It’s quite common for pregnant women to crave spicy food, and many other types of food and flavoring, during pregnancy. And as any experienced mother will tell you, when those food cravings hit during pregnancy, they hit hard. But while you are devouring your nightly plate of Cajun shrimp, you may be wondering, why you are craving spicy food when pregnant, and how you should handle your spice cravings?
Cravings for spicy food during pregnancy may be attributed to fluctuating hormones, high body temperatures, nutritional imbalances, a heightened sense of taste, or sinus congestion. Because pregnant women are more likely to develop stomach upset and heartburn, it is recommended that you introduce spicy foods gradually and limit consumption.
Read on for more information about craving spicy food while pregnant, what it may mean, and how you should handle it. We’ll also cover those old wives’ tales about craving spicy food during pregnancy that you may be wondering about!
Is it normal to crave spicy food while pregnant?
The hormones of pregnancy can change your sense of taste, so that you may start to love and crave foods that never held any appeal for you prior to pregnancy, and be repulsed by your favorite foods.
Food cravings are completely normal, and expected, during pregnancy. Cravings for spicy foods like curry, chili, and hot sauce are fairly common.
For the most part, food cravings during pregnancy are still poorly understood. There has been much speculation and hypothesizing about the different food cravings pregnant women experience, and what they may mean. Many of these theories are proposed by people without medical training and in the absence of medical studies.
There is no one identified cause, or meaning behind, cravings for specific foods during pregnancy. Doctors have suggested various theories regarding the reason for food cravings in general, and spicy food in particular such as hormonal changes during pregnancy, higher body temperatures in an expectant mother, nutritional imbalances, a heightened sense of taste, following a restrictive diet, or sinus congestion.
Is craving spicy food bad for pregnancy?
Eating spicy food does not affect your pregnancy, or put your growing little one at risk in any way. There has been some research with moderate evidence that suggests that indulging in certain foods during pregnancy can change the flavor of your amniotic fluid and breast milk, but there have been no studies on a maternal diet that includes spicy food specifically.
While the spice you crave may be considered to be completely safe during pregnancy for both you and baby, you may still find that it has certain unpleasant after-effects that you never experienced prior to pregnancy. The side effects you may experience after eating spicy food during pregnancy can vary in severity and duration but are normally short-lived. Pregnant women may experience heartburn, develop hemorrhoids, indigestion, diarrhea, or an upset stomach.
Spicy foods are often high in sodium content as well. And a diet high in salt may have you feeling and looking more bloated or puffy after indulging.
While those hot and spicy Buffalo wings you’ve been craving were delicious, you may be paying for them later with some unpleasant heartburn or an upset stomach a few hours later, wondering why you ever thought they were a good idea.
Can eating spicy food cause miscarriage?
Eating spicy food during pregnancy does not cause a miscarriage, or increase your chances of having a miscarriage, this is a hurtful myth not based on fact.
Spicy food does not cause uterine contractions or induce labor in any way, and it will not harm a baby or a pregnancy at all. If you have suffered a miscarriage, spicy food was not to blame (and neither are you!).
While there are many foods that are harmful to consume during pregnancy, spicy foods are not among them on the list of foods pregnant women should avoid. As long as your OB-GYN has not given you any other special dietary restrictions, and you don’t mind a little bit of heartburn later, you can feel free to safely indulge in all the spicy foods that you crave.
What if eating spicy food while pregnant upsets your stomach
Because pregnancy hormones slow your digestive system, heartburn and stomach upset are common during pregnancy.
In the first trimester of pregnancy, eating spicy foods is less likely to cause as many side effects beyond adding to the nausea of existing morning sickness. In the second and third trimester, when your uterus is expanding and pressing on your stomach, eating spicy food can cause heartburn as well, but also indigestion, nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
There are many over-the-counter medicines for heartburn that are unsafe to use while pregnant. If you have heartburn, you can drink some milk or have yogurt to try to find some relief.
Call your doctor if you are experiencing heartburn that doesn’t go away, or before taking any over-the-counter antacids. He or she can prescribe antacids that are safe to take during pregnancy.
Should you avoid any specific spices while pregnant?
There are no known spices that are harmful during pregnancy, but pay attention to any added herbal ingredients to spices you purchase, especially in spice blends and seasonings.
Many spice blends and herbal seasonings contain a long list of ingredients, and some herbs that can actually be harmful to you or your unborn child during pregnancy.
The FDA recommends that pregnant women consult their doctor before ingesting any herbal supplements. There are many herbs that are unsafe during pregnancy and can cause miscarriage, harm to your baby, premature birth, or uterine contractions. These dangerous herbs are contraindicated during pregnancy and should be avoided.
What does it mean if you crave spicy food while pregnant?
While your Great Aunt Lisa may disagree, it does not necessarily mean anything if you crave spicy food while pregnant.
There is no one identified cause or reason for spicy food cravings during pregnancy. There are many possible factors that are suggested to contribute to spicy food cravings, but many theories are not well studied, unproven, or simply pure speculation by people outside of the medical field and online.
According to some studies that have been performed, when pregnant women crave spicy food it may be because they are already feeling overheated with a higher body temperature. Scientifically speaking, this may be your body’s answer to cooling a high body temperature through thermogenesis or the production of heat.
It has also been suggested that food cravings are our body’s way of balancing its nutritional deficiencies and sustaining a good balance of nutrients, that cravings are a result of fluctuating hormones, that spicy food cravings, in particular, are due to sinus congestion, and that cravings can be associated with following a restrictive diet.
Some scientists have also theorized that because pregnant women may have a heightened sense of smell, there are changes in brain activity that cause other changes to their sense of taste, which may result in food cravings and other differences in food aversions.
Does craving spicy food while pregnant mean it’s a boy or girl?
There are countless old wives’ tales about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. Possibly the most common and fun to entertain are those revolving around the idea that the food you are craving may give some indication as to whether the baby you are carrying is a boy or a girl.
The fact that you have spicy food cravings doesn’t mean you can go ahead and plan that gender reveal party or paint your baby’s nursery just yet. Food cravings experienced during pregnancy don’t provide any information on the sex of your unborn baby.
While analyzing the specific food cravings you are experiencing and trying to draw conclusions about the sex of your baby may be fun and exciting, that bottom line is that there is no real scientific evidence that food cravings foretell the sex of your unborn baby.
Other myths about eating spicy food when pregnant.
One of the most commonly held myths is that you can induce labor naturally by eating spicy food. To the dismay of women who are past their due date and desperately uncomfortable, there is no evidence to support this myth.
Labor can only be induced safely by the administration of specific medications by your doctor in a hospital
Among the most damaging myths about eating spicy food when pregnant is the myth that eating spicy food will harm an unborn baby, cause miscarriage, or cause the baby to be born with birth defects. Eating a hot curry dish or spicy chilies does not harm your baby or your pregnancy in any way. And any suggestion that a woman miscarried her baby or that her baby was born with birth defects due to the consumption of spicy food is hurtful and false.
If you want to learn more, I have a HUGE list of the most common pregnancy cravings just for you!