Turmeric is safe to consume during pregnancy in small amounts. Pregnant women should avoid using supplements or taking medicinal quantities of this spice, however.
Turmeric is a spice that people have used for thousands of years for both flavor and medicinal properties. Turmeric root has anti-inflammatory effects and is rich in antioxidants.
Read on to learn about the potential risks and benefits of turmeric during pregnancy and discover how to include turmeric in meals, drinks, and snacks.
Researchers have not carried out studies on the safety of turmeric consumption during pregnancy in humans.
However, fresh or dried turmeric is likely to be safe when pregnant women consume it in small amounts, e.g., the amounts typically found in meals, such as curries and other dishes.
Pregnant women should avoid taking medicinal quantities of turmeric. This includes capsules or supplements containing turmeric or curcumin, which is its key active ingredient.
Ground turmeric used in cooking contains lower amounts of curcumin than supplements.
Taking large amounts of curcumin during pregnancy may alter levels of the hormone estrogen in the body, which can cause uterine contractions or bleeding. These effects could be enough to trigger pregnancy loss or early labor.
Research on turmeric and curcumin
Although there are no research studies on the effect of turmeric on pregnant women, there are some on pregnant animals. A 2007 study indicates that rats born to females who consumed curcumin during pregnancy had a slightly lower body weight.
A later study in mice also links curcumin intake with a lower rate of implantation and a lower fetal weight. These findings indicate that the substance may harm the development of the embryo and hinder implantation.
However, research on non-pregnant female rats suggests that large amounts of turmeric or curcumin may benefit the female reproductive system in a variety of ways. One study indicates that curcumin may reduce ovarian cysts in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example.
Research also indicates that curcumin inhibits the growth of endometrial cells by reducing estrogen production in animals.
It is not possible to confirm whether the results would be the same in pregnant women because researchers have not done any studies with this cohort.
Therefore, it may be best for pregnant women to be cautious and limit the consumption of turmeric during pregnancy.
Numerous studies report on the benefits of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties in non-pregnant people.
Because of the lack of information about curcumin and pregnancy, healthcare professionals advise that pregnant women do not consume medicinal amounts of turmeric. However, the small quantities found in meals and drinks may have some health benefits, including:
Prevention of preeclampsia and other adverse outcomes
Excessive inflammation may result in adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as restricted fetal growth and preeclampsia.
According to a 2017 study on pregnant mice, curcumin may inhibit inflammation. This may lead to:
- reduced systolic blood pressure and proteinuria (symptoms of preeclampsia)
- an increased number of live births
- increased fetal weight
- increased placental weight
- decreased fetal resorption rate (the disintegration and assimilation of the fetus in the uterus)
Another test tube study also indicates that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity could potentially prevent preeclampsia.
These studies did not involve humans, so researchers cannot say whether curcumin will produce the same results in pregnant women.
Fetal brain development
Inflammation may affect the neurological development of the fetus. A 2018 study reports that high levels of inflammation during pregnancy has associations with lower functional memory scores in the infants at age 2.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), maternal inflammation in the early stages of pregnancy may also contribute to an increased risk of autism in some children.
Better oral health
During pregnancy, women often experience bleeding gums. Known as gingivitis, this inflammation and bleeding result from hormonal fluctuations. Research estimates that 30–100% of women have gingivitis during pregnancy.
While eating meals containing curcumin may reduce inflammation, it is also possible to use the compound topically to stop gingivitis and swelling.
In one study on non-pregnant people, researchers found that turmeric mouthwash has comparable antiplaque, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties to a standard antimicrobial mouthwash for gingivitis.
However, pregnant women who want to use a turmeric mouthwash should do so with caution. Always check that the product has a low turmeric content and speak to a doctor first.
Pregnant women can add turmeric to their meals and drinks for color and flavor. It is safe to use the powdered spice or fresh turmeric root in recommended amounts.
- sprinkling turmeric on top of cooked eggs, grains, or vegetables
- blending turmeric into smoothies or juices
- making turmeric tea, using a teaspoon of turmeric and a squeeze of lemon in a cup of boiling water and sweetening with honey
- stirring turmeric — along with a pinch of black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger — into warm milk to create golden milk
- adding grated turmeric root to the pot when making vegetable soup or stew
Turmeric during pregnancy is likely safe when people consume it in the amounts typically present in foods and drinks.
Most experts agree that pregnant women should avoid consuming the medicinal quantities of curcumin that supplements contain. Although researchers cannot confirm the actual risks of pregnant women consuming large amounts of curcumin, there is the potential that it could trigger early labor or miscarriage.
Culinary amounts of turmeric may still provide several anti-inflammatory related benefits to pregnant women, especially when they consume the spice as part of a balanced diet.
Those who have concerns or questions about using turmeric when they are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss them with their doctor.