Apple cider vinegar’s (ACV) shift from the kitchen pantry to the medicine cabinet isn’t recent.
Its use is rumored all the way back to ancient Greece, and ACV remains a commonly recommended home remedy for a myriad of ailments.
It is known best for its rich probiotics, purported effects on metabolism, and as a “cure-all” tonic for everything from heartburn to urinary tract infections.
But despite its popularity, is apple cider vinegar safe for pregnant women?
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) appears to be a low-risk health supplement for most people, including during pregnancy. However, pregnant women should choose pasteurized varieties of vinegar over unpasteurized versions to protect against accidental bacterial contamination.
With so many reported uses of ACV swirling around, picking up a bottle from the store may be tempting but there are some things to be cautious of when browsing the store shelves.
I’ll give you a breakdown of the benefits (if any) of ACV during pregnancy, brands to look for, and of course the safety considerations, too.
Is It Safe To Drink Apple Cider Vinegar When Pregnant?
The reported health benefits of ACV run the gamut.
Magazines and online articles claim the liquid can even help many common pregnancy woes, from heartburn and nausea relief to clearing up acne.
There have been several research studies that back up ACV’s usefulness to moderately lower blood sugars and provide gut-boosting probiotics(source: University of Chicago Medicine), but what about pregnancy-related benefits?
While there are many useful benefits for ACV, especially when it comes to the concerns of pregnant women, the scientific research and evidence to back up these claims is less than adequate.
This means there isn’t enough research to be certain that ACV is effective in alleviating certain health concerns.
Note: Because of the lack of strong supporting evidence for ACV’s effectiveness, I’ll be referring to the benefits of ACV as “health claims” or “reported benefits” in this article.
Though there is no strong research to support the helpfulness of ACV, there is also no evidence that using ACV is harmful, so it is generally regarded as safe for most healthy people (source: University of Chicago Medicine).
With as many health claims and uses following ACV, there are equally as many ways to consume it.
Some of the most common ways to use ACV are:
- Mixing apple cider vinegar into drinks
- Taking it ‘straight’, as a shot
- Topical application on the skin
- Gummies or pills
- As the base vinegar in salad dressings and sauces.
As you may have noticed, many of the ways to reap any benefits of ACV is by eating or drinking the liquid.
But this method comes with one major concern during pregnancy, bacteria, as many popular brands of the vinegar are unpasteurized.
Is Raw (Unpasteurized) Apple Cider Vinegar Safe When Pregnant?
Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid unpasteurized products, such as unpasteurized juices and raw milk, for the duration of their pregnancy.
This is because the process of pasteurization kills off bacteria thereby lowering the risk of bacteria causing foodborne illness (source: FDA).
Unpasteurized ACV is known for its host of good probiotic bacteria that help alleviate tummy troubles.
Pasteurization does eliminate these helpful bacteria too and therefore decreases the likelihood that the ACV will decrease nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Even though unpasteurized ACV won’t provide live probiotics, the risk of foodborne illness from unpasteurized ACV isn’t worth any potential benefits.
The bottom line? If you enjoy using ACV or find that it helps any symptoms you are experiencing, choose a pasteurized version for the duration of your pregnancy.
Pasteurized Vs Unpasteurized Brands of Apple Cider Vinegar For Pregnancy
Want to include ACV as part of your health routine during pregnancy?
Go ahead, because pasteurized ACV is considered to be safe if you’re pregnant.
Follow the guide below for help easily selecting brands that are pasteurized:
|Trader Joe’s- pasteurized*
|Bragg- original*, honey*
|Heinz- all natural
|Kevita- drinking vinegar tonics*
|Market Pantry (Target)
|Good & Gather* (Target stores)
|Heinz- organic unfiltered*
|Trader Joe’s- sparkling drinking vinegar*
|Homemade/farmers’ market products
A tip for finding pasteurized ACV is to look for your stores’ “house brands.”
Often many stores have a higher-end “house brand” and a budget-friendly “house brand.”
The budget-friendly “house brand” ACV is more likely to be pasteurized, as it’s the more processed version of the product.
What Are The Benefits of ACV For Pregnant Women? Is It Good?
As mentioned above, unpasteurized ACV isn’t safe for pregnant women due to the risk of bacterial infection, so we’ll be discussing the benefits of the pasteurized variety only.
Because pasteurization rids the ACV of bacteria, it’s thought that pasteurized versions are less likely to calm nausea, diarrhea, or help regulate you in the bathroom, but ACV may still provide other benefits.
With so many ways to use ACV, its reported benefits can be hard to keep track of.
Below, I’ll break down the most commonly talked about and show you the research available to back them all up.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Pregnancy Heartburn or Acid Reflux?
Experienced by many women during pregnancy, heartburn, or acid reflux can be very uncomfortable and make it difficult to get restful sleep.
It’s no wonder pregnant women are searching for a way to decrease heartburn!
Excess stomach acid is a common cause of acid reflux and heartburn.
ACV is acidic but some scientists think that drinking a solution of ACV diluted in water provides the stomach enough acid to stop the body from making excess acid on its own (source: Current Gastroenterology Reports).
A small study found that chewing ACV-containing gum reduced heartburn symptoms, but this gum contained other ingredients and the researchers couldn’t be sure the ACV was the ingredient that helps (source: Current Gastroenterology Reports).
On the flip-side, ACV increases the time it takes food to leave the stomach.
This can actually increase symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn, due to the stomach holding a larger volume of food for a longer period of time (source: BMC Gastroenterology).
