Consuming turmeric in pregnancy is a debated subject. Some swear by it, while a few experts are concerned that it poses pregnancy risks, especially if taken in large doses as a supplement.

You’re expecting! While learning that you’re pregnant is enough to make you smile for days, little did you know you’d be up at night with random worries — in addition to the heartburn.

Who would have thought you’d be searching the web at 3 a.m. wondering whether turmeric is safe during pregnancy?

Well, here’s what you need to know about consuming (or not consuming) this buzzworthy spice while pregnant.

Let’s start with understanding why turmeric is all the rage.

Turmeric — also called the “golden spice” for its vibrant yellow color — has a long history. In fact, its use dates back 4,000 years to the Vedic culture in India.

Over centuries, turmeric has traveled the globe for good reasons — and not just to make a killer curry dish for your out-of-the-blue breakfast craving.

You may have heard turmeric being touted as a supplement that can provide powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and even antimicrobial effects.

It’s been shown to block the body’s signals that promote the production of inflammatory processes, among other protective and healing effects.

Naturally, you might wonder if turmeric could also bring these health benefits to you and your baby.

In reality, evidence-based human studies of turmeric’s medicinal benefits are lacking. If you’ve read some conflicting information on this topic, put up your feet and read our review of what the science is saying.

Your body changes a lot during pregnancy. Some things — like that adorable baby bump — are welcome. Some — like heartburn — not so much.

Could turmeric supplements be the answer to a more blissful (and healthy) pregnancy? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Relieving heartburn

If you experience heartburn during pregnancy, you’re likely searching for anything that brings relief as you’re propped up with pillows and feeling the burn.

In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used as an alternative therapy to treat heartburn and other digestive diseases.

While there are no human studies to show the effectiveness of turmeric in reducing heartburn, one 2010 study showed that pro-inflammatory factors and oxidative stress are involved in the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

With its proven anti-inflammatory effects, it’s possible that turmeric could help relieve GERD, but more studies on the safety and efficacy of turmeric during pregnancy are needed.

Soothing bleeding gums

Your flossing is impeccable. You brush two times every day. Now, all of a sudden, your gums are bleeding like mad. What gives?

It’s that pesky pregnancy hormone progesterone’s fault.

Peaking between the 2nd and 8th month of pregnancy, progesterone can make a pregnant woman more susceptible to developing pregnancy gingivitis.

Pregnancy gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. So, can a turmeric-based mouthwash stop it in its tracks?

According to this 2022 meta-analysis, the answer is yes. Turmeric mouthwash was equally as effective as the standard antimicrobial in the prevention of plaque and gingivitis.

But this study wasn’t conducted in pregnant test subjects, so the safety of using a turmeric mouthwash should be discussed with your doctor — and dentist, too.

Preventing preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition that only occurs in pregnancy — usually after the 20th week. Those with preeclampsia have very high blood pressure and may have high amounts of protein the urine. It can also impair function of other body organs like the kidney, liver and lungs.

Preeclampsia only affects up to 8 percent of pregnancies, and most people with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies and fully recover.

But in all transparency, this condition can be serious, leading to maternal and infant disability or death if not treated immediately.

What causes pregnant women to develop preeclampsia isn’t entirely known, but inflammation is thought to play a role.

One test-tube study comparing the plasma of women with preeclampsia to those without suggests that curcumin — the main compound in turmeric — may reduce inflammatory markers in pregnant women and help prevent preeclampsia.

While promising, more research is needed to recommend turmeric for preeclampsia prevention.

Boosting baby’s brain development

You want a baby genius, right? You’re eating blueberries every day, getting omega-3s, listening to classical music, and talking to your baby from day one.

Research points to something else that may affect your baby’s brain and neurological development: your body’s level of inflammation.

Studies have shown that babies of mothers with high levels of inflammation during pregnancy are at an increased risk for developing neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A 2018 study showed a correlation between higher maternal inflammatory markers and lower functional memory scores at age 2.

You might think that consuming turmeric could reduce inflammation during pregnancy and therefore boost a baby’s brain power, but the word is still out whether the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric could actually translate to optimizing baby’s brain development.

There are no studies showing that turmeric is harmful to human pregnancies — and there would be ethical concerns about conducting a clinical trial aimed to prove this.

In a 2007 animal study, the only adverse effect noted was a slightly lower body weight gain of the offspring of the animal moms that had curcumin during pregnancy.

But experts raise a few eyebrows with some suspected turmeric risks while pregnant, especially if taken in large doses as a supplement.

Studies done in humans — though not pregnant women — have shown that turmeric or curcumin may affect a woman’s reproductive system in several ways.

In one study, curcumin successfully reduced endometrial cell proliferation in endometriosis by reducing estradiol (estrogen) production.

This 2016 animal study further showed that curcumin could be a possible treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by reducing ovarian cysts.

Curcumin has also been researched in the treatment of breast cancer, showing some promising results.

While curcumin might hold health benefits for non-expecting women — especially those with endometriosis, PCOS, or breast cancer, as suggested by these studies — any altered hormone levels and uterine cell function could be harmful during pregnancy. We just don’t know.

A 2021 study found that two patients who were using curcumin supplements had reduced endometrial thickness, which disrupted the embryo transfer process. As this study only involved two patients, much more research is needed.

Be sure to to discuss turmeric supplementation with your doctor if you are planning to get pregnant naturally or via IVF treatments.

Can turmeric cause a miscarriage?

There’s no proven causal link, but most physicians recommend against turmeric and curcumin supplementation to avoid any potential (and unknown) risks to moms and baby.

You want to do everything possible to keep you and your baby safe. There’s an army around you (including us) who want to do the same.

So we advise following the recommendations of many experts: Avoid turmeric and curcumin as supplements. Also avoid consuming them in higher quantities than can be found in certain prepared dishes, drinks, or teas.

You don’t have to ward off all turmeric, though. Go out and enjoy your favorite Indian or Thai curry dish now and then. As a cooking ingredient, levels of turmeric are likely to be safe.

As a good measure, talk to your OB-GYN about turmeric and get their expert opinion on whether it’s safe for you.

Turmeric substitutes that are pregnancy-safe

Try these turmeric alternatives in moderation to safely keep the spice in your life and throughout your pregnancy. It is best to use these spices in your daily cooking and beverages as opposed to taking a supplement.

Supplements often have very high concentrated doses of a spice, which may not be safe during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

  • curry powder
  • ginger powder
  • cumin seeds
  • yellow mustard seeds

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