Irritable Uterus From Spicy Food in Pregnancy

Young pregnant woman eating junk food
A pregnant woman eating junk food. (Image: Paul Vasarhelyi/iStock/Getty Images)

Pregnancy is a time full of do’s and don’ts, including food restrictions. If you love spicy food, the thought of giving it up for nine months might have you dreaming of pepper and onions. Despite the old wives’ tale that you shouldn’t eat spicy food while pregnant, highly seasoned food generally doesn’t cause uterine contractions. Spicy food can certainly cause intestinal irritability, though, which can be extra unpleasant during pregnancy.

Causes

Spicy foods move through the gastrointestinal tract more quickly than other foods. In some people, spicy foods cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. The uterus and intestines lie in close proximity to one another, so cramping of the intestines could cause uterine irritability. While a few gas rumbles in the intestines aren’t going to start uterine contractions, severe GI distress could cause uterine irritability that might lead to contractions. If certain spicy foods give you cramps, don’t eat them.

Effects

Uterine irritability, a kind of disorganized muscular twitching that can continue throughout pregnancy, according to obstetrician Laura Klein, M.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, rarely leads to contractions that start to open the cervix. However, if you’re having cramping after eating spicy food, call your obstetrician if you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant. Gastric distress from eating spicy food might be difficult to differentiate from preterm labor, since both cause cramping and possibly diarrhea.

Starting Labor

If you’re looking for a way to start labor at the end of pregnancy, eating a meal full of hot, spicy foods might lead to nothing more than gas and indigestion. but then again it might irritate the intestines, which can, in some cases, irritate the uterus and start contractions. However, this effect probably won’t be enough to put you into labor unless labor was about to begin anyway, cautions registered nurse Beth M. Iovinelli on Baby Zone.

Considerations

Pregnant women all over the world eat spicy food on a daily basis without causing any harm to their babies or to the uterus; however, if you notice more cramping than usual after eating spicy foods, stop eating them and talk to your doctor. While spices like cayenne pepper are safe in foods when you’re pregnant, they should not be taken as a dietary supplement, the University of Maryland warns. Ask your doctor before taking any type of dietary supplements or herbs.

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