Based on information from various clinical studies, it appears that saw palmetto and pregnancy are not compatible. Since the herbal supplement decreases the amount of DHT (a substance important for male genital development) in the body, it could cause genital abnormalities in male fetuses. There is also some evidence that saw palmetto may have anti-estrogenic effects, which could have a negative effect on pregnant women.
Saw Palmetto and Pregnancy: An Overview
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an herb that is often used in supplements for treating an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Saw palmetto has effects on different hormones, and it is not recommended for use in pregnant women.
Is Saw Palmetto Safe for Pregnant Women?
Even though saw palmetto is a "natural" product, it does not automatically imply that it is safe for use during pregnancy. The herbal supplement works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), thereby decreasing the amount of DHT in the body. Since DHT is important for male genital development, if taken during pregnancy, theoretically, saw palmetto could cause abnormalities to the external genitals of a male fetus.
A few prescription medications (used for enlarged prostate and male pattern baldness) work much like saw palmetto. These medications carry strong warnings that urge pregnant women not to take the medication. In fact, pregnant women are warned against even touching these medications. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that these precautions should also apply to saw palmetto.
There is also some evidence that saw palmetto may have anti-estrogenic effects. Estrogen is an important hormone in pregnancy, and any disruptions could cause problems.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 4, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: saw palmetto (May 2006). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/palmetto/. Accessed January 4, 2008.
eMedTV serves only as an informational resource. This site does not dispense medical advice or advice of any kind.
Site users seeking medical advice about their specific situation should consult with their own physician. Click