A pregnant woman often feels strong cravings for specific types of foods. Most commonly, these cravings will be for salty, sweet, sour and/or spicy items. Many expectant mothers have concerns about eating black and white pepper, and whether it affects the unborn baby. While rigorous scientific evidence is scarce, it is best for the mother to avoid eating large amounts of pepper while pregnant to avoid possible complications.
Black pepper is one of the oldest and most widely used herbs in the world. In addition to its role as a popular flavoring and cooking ingredient, black pepper has a number of health benefits. It has been a central ingredient in Indian medicine for hundreds of years, treating a range of health problems including indigestion, constipation, toothaches, lung disease, liver problems and even sunburn.
Black pepper is an excellent source of manganese, with just 2 teaspoons of pepper containing over 12 percent of your daily recommended value of the mineral. The same amount of pepper also contains 8.6 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, and 6.9 percent of your daily recommended amount of iron. Pepper is also a good source of dietary fiber and contains almost zero calories, cholesterol and fat.
While eating normal doses of pepper may not be harmful, pepper does have some potentially serious side effects for pregnant mothers. When in oil form and applied topically to the skin, pepper has been known to be a uterine stimulant, which could possibly cause a pregnant woman to have early contractions.
Other possible side effects include digestive and gastrointestinal problems, which, while not directly harmful to the unborn child, can make the pregnancy more difficult for the mother. This is especially true during the third trimester, when the growing baby puts considerable pressure on the mother's stomach and digestive system.
While there is no general consensus on the subject, some homeopaths consider pepper to be an emmenagogue. Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, usually to induce menstruation. Emmenagogues have also historically been used to terminate pregnancies, so large doses of pepper or black pepper oil should be avoided.
Unfortunately, no rigorous scientific study using clinical trials involving pepper and its effects on unborn babies is currently available. Since each pregnancy is specific to the individual, the wisest advice is to listen to your own body and consult your obstetrician for additional information.