Sodium bicarbonate is the chemical name for baking soda, which has the formula NaHCO3. If you're pregnant, you may be wondering whether it's safe to use sodium bicarbonate in foods and in other household applications, particularly because many chemicals that are otherwise safe can be toxic to an unborn child. Thankfully, sodium bicarbonate is perfectly safe in many applications.
Though it's probably best known as baking soda, a leavening agent used to help quick breads and cookies rise, sodium bicarbonate is a chemical with interesting properties. Under various circumstances, it can act as either a mild acid or a mild base, though in household applications, it's almost always a mild base, explain Drs. Reginald Garrett and Charles Grisham in their book "Biochemistry." Unlike strong bases, including lye and oven cleaner, sodium bicarbonate isn't basic enough to cause you any harm on contact.
There are several ways in which you might come into contact with sodium bicarbonate or need to use it during pregnancy, all of which are completely safe. You can feel free to continue baking with sodium bicarbonate as a leavening agent, and if you've used it as a surface cleaner in the past, it's quite safe to continue to do so. In fact, sodium bicarbonate is milder than many other chemical cleaners, and doesn't give off harmful fumes.
There's one use for sodium bicarbonate that many pregnant women appreciate, even if they've never used the chemical for this purpose before pregnancy -- as an antacid. As Drs. Mary Campbell and Shawn Farrell explain in their book "Biochemistry," sodium bicarbonate reacts with stomach acid to produce the harmless chemicals table salt, carbon dioxide, and water. Since pregnant women often have heartburn or acid stomach during their pregnancies, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of sodium bicarbonate completely dissolved in 1/2 cup of water can really help. Just be sure it is totally dissolved before drinking the solution.
As long as you've been to an obstetrician to discuss diet and aren't on a sodium-restricted plan, it's perfectly safe for you to use sodium bicarbonate as an antacid. If either your obstetrician or your physician has recommended that you stay away from sodium, you'll want to discuss using sodium bicarbonate with the doctor first, since it contains sodium, just like table salt. For women on sodium-restricted diets, other antacid options include Tums and Mylanta.
If you've thought of replacing some of your household cleaners with sodium bicarbonate, simply because it is so safe for you as a pregnant woman and will continue to be safe once there's a new baby in the house, there are many ways in which you can use it. You can sprinkle it on the carpet before vacuuming to help take up odors, you can make a paste with it for cleaning grout, tile and counters, and you can put it in the fridge in an open box or bowl to keep the fridge smelling neutral.