During pregnancy, many common foods and beverages can cause unanticipated problems for the expectant mother or her unborn baby. The American Pregnancy Association advises pregnant women to avoid undercooked meats, undercooked eggs, caffeine, soft cheeses, raw shellfish and many potentially hazardous seafood dishes.
Common vinegar, also known as acetic acid, is nontoxic and ultimately harmless during pregnancy. There are no known risks associated with drinking vinegar at any stage of pregnancy, and it may even offer health benefits to the expectant mother.
Traditionally, midwives have advised pregnant women to drink vinegar as a holistic method for preventing iron deficiency anemia. In 2002, a group of German scientists investigated the effects of vinegar on the blood iron levels of pregnant women. The authors of the study found that vinegar helped to prevent anemia, and no adverse reactions were recorded. Some women use vinegar to treat discomforts such as nausea and heartburn during pregnancy, but no clinical trials have investigated the efficacy of these folk remedies.
Vinegar and other tart treats are common cravings during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pickles are a popular, if stereotypical, food interest among expectant mothers. Although cravings for tart foods are ultimately harmless to pregnant mothers, it is important to consult your health care provider if you begin experiencing strong cravings for vinegar itself. A desire to eat non-nutritive substances such as vinegar, starch, clay, sand or ashes may indicate the presence of pica -- a pregnancy symptom related to nutritional deficiencies and mental illness.
Vinegar as an Abortifacient
According to Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that advocates legal access to birth control and abortion, some women try to use vinegar as an abortifacient -- a product to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. There is no evidence that vinegar can effectively abort a pregnancy during any stage of gestation. This home abortion method is supported solely by urban folklore and anecdote.
If you are facing an unwanted pregnancy, vinegar is unlikely to successfully trigger a miscarriage or preterm labor. Although vinegar is nontoxic and associated with no known risks, any home abortion method is inherently dangerous. Without medical supervision, even "natural" miscarriages can carry the risk of infection, hemorrhage and other life-threatening complications for the mother.
Although vinegar itself is safe during pregnancy, pregnant women should consult their health care providers if they feel a strong urge to drink vinegar or any other product that lacks nutritional value. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pica may be a sign of anemia or trace-mineral deficiencies. It can also lead to nutritional deficits if a woman drinks vinegar instead of more nutritious products. Always talk to your physician or midwife before using nutritional supplements during pregnancy or making radical changes to your diet.