Rhubarb is a vegetable, despite its typical use in sweet desserts such as strawberry-rhubarb pie. This perennial plant consists of an edible, celery-like stalk that is usually red in color and it has inedible leaves. Pregnant women may safely consume rhubarb stalks; this vegetable provides many benefits. Do not eat rhubarb leaves during pregnancy, and always consult your physician before taking medications containing rhubarb during this time.
Rhubarb stalks may provide benefits to pregnant women suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure. Pregnancy-induced hypertension can be potentially dangerous when it takes the form of a condition known as pre-eclampsia -- it can result in low birth weight for the baby because it prevents blood transfer across the placenta. Your physician may recommend rest and reduced sodium intake to control hypertension, but eating rhubarb may also help. A study published in the December 1999 Chinese journal "Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi" indicates that rhubarb given to a study group resulted in decreased cholesterol levels and improved vascular health; researchers theorize that this reaction may prove helpful in treating pregnancy-induced hypertension, although more research is needed to confirm the finding.
Boosts Vitamin K Intake
A 1 cup serving of cooked rhubarb contains 50.6 mcg of vitamin K; pregnant women require approximately 90 mcg of this vitamin each day. Your body contains more blood while you are pregnant, so getting the right amount of vitamin K is critical -- this vitamin works to help your body properly coagulate blood. It is also important to prevent fetal brain hemorrhages during the birthing process.
Increases Calcium Consumption
Pregnant women require 1,000 mg of calcium each day to help the fetus grow strong bones without robbing a woman's own bones of this vital mineral. Eating rhubarb can help you get the calcium you need -- 1 cup of cooked rhubarb introduces 348 mg of this mineral into your meal plan. In addition to the benefits of calcium on bones for both mother and baby, the calcium you get from rhubarb influences the growth of fetal nerves, heart and muscles.
Eating rhubarb leaves during pregnancy -- or at any time -- is a bad idea. The leaves contain anthraquinone glycosides, which give rhubarb its red color. This compound can trigger severe contractions in the intestines. Rhubarb leaves also contain oxalic acid, which is safe in small amounts but is concentrated in the leaf portion. Eating the leaves of rhubarb can result in poisoning that causes breathing difficulties, kidney stones, seizures, stomach pain, vomiting and coma, all of which may be extremely dangerous during pregnancy.