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Herbal medicines pregnancy alert

Herbal medicines readily available in the UK may raise the risk of severe congenital malformations, a new study warns.

GP should raise the issue of herbal medicine with all pregnant women and those attempting to conceive, advised a UK member of the research team.

Dr Pat Doyle, reader in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: 'We have to be careful ­ this is one study, but it's a red flag. It's statistically significant and cause for concern.'

The study, which examined 14,551 live births in Taipei, Taiwan, linked two herbal medicines with a substantially increased risk of serious mal- formations, even after adjusting for confounders.

Use of huang lian in the first trimester increased the risk of nervous system malformations nearly nine-fold. Taking tai yin raised the risk of eye malformations seven-fold, and of musculoskeletal and connective tissue malformations by 61 per cent.

The researchers, whose study was published in the latest issue of Drug Safety, were unable to investigate whether the effects were due to toxicity of the medicines, misuse or contamination.

'Nonetheless, we would advise caution on use of herbal medicines during pregnancy, and suggest further investigation is warranted,' they said.

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