Although, medicinal plants have been important for women’s health historically, the knowledge about such use during pregnancy in developing countries is limited. This is the first quantitative, ethnobotanical study on Malian women’s use of and attitudes towards the use of medicinal plants during pregnancy.
The aim of the study was to describe Malian women’s use of medicinal plants during pregnancy according to indications and to evaluate the potentially safety of such use. The overall aim was to preserve valuable information about medicinal plants for women’s reproductive health for the future.
Data was collected through structured interviews of 209 pregnant women or mothers in three health care centers in Mali. The women were interviewed about their uses of medicinal plants during pregnancy and their attitudes to such use. Nine specific medicinal plants commonly used in Mali and treatment of eleven common ailments in pregnancy were specifically queried about.
In total, 79.9 % had used medicinal plants during pregnancy. Only 17 women (8.5 %) had received a recommendation from a traditional practitioner (TP). The most commonly used medicinal plants were Lippia chevalieri (55.5 %), Combretum micranthum (39.7 %), Parkia biglobosa (12.0 %) and Vepris heterophylla (8.1 %). The most common reasons for use were for well-being (37.7 %), symptoms of malaria (37.1 %) and ”increased salt-elimination” (to reduce edema) (19.2 %). For treatment of symptoms of malaria and urinary tract infections during pregnancy, the women’s choices of medicinal plants agreed with those previously reported from interviews with TPs. Almost 30 % believed that medicinal plants had no adverse effects for the mother.
This study showed an extensive use and knowledge of medicinal plants during pregnancy in three regions in Mali. However, exclusive use of medicinal plants as treatment of malaria and urinary tract infections during pregnancy may pose a health risk for the mother and her unborn child. A wider collaboration with TPs, with local communities and conventional health workers of the health care centers, on the safe use of medicinal plants, is important to promote safer pregnancies and better health care for pregnant women and their unborn infants in Mali.
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