Expert Advice

Is it ok to eat spicy food during pregnancy?

Love your chilli enchiladas and curries? What pregnant mamas need to know before they go spicy.

By Fiona Wright

Worried about eating spicy food while you're pregnant? The good news is mums-to-be can still indulge in their favourite hot dishes. The only risk is that it could lead to heartburn which is uncomfortable for you but does not affect your baby.

Dietitian Melanie McGrice explains why heartburn occurs during pregnancy and why spicy food can bring it on. "Heartburn is common during pregnancy, particularly in the second and third trimesters as your baby starts to take up more and more room. Heartburn is caused by an increase in progesterone hormones which loosens the flap in your windpipe that usually stops stomach juices from rising back up the windpipe. Unfortunately spicy foods can aggravate heartburn as they increase the production of stomach acid, so if you're experiencing heartburn, it may be wise to avoid spicy foods during your pregnancy."

Also if you're suffering pregnancy sickness it might be a good idea to skip the hot salsa. "Spicy foods can make morning sickness worse because spices take longer to digest which means that your stomach produces more acid, and this can increase your nausea."

Mums-to-be can still indulge in their favourite spicy dishes. *Image: Getty Images.*
Mums-to-be can still indulge in their favourite spicy dishes. Image: Getty Images.

In many parts of the world, a chilli con carne or a tikka masala are a part of a woman's daily diet. It's for this reason, Melanie says that if it's not making you uncomfortable you can safely go spicy.

"Given the fact that millions of pregnant women around the world (in countries like India and Thailand) consume spicy foods on a daily basis throughout their pregnancies without issue, I don't believe that we need to be concerned about eating spicy foods during pregnancy, unless you are experiencing heartburn or morning sickness."

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Finally, is there any truth to the old wives tale that a hot curry can bring on labour? There's little evidence to suggest it will but many women swear by it as spicy food produces prostaglandin, a naturally occurring hormone that prepares your body for labour. So, if your due date has come and gone it could be worth a try!

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