Kratom comes from tropical evergreen trees that can be found in Southeast Asia. Used traditionally in its native region for many years, kratom has more recently gained popularity around the world as a natural botanical that can produce a variety of beneficial effects.
As with any medication, supplement, or botanical, there are potential risks and considerations for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding. Foods, drinks, medications, and supplements consumed by mothers may be absorbed into the bloodstream and ultimately wind up in their breast milk, exposing newborns to some of the same components.
Although kratom is a naturally derived product, individuals who consume kratom on a regular basis should talk with a medical professional prior to using kratom when pregnant, or while breastfeeding. The safety of kratom use is still the subject of ongoing research — this is especially important to consider for individuals that are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Why Breastfeeding Mothers May Consume Kratom
Although kratom has no FDA-approved medical uses, it has gained popularity as a natural botanical and is used both recreationally and for specific benefits. While new mothers should discuss the use of any new medication or supplement with their doctor first, there are a few common reasons why mothers might be interested in exploring the use of kratom after giving birth.
Sleep Support and Relaxation
The period of time right after bringing a newborn home can be particularly disruptive, especially for new parents. Newborns can have very uneven sleep cycles and need to be fed and attended to more frequently, which can be a major source of stress for mothers, as well as making it difficult to get adequate sleep.
One of the benefits of kratom is its ability to support relaxation and reduce restlessness, providing a natural way to relieve feelings of unease and calm down from the stresses and demands of maternity.
Pregnancy can affect a mother’s body in a number of ways. A woman’s body undergoes a major transformation throughout the pregnancy, including before, during, and after. Recovery from delivery varies from individual to individual, but it can include abdominal pain, trouble sleeping, postpartum depression, constipation, hemorrhoids, hormonal shifts, water retention, weight loss, and overall soreness. Pregnancy aside, breastfeeding itself can be uncomfortable and painful.
It is common for women in recovery to seek natural remedies to help reduce some of the physical discomforts felt after pregnancy. For example, if you are feeling abdominal discomfort, or tenderness and discomfort directly related to breastfeeding, you may wish to utilize botanicals as a natural way to support relief.
Supporting Mood and Emotional Recovery
Postpartum depression — also called the “baby blues” — can take a serious toll on the mental health of mothers. Additionally, mental health and sleep are closely connected, so if you are struggling with your mental health, you may also be struggling with sleep as well. Certain strains of kratom may be able to help with sleep support, as well as with reducing uneasy feelings and helping manage mood. Again, while kratom is not a therapeutic agent, it can confer a mild energy boost that supports productivity and focus. Clinical depression, or postpartum depression, is a serious condition that may require medical treatment or other forms of therapy to address.
Although these pregnancy effects are common, if they persist, you should go see your doctor to talk about options, or simply to ask about the use of kratom to help mitigate the effects.
With any botanical or herbal supplement, there are health risks that result from a lack of industry regulation, an absence of clinical research, and unclear best practices for safe usage. As kratom is currently treated as an herbal supplement in the U.S., it is subject to many of the same industry issues. There are additional potential risks unique to kratom that mothers should be aware of when contemplating its use.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for setting drug requirements and regulations, but there is no FDA regulation regarding kratom. Although there is no regulation, kratom is legal for purchase and consumption within the United States. This can create confusion among consumers and retailers because when an herbal supplement is legal, but not fully regulated, it can become at-risk for contamination and improper use.
According to a study done by Albert Garcia-Romeu — Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences John Hopkins School of Medicine — he states, “although our findings show kratom to be relatively safe according to these self-reports, unregulated medicinal supplements raise concerns with respect to contamination or higher doses of the active chemicals, which could increase negative side effects and harmful responses.” Garcia-Romeu continues: “This is why we advocate for the FDA to regulate kratom, which would require testing for impurities and maintaining safe levels of the active chemicals.”
When drugs, both prescription and botanicals, are regulated, it ensures proper testing, labeling, and safe manufacturing standards. Although it doesn’t guarantee safe consumption, it provides consumers with dosage recommendations, warnings, and other useful information surrounding the herbal supplement.
Although kratom can seem appealing to help with the effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are common side effects of kratom to be aware of — these include:
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
Due to a lack of knowledge and regulations surrounding the botanical and its effects on the body, it can be hard to understand whether or not these side effects can be passed on to the baby when breastfeeding.
The studies surrounding kratom pharmacology indicate that there are 20+ active compounds and alkaloids found in kratom. Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the two compounds that are noted to produce varying effects when taken in specific dosages. It is well-known that what you consume affects your breastmilk, and studies have shown a correlation between maternal kratom use and neonatal abstinence syndrome as well. Therefore, you should avoid kratom consumption during your pregnancy, or afterward when breastfeeding to avoid any chance of your child consuming kratom compounds that may lead to withdrawal.
The bottom line is that kratom is not regulated currently, and without FDA research, regulation, and information, the safety of this botanical (during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or at any time) is relatively unknown. As mentioned above, if you are looking for natural botanicals to help aid against the negative effects of pregnancy or breastfeeding, please consult with your personal doctor or a healthcare professional first.