Not just a robust flavor in home-cooked dishes, garlic is herald as somewhat of a “cure-all” or “superfood” in naturopathic and folk medicine.
Whether taken as a supplement of minced into a stew, is there too much of a good thing when it comes to garlic during pregnancy?
Based on FDA recommendations during pregnancy, garlic is a common pregnancy craving that is safe to enjoy. Though there is no consensus from health organizations, because it can lower blood pressure and thin the blood, garlic supplements should be taken with caution.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to eating or taking garlic during pregnancy.
Beyond cravings, I’ll talk about the science behind using garlic to treat high blood pressure, yeast infections, and debunk a few garlic myths.
Is It Safe to Eat Garlic During Pregnancy?
Garlic is one of the most widely used herbs, popular in international cuisines from Italian to Asian-style dishes – but does that make garlic safe to eat while pregnant?
Many herbs are cautioned again when expecting, so garlic’s safety is a logical question to ask.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), garlic is rated as “likely safe” by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Since the phrase “in amounts commonly found in food” is quite vague, a good way to think about this is the amount of garlic you might add to a recipe.
While you might add 3 or 4 cloves of garlic into a recipe, you most likely wouldn’t put 3 whole bulbs of garlic in a single-serve portion.
Garlic comes in many different varieties, some with their own unique health considerations. Below I’ll break down the safety of the most common edible garlic.
Garlic-containing foods are also commonly craved during pregnancy so I’ll cover more on that as well.
Is Raw Garlic Safe for Pregnant Women?
Raw garlic is the garlic that you most likely think of when you hear the word “garlic” or when you’re using it in a recipe.
While raw garlic also comes in a few varieties, such as Elephant garlic, the only difference there is the size.
As I outlined above, when eaten in the normal amounts found in food, raw garlic is safe for pregnant women.
The one raw garlic item that may not always be safe is homemade garlic-infused oil.
Garlic infused oil is made by allowing garlic to steep in a jar of oil, usually olive oil. When homemade, there is a risk of botulism.
Garlic-infused oil can be safe, so long as the oil is refrigerated and used (or tossed away) within 4 days (source: CDC).
Can I Eat Wild Garlic During Pregnancy?
Wild garlic is a great way to cook with the nature around you, and it’s a popular foraged food.
Misidentification is a huge problem, however, as wild garlic leaves are similar to many poisonous plants and eating them can cause serious health problems (source: German Federal Office for Food Security- AGES).
If you are a novice at plant identification, it is best to buy wild garlic from a grocer in order to avoid accidental poisoning.
The German Federal Office for Food Security also warns of another toxic contaminant- fox tapeworm. Foxes carrying tapeworm have been known to transmit the parasite on wild garlic leaves.
If you are experienced at identifying and harvesting wild garlic, be sure to thoroughly wash the leaves before eating. Washing removes the tapeworm cyst and prevents parasitic contamination (source: AGES).
While eating wild garlic itself isn’t harmful during pregnancy, wild garlic is more risky when it comes to food safety.
Buying as opposed to picking wild garlic out in nature, as well as washing the leaves can help to keep you safe if you do choose to eat wild garlic.
Is Black Garlic OK When Pregnant?
Black garlic is widely known as a strong antioxidant, but it’s actually the same plant as regular ol’ garlic.
The difference here is that black garlic has gone through a process of high-heat fermentation. The temperature of the fermentation is usually between 70-80°C, which is hot enough to kill off most microorganisms.
What’s more, the fermentation process doesn’t produce alcohol, so overall, black garlic is safe during pregnancy (Source: Journal of Food and Drug Analysis).
Can Pregnant Women Eat Ginger and Garlic?
Common as a paste, ginger and garlic is safe in pregnancy and is fairly innocuous, the combo may even help to settle a nauseous stomach!
For store-bought ginger and garlic paste, be sure to store according to package instructions, likely in the refrigerator after it’s been opened.
If you’re making ginger and garlic paste at home, be sure to wash the ginger before peeling and store in the refrigerator to avoid bacterial contamination.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Garlic Bread?
A comfort food staple, garlic bread is also a common craving during pregnancy.
Whether you prefer garlic knots, breadsticks, or the classic yellow and red box of Texas Toast, garlic bread is perfectly safe during pregnancy.
Frozen, pre-packaged garlic bread is usually fairly high in salt, however, so if your prenatal medical care providers have advised you to monitor your sodium intake consider homemade or opt for less salty options, such as roasted garlic sourdough loaves.
Are Garlic Supplements or Pills Safe During Pregnancy?
Garlic’s popularity goes beyond the dinner table – the herb is also common in the supplement aisle.
While garlic was listed as “likely safe” by the FDA when it comes to food uses, there is no official safety recommendation for garlic supplements in pregnancy. This includes garlic pills, tablets, tinctures, and “extracts.”
Garlic is a natural blood thinner and also lowers blood pressure. Because of this, there is some thought that garlic supplements could be useful for women with pre-eclampsia, where hypertension is a concern (source: Cochrane Library).
While lower blood pressure and thinning blood both sound positive, during pregnancy too low of blood pressure can be dangerous.
