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Health Zone: What's up Doc?


Q A FRIEND has recommended Raspberry Leaf Tea as she says it will help during pregnancy. I am worried because I've also heard it can lead to premature labour. Is it safe and how, if at all, does it help?

A From Sue Jacobs, midwife at the Royal College of Midwives: Women use a range of herbal remedies during pregnancy. Unfortunately, we do not always have adequate information about the benefits and side-effects.

Raspberry leaves contain minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium. Women have used the tea to help morning sickness, to strengthen the uterus and regulate contractions during labour.

The advice is conflicting in that it is believed to help relax the uterus, but can possibly cause premature labour. There is also some evidence it may contribute to miscarriage in early pregnancy.

My advice is that taking any herbs without supervision is unwise in pregnancy. A herbal practitioner can offer help. If you and your baby are both fine and the pregnancy is progressing well, there is no reason to drink raspberry leaf tea. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol, taking gentle exercise and getting adequate rest.

Q I HAVE high blood pressure and my doctor would like me to take Coumadin to thin the blood. Do you know of any herbs which have a similar effect, which I could take alongside or instead of it?

A From herbalist Jenny Boyes: Coumadin (Warfarin) works as an anticoagulant - it slows blood clotting and is used to treat high blood pressure by thinning the blood in the veins, thus easing pressure on the heart.

It interacts with some vitamins and minerals, notably, Co-enzyme Q10, iron, zinc, magnesium, Vitamins C, D, E and K. Eating large quantities of Vitamin K-containing vegetables, such as broccoli, sprouts and spinach, may adversely affect the drug's efficiency. There is also some evidence that eating more than a clove of garlic a day might interact with Coumadin.

However, herbs that contain some Coumadin-like substances include gingko bilboa, ginger, garlic, red clover, horse chestnut, Asian and Siberian ginseng. These act in a similar way to Coumadin by reducing the stickiness of blood platelets. This is why gingko is popular in treating older-age hearing loss and tinnitis, and memory loss, by increasing blood circulation to the head.

Other herbs with similar properties include dong quai, fenugreek and devil's claw. I strongly suggest you do not treat yourself with over-the-counter preparations - find a qualified herbalist to treat you holistically. Always tell your doctor before stopping any medication.

Q I WAS married when I was 18 and by the age of 25 I had three children. I decided I did not want any more, and was sterilised. I am 36 now, my husband left me two years ago, but I have met a new man and we eventually want a child together. What will the reversal process involve?

A From gynaecologist, Anne Szarewski: The number of requests for sterilisation reversal is increasing as more young people start families with new partners. However, it is not without problems and there is no guarantee of success. It depends on how the original operation was performed. If the tubes were completely removed there is no chance of reversal, and the Diathermy technique often damages the tubes so badly that the chances of success are small. Best results occur when the original sterilisation was performed using Filshie clips.

A sterilisation reversal is a much bigger operation than a laparoscopic sterilisation. The surgeon needs the best possible access to the tubes.

After the operation, there is a risk of your pregnancy being ectopic because of the surgically damaged tubes. This can be very serious.

However, success rates of up to 90 per cent have been achieved after the use of clips and around 50 per cent after other techniques.

DO you have a health question? Write to: Health Zone, The Mirror, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AP or email healthzone@mgn. (Sorry, but our experts cannot answer letters personally).
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 20, 2001
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