Can Pregnant Women Eat Honey?
Updated 24-01-2021 – Lucy Walters
Whether or not you are a parent, you must have heard that raw honey is not recommended for intake by babies under one year of age. This is because, since it is a raw item, it is more likely to consist of bacteria that can cause botulism, which is a rare poisoning that can cause paralysis, facial weakness, and difficulty speaking. This condition can be fatal too.
A widespread belief is that if honey is considered to be unsafe for babies, it should be the same for pregnant women as well. Is honey harmful to pregnant women? Can it affect their newborn baby?
The direct answer to these questions is – no, honey is not harmful to pregnant women and it cannot affect their newborn baby. In fact, the National Health Service does not list honey in their list of foods to avoid in pregnancy.
Botulism and Pregnant Women
If honey is safe for pregnant women to eat, will they not be affected by botulism, the paralytic disease that we discussed earlier? Botulism is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, and it is the contamination of honey with clostridia spores that is known to cause botulism in infants. As mentioned in a research article published in the Canadian Family Physician, in the case of adults, their mature gut is less contributive to the development of the bacteria, because of the presence of protective microflora, and this makes the occurrence of botulism extremely rare in adults, except for those with underlying conditions. Though you might have heard that a pregnant woman’s immune system doesn’t work as good as pre-pregnancy, in healthy pregnancies, there will be no change in the presence of protective microflora in your gut, which thus reduces the risk of botulism.
Will it affect your unborn baby?
The same article mentions that due to the increased molecular weight of the botulinum toxin, there is almost no chance for it to pass the placenta and reach the baby. All of this research makes evident that women with a healthy pregnancy do not have to avoid eating honey.
Benefits of Honey for Pregnant Women
The various therapeutic properties of honey are known to make it beneficial for pregnant women:
Using honey to ease or relieve insomnia is an Ayurvedic practice. Simply mix a spoonful of honey in a glass of warm milk and drink it before going to bed; the hypnotic property of honey will help you enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Cold and Cough
Catching a cold when pregnant can be highly frustrating. Since you would be avoiding taking any unnecessary medications during this time, perhaps the best natural remedy to use would be honey, thanks to its antiviral properties. Take it with a glass of warm water, or even better, in a glass of hot lemon or ginger tea.
Reduces Seasonal Allergies
From pollen to other seasonal allergies, regular consumption of honey during your pregnancy can decrease the chances of you facing allergies by increasing your immunity against the same.
Indigestion and Heartburn
If this is your first pregnancy, you must have read somewhere or heard from people you know how nasty and annoying indigestion and heartburn can be during pregnancy. Unfortunately, these are symptoms that many pregnant women encounter, and if you are one among them, try drinking a glass of warm milk with some honey and you will be pleased with the result.
Choose Pasteurized Honey
If honey is your go-to ingredient for a variety of reasons and wish to take that extra step of precaution during your pregnancy even after knowing that it is safe for consumption, go with pasteurized honey instead of raw. As you might be aware, pasteurization kills disease-causing bacteria that can be harmful to you or your unborn baby (which is why doctors and experts suggest avoiding unpasteurized dairy during pregnancy). In general, most honeys you find in your local supermarket would come pasteurized; however, be sure to check the labels twice or thrice, especially if you are buying from a farmer’s market.
Word of Caution – While honey is generally safe for pregnant women, however, if you happen to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or anything else that has to do with your gut, it is best that you stay away from honey. You can consult with your doctor, discuss your existing condition, and ask if he/she would recommend you consume honey.
Also, honey is known to mainly consist of sugar, you might have to reduce its intake if you have been asked by your doctor to watch your weight during this time. This also applies if you have gestational diabetes or any other condition that requires you to limit your intake of sugar.
In addition to including honey in warm milk at nighttime and lemon/ginger tea to soothe your sore throat or attain relief from cold and cough, honey can be used in the following ways as well:
- Drizzle honey on your morning toast, or on pancakes instead of maple syrup.
- Mix it with your overnight oats, yoghurt, or cereal.
- Add honey to your marinades or salad dressings.
Similarly, there are ways how honey should not be consumed:
- Do not add honey to piping hot beverages, may it be water, tea, or any other hot drink. Instead, add it when the drinks get to lukewarm temperature to avoid losing any healthy enzyme.
- Do not consume honey with Vitamin C and D rich foods, because its benefits could suppress the benefits of those foods.
- Avoid consuming honey with non-vegetarian foods, as it could lead to health-related issues.
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