While some studies have been done on the use of garlic supplements in pregnant women, there is no consensus as to whether garlic supplements are actually safe to take during pregnancy.
The American Pregnancy Association states that large amounts of garlic, such as what’s found in supplements, could be contraindicated for pregnant women (source: APA).
If you’re thinking of taking garlic pills, extracts or supplements, then it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider beforehand, to see if they’re suitable or safe for you.
Is Garlic Good for Morning Sickness or Nausea?
While there’s not much evidence in the way of garlic and its relationship to pregnancy nausea or morning sickness, nausea is actually a side effect of taking too much garlic.
The most common “side effect” of garlic is the ever-too-common “garlic breath,” and nausea follows closely behind.
Experiencing nausea after eating or taking garlic can occur from both super garlicky foods as well as garlic supplements (Source: Linus Pauling Institute).
If you are taking a garlic supplement and experience nausea after, consider taking the supplement with a meal. The best way to minimize nausea after eating garlic is simply to go easy on the herb.
Can Garlic Help with Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
Sometimes garlic is given as a treatment for high blood pressure and so subsequently it is also thought that garlic may be able to help women avoid pre-eclampsia.
Garlic works lower blood pressure by increasing the compound nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is responsible for increasing the diameter of blood vessels, making it easier to pump blood and thereby lowering the pressure (source: Journal of Nutrition).
Since high blood pressure is a symptom of pre-eclampsia, garlic should help to prevent this condition too, right? Some small studies, like this one published in the Journal of Fetal Medicine, seem to confirm this.
While this seems promising, an analysis of all of the similar studies found that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the connection (source: Cochrane Library).
If you have any concerns about your blood pressure during pregnancy, it’s best to speak to your doctor first, who can help you plan the best way forward.
Can Garlic Help With Yeast Infections When Pregnant?
Uncomfortable and maybe a tad embarrassing, life might be a bit easier if you could cure a yeast infection without having to get ointment from the pharmacy.
Allicin, a compound found in garlic, is antimicrobial (source: Linus Pauling Institute) – but will garlic really help cure a yeast infection?
There’s a lot of conflicting information about how to get rid of a yeast infection without medication, but there is one thing OB/GYNs want you to know: putting garlic “up there” won’t help! (Source: Health Magazine).
A group of Iranian researchers even tested an allicin-containing cream as a topical ointment, but it was no match for the usual clotrimazole cream (source: Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research).
When it comes to yeast infections, it’s best to skip the garlic and head straight to the pharmacy.
Can too Much Garlic Cause Miscarriage?
As I’ve already touched on, garlic can drop blood pressure and thin the blood when taken in large amounts.
Both of these factors are enough to make women wary of garlic, thinking it might lead to miscarriage.
While Ada (a health information database and clinical AI service), lists excess garlic (the amount found in supplements) as a possible cause for the miscarriage, I was not able to find any evidence to back up this claim (source: Ada).
So while there is no science-backed proof that too much garlic can cause miscarriage, we do know that eating garlic in normal food amounts is likely safe, while medicinal amounts are riskier.
Is Garlic Safe in Every Trimester?
Since the FDA lists garlic as “likely safe” to eat during pregnancy, this also means that garlic is safe during any trimester of pregnancy.
This includes the first trimester, which is often a more sensitive time when it comes to safety.
Though not typically recommended during pregnancy, garlic supplements are a different story. As I mentioned above, garlic supplements work to lower blood pressure and thin the blood.
For this reason, it is best to avoid garlic supplements during very late pregnancy.
If you are taking a garlic supplement, your medical providers likely will recommend that you stop taking them a few weeks before your due date (source: Michigan Medicine).
Garlic Pregnancy and Gender Myths
Garlicky foods, including garlic bread, are often craved during pregnancy. Currently, researchers have yet to determine what causes women to be drawn to this strong flavor during pregnancy.
Similar to other commonly craved foods, such as citrus and chocolate, there is an old-wives’-tale that garlic can clue you in to your baby’s gender.
As the rumor goes, if you eat a lot of garlic but don’t have hints of garlic in your body odor, you’re having a girl (source: Today’s Parent). Unfortunately, this is simply a myth – but don’t let that stop you from having a guess!
Another old-wives’-tale related to garlic is that it can be used as a homemade pregnancy test. There are a couple of different “types” of homemade garlic pregnancy tests floating around the internet.
The most common one I found was a test that involved placing a clove of garlic “down there”- which OB/GYNs definitely do not recommend! – and leaving it overnight. Breath that smells of garlic in the morning means a positive result.
There is absolutely no scientific basis for this homemade garlic pregnancy test, not to mention the danger from leaving the garlic inside of your body.
To test for pregnancy at home, it is really best to pick up a test from the drugstore.
One garlic rumor that is true? Both that amniotic fluid and breast milk of women who frequently eat garlic have the quintessential garlic smell (source: LactMed).
The garlic scent in breast milk might increase the time baby spends suckling, but scientists are still unclear if the garlic odor influences the child’s food preferences later in life (source: LactMed, Science Daily).
In conclusion, though many of the garlic myths don’t contain much truth, there is a lot more to garlic than meets the eye.
While eating garlic is safe during pregnancy, there is no consensus from health organizations on garlic supplements.