Steph, glad it was mostly covered!
Update on job: They really want me, but they also don't feel they can wait a year. They asked if I would be willing to start part-time, say when babe would be 4 months. If it were local, that might be doable, but it involves a big move and/or travel on my part. Lots of thinking to do here.
Originally Posted by Hykue
I just wanted to vent about the difficulty of finding plausible information about use of herbs during pregnancy. I looked at a few scholarly articles online (not that I can look at most of them since I'm not a subscriber to the journals, nor am I at a university), and could find almost no information about use of nettle during pregnancy. And I got to have the lovely experience of reading the sentence, "An effect on the uterus has been reported in mice, so theoretically, nettle preparations should not be used in pregnancy." Bah! That's like saying, "An effect on the heart has been reported in mice, so theoretically, EXERCISE should not be used by ATHLETES." Come on!
And I never did find one peer-reviewed source for any potential negative effect of nettle tea during pregnancy. The closest I found was a peer-reviewed article that listed nettle on a long table of herbs, and said it was an emenagogue (or however you spell that) and uterine stimulant. The source? Three books, none of them peer-reviewed. In other words, no studies have been done, or at least none that I can find. Which I guess isn't all that surprising - who would fund it?
Anyway, I think I'll just drink it anyway, in moderation. I know it's rich in a lot of vitamins and minerals, and I can collect it for free (as long as I wear gloves) while walking my dogs. RRL too, although the second article I discussed didn't have as much negative to say about RRL and did tentatively say a few positive things. Also, I can freeze the spent leaves into muffin tins and save them for my goats when they're pregnant next year.
I forgot how frustrated I got last time I tried to search for actual studies or anything data-based about herbs. Oh well.
It isn't about funding, though that's part of it, and not necessarily what you would think, either. (It's actually not as hard to get funding for herbal research as it is for some other things. The supplements industry is big money and there is a lot of public support for CAM research so both CIHR and NIH have money for it, etc.) It's primarily about the research climate and pregnancy. It's very hard to get any sort of drug/supplement trial through ethics when pregnant women are involved. You may also need significantly more money for recruitment to get enough participants to make the study worth doing. Basically, the only trials you see coming out for supplements and pregnancy are things like vitamin D supplementation, fish oil, etc. In other words, stuff where there are tons of observational data from the general population, followed by trials in the general population, then observational data from pregnant women, then careful Phase I & II trials, then a tiny Phase III trial, and so on. Basically, if you really lay down the groundwork, you can do research to look for evidence of benefit in things that have potential to be universally useful, but not to look for evidence of harm in things that are currently only used by a fraction of the population, and even then, not in a controlled way.
I don't do pharma research, but I know people who do, and I also know that this is a major, major issue in bioethics. There have been increasing numbers of articles in recent years talking about what a problem it is that so many trials (and even cohort studies!) explicitly exclude pregnant women, because it results in exactly what you point out: it means we have no data. We cannot say whether it's harmful, helpful, or neutral. Awesome. Thanks for protecting pregnant women, ethics boards.
FYI, I'm sure you know that if you want to make the trip to U of R or U of S, you ought to be able to use their library. (I don't know where you are, but I suspect U of S will have a better one.) More useful to know might be that you can always call Motherisk rather than doing the search yourself. You have to pay the long distance changes to Toronto, but otherwise it's free. I've called them a couple of times over the years for pregnancy/breastfeeding related questions. (And I do have institutional access to journals. I just know that it's way faster to call someone who knows the appropriate MeSH terms, regularly uses certain specialized databases and indices, and can do a thorough but also fast search. I also try very hard not to go to primary sources for my own health concerns, because I know what a patchwork I can end up with when I don't have strong background knowledge of the area.)
Anyway, one of my Motherisk calls was about an ingredient in a herbal tea, and the answer I got for that one was that we really don't have a lot of data on it, but there are a lot of data to suggest that it's really quite difficult to get enough of anything in a tea to have a harmful effect. (To me, this also means that it's hard to get enough in a tea to have a helpful effect.)
Loved the athletes analogy, by the way.
And hey, if you really care about this issue, do feel free to inform your MP that you would like to see funding for the national agencies maintained or increased in the upcoming budget. I'm willing to bet that rural SK MPs don't think their constituents care that much about NSERC and CIHR. Independent research only happens when independent researchers can get funding. That funding has been chipped away at over decades, so more and more research has to go through industry sponsorship, which is not always bad, but it does mean that decisions about what questions get asked and answered have a whole different layer to the decision making.