Buffalo wings, jerk chicken, Indian curry… is your mouth watering yet? An estimated 50-90% of women crave specific foods during pregnancy. Food cravings are a common pregnancy symptom, and spicy foods can be among the most commonly-craved foods.
There are many nutritious, spicy foods and dishes out there. Globally spicy foods, herbs, and spices are a vital component of traditional meals eaten worldwide. But are spicy foods safe during pregnancy?
There are tons of myths about eating spicy food during pregnancy. So, I’m dedicating this post to answer the question: can eating spicy food while pregnant cause miscarriage?
Does Spicy Food Cause Miscarriage?
Good news for pregnant women craving spicy food: there is no evidence that eating these fiery foods causes miscarriage or induces labor.
There is no research to indicate that eating spicy foods would be harmful to you or your baby during pregnancy. The idea is nothing more than one of the many pregnancy myths that can cause pregnant women unnecessary stress. It is entirely safe to enjoy spicy food during pregnancy.
Many people believe that eating spicy food is a way to induce labor. This idea has been widely passed around for generations. In one study, researchers found that about 22% of approximately 100 women tried to induce labor by eating spicy foods.
While many claim spicy foods helped them go into labor, research does not back this up. If you’ve reached the 40-week mark and you’re itching to try “natural remedies” to meet the newest member of your family, check out this list of the best foods to induce labor.
We don’t exactly know the cause of pregnancy cravings.
Some may be linked to a specific nutrient you need more of, while others appear to be random or nostalgic for a food enjoyed during childhood. Among the many possible proposed reasons pregnant women may crave spicy foods during pregnancy is due to fluctuating pregnancy hormones that affect the sense of taste and smell. Some theories have also suggested that these cravings could result from cultural influences. There is ongoing research in the area of pregnancy cravings!
Effects (Benefits + Consequences) of Spicy Food During Pregnancy
May Benefit Heart Health and Cholesterol Levels
Including spicy food in your pregnancy diet may benefit your overall health, including your heart health. At least this is seen in non-pregnant individuals!
One study found that people who ate spicy foods five or more times a week had a more favorable lipid panel. The study found that consuming spicy food may increase “good” cholesterol (high-density lipids or HDL) in the blood.
Speaking of heart health, check out my post on heart–healthy foods to enjoy during pregnancy.
Potentially Enhances Infant Food Acceptance
Eating spicy foods can potentially stimulate your growing baby’s taste buds before they’re even born.
One study found that fetal taste receptors develop at 30 weeks gestation. The fetus swallows a small amount of amniotic fluid every day. The flavor of every food a pregnant woman eats seeps into the amniotic fluid, introducing the fetus to different tastes. Therefore, when a pregnant person consumes spicy food, the baby can be exposed to different flavors early on and potentially be more accepting of these flavors when transitioning to solid foods.
One study found that non-pregnant female participants reported having less appetite when 10 grams of red chili peppers were added to their meal compared to females who ate the same meal without red chili peppers. Participants had less desire to eat and fewer feelings of hunger.
This study was not done in pregnant individuals, so that the impact could be different in this population. However, we want to be mindful to continue eating enough calories and nutrients to support a growing baby during pregnancy. It is important to lean into your hunger and craving cues during pregnancy, not suppress them.
Can Make Morning Sickness Worse
Spicy foods are a category of foods that can “mess with” your stomach during pregnancy. The compound capsaicin in spicy food can irritate your digestive system, worsening morning sickness. If you already struggle with nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, you might do better to avoid spicy food until you feel less nauseous.
If nausea is making it hard to get through the day, try some of these snacks that can help provide relief. They’re easier on your stomach than these common foods that upset your stomach during pregnancy.
May Cause Heartburn
One of the most well-known potential side effects of eating spicy food is heartburn. While spicy foods are entirely safe during pregnancy, they can contribute to uncomfortable heartburn and reflux.
Heartburn is common during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. Usually, a muscle called the esophageal sphincter prevents stomach acids from getting into your esophagus, contributing to acid reflux. But heartburn can occur more often because of hormonal changes during pregnancy and slower digestion.
Additionally, as your pregnancy progresses, your organs have less space with the baby growing and “pressing” on them. The organs of your digestive system become cramped, contributing to acid reflux and heartburn. Spicy foods can be a top trigger for heartburn, but some foods may help reduce heartburn during pregnancy.
If the burning flavor of spicy food is too good to resist, keep in mind that you may be left experiencing heartburn afterward. Dietary and lifestyle interventions are a good place to start for heartburn relief. Check out this article if you’re wondering if apple cider vinegar is a pregnancy-safe remedy for heartburn. We also have a free heartburn guide when you download The Prenatal Nutrition Library App.
There is no evidence that eating spicy food will cause miscarriage. It is safe for pregnancy, but it can have some uncomfortable side effects for some people.
If you’re among the many people who crave spicy food during pregnancy, you’re in luck. You don’t have to avoid these foods altogether to protect your baby. However, you might think twice before chowing down on spicy food if you’re prone to heartburn or indigestion.
For access to information on various topics and foods, as well as evidence-based answers to your questions about nutrition during pregnancy, sign up for The Prenatal Nutrition Library. You can download the app for FREE in any app store to take a peek inside and grab your FREE 1-week meal plan!
Also, head to the blog for more info on how to use proper nutrition during every stage of your pregnancy journey. See you there!