Open Access Research article

Complementary and Alternative Medicine use in women during pregnancy: do their healthcare providers know?

Lisa Strouss12*, Amy Mackley1, Ursula Guillen12, David A Paul12 and Robert Locke12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Christiana Care Health System, 4745 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Newark, DE, USA

2 Jefferson Medical College, 1025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:85  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-85

Published: 4 March 2014



The National Institutes of Health reported in 2007 that approximately 38% of United States adults have used at least one type of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). There are no studies available that assess general CAM use in US pregnant women.

The objectives of our study were to determine the prevalence and type of CAM use during pregnancy at one medical center; understand who is using CAM and why they are using it; and assess the state of patients’ CAM use disclosure to their obstetrical providers.


A cross-sectional survey study of post-partum women was done to assess self-reported CAM use during pregnancy. Results of this survey were compared to results from a previous survey performed by this research team in 2006. Data were analyzed using binary logistic regression.


In 2013, 153 women completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 74.3%. Seventy-two percent and 68.5% of participants reported CAM use during their pregnancies in 2006 and 2013 respectively. The percentage of participants who reported discussing CAM use with their obstetrical providers was less than 1% in 2006 and 50% in 2013. Increased use of different CAM therapies was associated with increased maternal age, primagravida, being US-born, and having a college education (p ≤ 0.05). However, these factors were poor predictors of CAM use.


Given the frequency of CAM use and the difficulty in predicting who is using it, obstetrical providers should consider being informed about CAM and incorporating discussions about its use into routine patient assessments.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Pregnancy; Maternal-fetal health; Patient-physician communication; Self-care; Prevalence; Cross-sectional study