The Implications Of Traditional Medicine Among Pregnant Women In Anambra State


The Implications Of Traditional Medicine Among Pregnant Women In Anambra State

Background Information

Herbal medicines are defined as plant-derived material or preparations perceived to have therapeutic benefits; they often contain raw or processed ingredients from one or more plants (WHO, 2000). Herbal medicines include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products that contain parts of plants or other plant materials as active ingredients (WHO, 2008).



The use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (T/CAM) is growing in both developed and developing countries (Brodeker& Kronenberg, 2002). T/CAM is a blanket term for healing practices other than conventional medicine (Yekta, et. al, 2007; Silenzion, 2002). ). Herbal medicine is a significant component of many T/CAM forms. In some regions, the herbal medicine industry generates billions of dollars in revenue annually (Hayes, 2010; WHO, 2008). The prevalence of use of T/CAMs is highest in the African and Asian region, where up to 80% of the population relies on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs (WHO, 2008). In some developed regions, general prevalence of use may be as high as 50% for complementary and alternative medicine (Silenzio, 2002).

Herbal medicine, as a form of T/CAM is used to treat various chronic and infectious illnesses but data on patterns of use and related health concerns is still lacking (WHO, 2008; Brodeker& Kronenberg, 2002). Although research into T/CAMs such as herbal medicine is growing, much still focuses on “clinical, regulatory, and supply oriented issues to the general neglect of wider public health dimensions” (p1582, Brodeker& Kronenberg, 2002). The World Health Organization proposes four areas of actions to maximize the role of T/CAM in public health: national policy and regulation; safety, efficacy and quality; access; and rational use (Bodeker &Kronenberg, 2002).

The health outcomes of use of some herbal medicines have been documented in studies and case reports (Weneker, et al, 2004; Tiran, 2003). Potential risks from concomitant use of biomedical and herbal treatments have also been documented (Giriglian and Sun, 1998; Tiran, 2003; Weneker et al. 2004). However, for many herbal medications, health outcomes as well as potential drug-herb interactions in concomitant use are still unknown. Often, people consider herbal products “natural” and thus “safe” (WHO, 2008). There is a need for patient-health practitioner communication about herbal medicine use in order to discuss risks and benefits and best treatment to follow (Brodeker and Kronenberg, 2002; Grigliano, 1998; Tiran, 2003; Weneker et al., 2004; Langloid-Klassen et al., 2007; Anderson and Johnson, 2005).

This study will explore the use of herbal medicine among women of reproductive age during pregnancy, labour and post-partum period in an urban setting in Embu town, Kenya. A report by Family Care International (2003) revealed heavy reliance on herbal medicine during antenatal, labour and post-partum periods in the rural areas of Migori and Homabay districts of Kenya. Besides issues of access, affordability and poor health service, women also preferred traditional forms of care for illnesses perceived to be outside the scope of western medicine. Herbalists and traditional birth attendant’s herbal medicines were also trusted for general well-being in various stages of pregnancy and for easy delivery during labour. A few studies show significant use in other regions as well, such as the rural US (40%) (Glover, et al., 2003), Taiwan (20%) (Hsiao-Yun Yeh, et al., 2009), and urban Ghana (50%) (Addo 2007). These studies show a high prevalence of herbal medicine use despite access to biomedicine. Additionally, gynaecologists and obstetricians were often unaware of use of herbal medicine among their patients (Glover, et. al., 2003).