There is considerable debate about the use of chamomile during pregnancy. The bottom line is that this herb can cause severe allergic reactions and it is also a mild uterine stimulant. For these reasons, many sources, including government agencies like Health Canada, recommend avoiding chamomile during pregnancy. A doctor should be consulted before using any herbal ingredient, as herbs can contain compounds that may be harmful for the fetus or could endanger the pregnancy.
Chamomile is a member of the ragweed family that has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. It can be used as a topical rinse for skin conditions and oral ulcers and can also be consumed for anxiety and upset stomach. Since many pregnant women experience these symptoms, some specifically encounter recommendations to take chamomile tea, and many pregnant women who drink chamomile tea during pregnancy experience no ill effects.
A single cup of chamomile tea periodically is unlikely to cause problems unless a woman is allergic to plants in the ragweed family. It is advisable to check with a doctor first and women with a history of miscarriages should definitely avoid chamomile, even in mild teas. The tea can help settle the stomach, but there are alternative ingredients that are safer, like ginger, that offer the same benefits.
Consuming more than one cup of chamomile tea is not recommended, and chamomile essential oils and extracts should be avoided during pregnancy. The risk with stronger preparations of chamomile during pregnancy is that the compounds in the herb are concentrated, and women may receive a dose high enough to trigger contractions. Unless a woman is working with a physician to induce labor, taking chamomile during pregnancy is not recommended because there is a risk of premature labor.
The conflicting information available about chamomile during pregnancy reflects a lack of controlled research on the use of this herb in pregnant women. This is a common problem with both herbs and pharmaceutical products, because researchers do not want to endanger pregnant women and their babies by testing compounds on them during pregnancy. As a result, researchers have to rely on individual reports about pregnancy outcomes in association with certain medications and herbs to collect information about pregnancy safety. In the case of chamomile, there have been some reports of miscarriages correlated with use of chamomile during pregnancy, but other factors may have been involved and it is possible that the herb was not a direct cause or was not even involved. For example, a woman might have taken the herb for cramps that preceded a miscarriage.