You used to have a low-to-medium tolerance for spicy food, but no more — now that you’re pregnant, you crave literally anything with the word “buffalo” in it, from chicken wings to roasted cauliflower to convenience-store potato chips.
Is all that heat safe for you and your baby? Here’s what you need to know if pregnancy has left you dumping hot sauce on practically everything (seriously, only your breakfast cereal is safe at this point).
Pregnancy makes you crave all kinds of stuff, none of which usually makes any sense. Pickles and ice cream, strawberry jam on hamburgers, marinara sauce over canned tuna — you name it, and a pregnant person has eaten it.
There’s generally one explanation: Hormones, which are to blame for pretty much everything.
There’s no trick to decoding your cravings, but there are some myths floating around the internet about why many women crave spicy foods during pregnancy.
Some people think it happens more if you’re having a boy, while others wonder if it’s some sort of natural instinct to cool down (literally — eating spicy food makes you sweat, and sweating lowers your body temp).
Either way, your taste buds often change during and after pregnancy, so don’t worry if you’re suddenly craving five-alarm chili. It probably isn’t a “sign” of anything worth noting.
Here’s some good news: Eating spicy food during pregnancy is 100 percent safe for your baby. Really! It can’t hurt your little one.
One small word of warning, though —
Nevertheless, you could be influencing your baby’s taste buds with all those buffalo chicken wraps, and they might show a preference for certain familiar flavors later on. Not that that’s a bad thing, just FYI.
Here’s the not-so-good news: While eating a lot of spicy food isn’t bad for your baby, it can cause some unpleasant side effects for you. Nothing dangerous, but satisfying the craving might not always be worth the pain of heartburn, indigestion, and GI distress afterward.
If you’re not used to eating spicy foods but pregnancy has given you a hankering for chili peppers, it’s smart to start slow.
Don’t eat spicy foods in high amounts or at every meal. Make sure you stay well hydrated. Prepare spicy food safely, by choosing quality ingredients and washing your hands after handling peppers.
And try to build up your tolerance to heat in increments rather than jumping straight to that ghost pepper tabasco with the skull and crossbones on the label, OK?
In the first trimester, eating spicy food isn’t likely to cause many issues, although it can aggravate morning sickness. If you’re already having trouble with all-day nausea and queasiness, spicy foods may make things worse.
In the second and third trimester, eating spicy food may cause:
- heartburn, as your growing uterus forces stomach acids higher into your esophagus
- diarrhea, gas, and bloating
- an increase in gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) symptoms
If you’re getting close to the end of your pregnancy and thinking about giving your labor a jump start, everyone from your mother to your grandmother to the guy in the apartment next door will probably tell you to eat something spicy.
This advice is so prevalent, in fact, that researchers actually studied it alongside other labor shortcuts (like walking, sex, and laxatives) back in 2011.
Researchers asked 201 postpartum women if they had tried to naturally induce labor and, if so, what methods they had used; of the 50 percent who reported they had tried self-inducing, 20 percent claimed they had eaten spicy foods to get the job done.
The only problem? There’s no science here to back this up. If you’re sitting pretty at 38 weeks with no dilation, chowing down on a plate of wings isn’t going to make your body suddenly ready for birth.
You might be willing to deal with the heartburn that comes with eating spicy foods if it means satisfying a powerful craving, but keep in mind that getting rid of pregnancy heartburn isn’t as easy as chugging Pepto-Bismol like it was in your pre-pregnancy days.
Not all over-the-counter drugs for heartburn, indigestion, and nausea are considered safe for pregnant women. Give your doctor a call if you’re experiencing severe or persistent GI symptoms, like:
- burning pain
Listen, mama: If you’ve got the stomach for it (pun intended), then you can eat all the spicy food you want during pregnancy! It won’t hurt you or your baby.
If you’re not used to heat, go slow — and if you start having uncomfortable side effects, limit how much and how often you douse your food in tabasco.