The studies here are small, and the relationship between ACV’s acidity decreasing the stomach’s own production of acid has yet to be proven.
However, if you’re searching for a home remedy to heartburn or acid reflux, pasteurized ACV may be worth a (diluted) shot.
Can ACV Help Reduce Pregnancy Nausea (Morning Sickness)?
Nausea or morning sickness is another common pregnancy symptom that can cause discomfort for many women.
Because pregnancy-related nausea has many causes, pinpointing if ACV can help in your specific case is difficult.
For women who have nausea related to excess stomach acid, there is some evidence to suggest ACV may be helpful to decrease acid production (source: Current Gastroenterology Reports).
If your nausea is caused by a smell, food, or a stomach bug, then ACV might not be your best bet.
Since only pasteurized ACV is safe for pregnant mothers, you won’t be getting any of the gut-friendly bacteria.
Instead, reach for pasteurized probiotic sources such as yogurt. We have a complete guide yo yogurt during pregnancy here, including some recommended brands for you to try.
ACV tonics are another way some women report relief from morning sickness.
Many of these tonics also contain ginger which is known to soothe nausea, and there is no research to pinpoint the ACV as the helpful ingredient.
Additionally, ACV is very acidic, and drinking too much at once or without diluting can actually lead to more nausea.
Can I Take Apple Cider Vinegar Pills or Tablets During Pregnancy?
Browsing the vitamin aisle for a bottle of prenatals and you may also find shelves of ACV pills, tablets, and gummies.
Just because they are in the supplement section at the store doesn’t make them safe for pregnancy, however.
ACV pills, tablets, and gummies are considered dietary supplements and are therefore not regulated by the FDA. The manufacturers themselves are left to declare what’s on the label and represent their product accurately (source: FDA).
This means, there’s really no one checking to make sure what the label says is in the product is actually true.
Additionally, many ACV supplements are marketed to help you lose weight (source: Mayo Clinic).
While there isn’t any good evidence suggesting ACV helps with weight loss, weight is a very personal topic and healthy weight in pregnancy varies wildly from woman to woman.
If you’re worried about weight, it is best to discuss your concerns with your medical provider before reaching for the supplement bottle.
Overall, taking ACV even in supplement form isn’t harmful, but the unknown of what’s truly in a supplement could be dangerous.
As with any supplement, if you’d like to take ACV pills during your pregnancy, talk with your prenatal care provider or physician first.
Can I Use Apple Cider Vinegar To Try Conceive?
Among ACV’s claims are reports that the vinegar can aid in conception by balancing body pH, priming fallopian tubes, or that it can even help you conceive a particular gender.
But like all things that sound too good to be true, ACV isn’t really that powerful when it comes to conception.
For starters, while ACV is acidic, eating or drinking it won’t change the pH of anything except your urine (source: Journal of Environmental and Public Health).
In addition, according to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, using vinegar to choose the sex of your baby is a myth, and using the vinegar as a douche could be harmful to the woman (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Apple Cider Vinegar and PCOS Fertility
While changing the body’s pH to encourage conception is only an old wives’ tale, there may be some truth to ACV aiding in conception for women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
A small study out of Japan concluded that taking ACV daily showed promise of restoring ovulation in women with PCOS.
The scientists associated the positive outcomes with ACV’s effect on lowering insulin resistance, which is common for women with PCOS.
This study was extremely small, including only 7 women, but for women with PCOS who are struggling with insulin resistance and a lack of ovulation as barriers to fertility, ACV is a safe addition to other medical treatments (source: Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine).
Can I Use ACV on My Skin or Sit In an ACV Bath When Pregnant?
With a shift in hormones, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to experience acne or other changes in their skin.
ACV is a fairly common household swap for beauty products such as toners, but there isn’t research to back this one up either.
A 2019 study found that ACV soaks don’t improve skin integrity for people with atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema, but may provide temporary symptom relief for a few minutes post-soak.
While this study did look at children, the effect (or lack thereof) would translate to adults as well (source: Pediatric Dermatology).
What’s more, using undiluted ACV can actually cause chemical burns on the skin.
ACV is very acidic, and this acid can harm the skin cells if the vinegar isn’t adequately diluted with water before applying to the skin (source: Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology).
These natural acids can be used safely though. ACV is often put into hair rinses in place of shampoo, and can cleanse the hair while being diluted with the shower water.
Similarly, using ACV in a bath dilutes the vinegar enough to decrease its acidity and prevent any harm to the skin, making well-diluted soaks perfectly safe.
The topical use of ACV is also the only place where pasteurization doesn’t matter since you aren’t drinking or eating it!
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Affect a Pregnancy Test?
Taking a pregnancy test can be a whirlwind of emotions, and something you’d rather not repeat due to false results.
While there is some speculation that dipping a pregnancy test into apple juice (not vinegar) can cause a false positive, there is no evidence that dipping a pregnancy test into ACV turns out a false positive result.
Additionally, drinking ACV is not known to cause a faulty pregnancy test (source: Houston Fertility Center).
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s perfectly safe to continue using ACV without worrying about a false pregnancy test.
In conclusion, ACV is a common home remedy for many pregnancy concerns, ranging from nausea to acne.
While the scientific evidence is limited when it comes to ACV’s effectiveness, ACV is also perfectly safe to consume and use on the skin during pregnancy as long as you take certain precautions.
When using ACV topically or drinking, ensure the vinegar is diluted. And, as with all food and drink during pregnancy, choose pasteurized versions of ACV to keep you and baby safe from foodborne illness.