Pectin is a type of soluble fiber, and a common ingredient in many foods because it's a gelling agent. If you're pregnant and are worried about the safety of food additives and over-the-counter medications, you can likely use pectin safely for some applications. You should talk to your obstetrician if you have any concerns about pectin, however.
Pectin has a structure somewhat similar to that of starch, in that like starch, it's a polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are long molecules made up of repeating units called monosaccharides, or sugars. Your body can't digest pectin, however, so unlike starch, it has no nutritional content. Because it dissolves easily in water but is indigestible, it's sometimes called soluble fiber.
There are many common historical uses for pectin, both as an additive to foods and as a medication. In foods, pectin is a gelling agent. It's added to many foods, including jams and jellies, to give them a firmer consistency. In pharmaceuticals, pectin acts as a regulator of intestinal function. It also helps to sooth the digestive tract and has utility as an antidiarrheal. However, while many over-the-counter medications used to contain pectin for these reasons, the FDA banned the substance in 1992.
Pectin And Pregnancy
While the FDA no longer allows pectin in over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, the American Academy of Family Physicians still recognizes it as a drug safe for use in pregnancy. This can be extrapolated to mean that it's safe to consume pectin in the very small amounts in which it's present in jams, jellies, and other foods. There is no scientific research or evidence to suggest that pregnant women need to avoid the small amounts of pectin in food.
The fact that pectin is no longer found in pharmaceuticals in the United States doesn't mean that you can't find it in dietary supplements, which the FDA regulates differently, per the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Because of the FDA ban, however, you should avoid dietary supplements containing pectin unless you've talked to your doctor. If you're having trouble with regularity or diarrhea during pregnancy, your obstetrician can recommend a safe medication.
- “Biochemistry”; Reginald Garrett, Ph.D. and Charles Grisham, Ph.D.; 2007
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Pectin
- FDA: Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994