse and HIV/AIDS treatment. I helped start programs that brought acupuncture to impoverished inner city communities - places where natural healing services were virtually unheard of. Long before the term “integrative care” was coined, I was working side-by-side with nurses and medical doctors.

Through these experiences I learned first-hand what acupuncture has to offer the modern health care system. But more importantly, I saw the need for more rigorous acupuncture training. I came to realize that if acupuncture were to grow and become a permanent part of mainstream medical care, the educational process needed to be more grounded in real-life clinical experience. In the spring of 2000, I was offered an associate professorship at Northwestern and I jumped at the opportunity.

My goal since then has been to provide my students with the tools they need to apply acupuncture and Oriental medicine in real-world settings; to work as team members in Western medical care delivery; and to reduce the need for drugs and surgery. I feel grateful for the opportunity to work in an institution that has one of the most sophisticated internship systems in the country, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to watch former students take acupuncture and Oriental medicine into places it has never gone before.

$75.00 USD

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Course Reviews

Great Webinar - Regina

I will feel more confident addressing patient concerns regarding safety of using Chinese herbal medicine in pregnancy even though it is uncomfortable to have to tell patients there are risks. ~ Jennie

Uncomfortable but necessary topic! ~ Kirsten

Very well presented... and extremely valuable information.  Most of the info confirmed what I suspected when I was pregnant IN Acupuncture school and offered herbs by my midwife/Acu.  Granted, far more reliable double-blind studies need to be performed, and there are just too many variables to comfortably persuade me 100% in either direction.  But when dealing with the development of a human child, it is far better to be safe than sorry. ~ Monica

I did not find this information offensive in any way. I found this lecture appropriately informative on a very serious topic. It enables us to be more responsible practitioners. I find the under education of patients by many fields of medicine appalling and I do not want to be part of a field that fails to properly inform their patients. Particularly in regards to fertility support where matters are often time sensitive and have generational and community wide impact. Thank you very much for compiling this information and being a voice on this difficult topic. ~ Lauren

I thought the lecture was good. ~ Cheryl

This was a helpful and thought-provoking course. I wasn't satisfied with the way obstetrical herbal medicine was touched on in my school program, and this clarified a lot for me. Any intervention in pregnancy should be undertaken with care, caution, and informed consent -- a reality that is clear with any study of the history of obstetrics in this country or elsewhere. John did a good job in contextualizing the risks and uncertainties of Chinese herbal medicine through a discussion of a few of western medicine's mistakes (e.g., thalidomide, DES) and the limited studies on both risks and efficacy of Chinese herb usage.  While it's uncomfortable to consider the possible dangers of our own medicine, I think it is an incredibly important discussion to have. ~ Ruth

The course was very informational