Even though red clover is an herb, it does not mean that it is safe for use during pregnancy. In fact, because red clover may have anti-estrogen effects, it could cause serious problems during pregnancy. Therefore, if you are using red clover and pregnancy occurs, you should talk to your healthcare provider about the possible risks and benefits of using red clover.
An Overview of Red Clover and Pregnancy
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is an herb that is often used in supplements for treating menopause symptoms. In postmenopausal women, red clover may have estrogen-like effects, although it seems to work as an anti-estrogen in women who have normal or high estrogen levels (such as premenopausal women or pregnant women). Because of these effects, there is some concern that red clover may not be safe for use during pregnancy.
Is Red Clover Safe for Pregnant Women?
Even though red clover is a "natural" product, it does not automatically imply that it is safe for use during pregnancy. Red clover contains phytoestrogens (also known as isoflavones or plant estrogens). These naturally occurring compounds are similar to estrogen. They bind to estrogen receptors, although they are weaker than normal estrogens. As a result, they may act as anti-estrogens because they bind to estrogen receptors that would otherwise be stimulated by normal estrogens, which are more potent. Because estrogen is an important hormone in pregnancy, any medication or herb that acts as an anti-estrogen could cause serious problems.
It is not known if red clover is safe for pregnant women. You may hear or read that it is a wonderful cure-all for anything that ails a pregnant woman, but it is wise to avoid this herb during pregnancy until more information is available.
If you are pregnant, it is always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement. If a natural medicine practitioner recommends that you use red clover during pregnancy, it would be wise to check with another healthcare provider, just to be safe.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 9, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: red clover (June 2006). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/redclover/. Accessed January 9, 2008.
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