Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) has been used in Peruvian traditional medicine for many decades, and it’s only now that its positive health benefits have hit the mainstream.
There are many claims about maca’s effect on pregnancy, fertility, and miscarriages. I’ve broken down all the evidence-based and science-backed studies to find out whether maca is safe during pregnancy, if you can use it to get pregnant, or if it may cause miscarriage.
The first section covers conception and trying to get pregnant, and then there’s more information if you’re already pregnant and wondering about whether maca is safe during pregnancy or not.
Maca Powder, Roots, and Colours – Do They Matter?
This article will refer to “maca” in general, but that includes all forms, whether fresh, dried, or as maca root powder/flour, or supplements.
Maca comes in three different colors (yellow, red, and black maca), but for the purposes of pregnancy safety or fertility information, they can all be treated the same.
Will Maca Help Me to Get Pregnant?
Maca root may help you to conceive, not because it has any direct effect on fertility, but due to increased sexual desire. During your fertile window, having sex more often will increase the chances of conception (source: WebMD).
In 2010 the BioMed Central Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine conducted a review of all available evidence on whether maca root has any effect on sexual desire or testosterone (source: BMC).
The results, plus those of an earlier study showed that maca may increase sexual desire in both men and women (source: PubMed). Although maca didn’t seem to increase testosterone levels in men, it still increased desire.
Other studies have been conducted on animals only (source: PubMed), and have been inconclusive. A 2005 study suggested that mice fed with maca had an increased litter size (i.e. more babies) than the control group (source: Springer).
There is weak evidence to suggest that maca may ease the effects of menopause (source: PubMed), but no conclusions can be drawn about fertility.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology concluded that many of the health claims surrounding maca are over-hyped as a result of the market for herbal supplements and remedies (source: Science Direct).
This was echoed in a month-long 2019 investigation by BBC Brazil. They found that “maca consumption is promoted through misleading advertising, which lacks scientific basis.”
As with many herbal or ‘miracle’ supplements – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Also, be wary of where you purchase maca from. In 2019 the FDA reported that one brand was tainted with sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra (source: FDA).
If you’re trying to conceive, it can’t hurt to try maca from a reputable source, as it does have evidence-backed effects on libido, if nothing else.
However, maca contains goitrogens and is high in iodine, which can interfere with thyroid function. If you are taking any medication for thyroid disorders, it’s best to avoid maca (source: Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research).
If you do manage to get pregnant, then you should stop taking maca, as its effects on pregnancy are largely unknown (see below).
Are There Any Success Stories on Using Maca To Get Pregnant?
I’m often asked if there are any “success stories” or “testimonials” for women successfully using maca to get pregnant, particularly for women over 40.
As described above, it can’t hurt to try maca if you’re trying to conceive. However, there have been no formal studies or test cases, so any ‘success stories’ are anecdotal only.
Remember, what works for one person may not work for another, and successful conception may be due to other hormonal or lifestyle factors not recorded – which is why controlled clinical trials are needed.
Is Maca Safe During Pregnancy?
Despite a number of medical trials and clinical studies into its positive health benefits, many of the existing studies about the effects of maca powder have been on animals, rather than humans.
This means that there isn’t much information about whether or not maca is safe to take in pregnancy. It is accepted as ‘generally safe’ to eat, but this doesn’t automatically mean it is definitely safe when you’re pregnant.
Because of its unknown status, it’s better to avoid maca during pregnancy (source: WebMD).
Similarly, it’s best to best to avoid any medicinal (non-food) amounts of any herb, including those found in supplements, syrups, extracts, and tinctures.
Maca is often mixed with food (for example, baked into cookies or cakes, or blended into smoothies).
If you’ve eaten food or drink containing maca, there’s no need to panic as food amounts of maca are unlikely to be enough to have a negative effect.
However, it would be better, going forward, to avoid eating maca for the rest of your pregnancy as so much about it is unknown.
Does Maca Root Powder Prevent Miscarriage?
To date, there is no substantial scientific evidence that maca root either prevents or causes miscarriage.
There are a couple of articles published online that make claims about miscarriage and maca. However, none of these articles are peer-reviewed. They have not been published in any scientific journal or textbook, and they are not cited elsewhere.
Many claims made online are by companies or individuals selling maca products or dietary supplements. That’s not to say that the information is correct or not, but be aware of which information sources you trust.
In the absence of any scientific studies or trials, the evidence on maca and miscarriage is unreliable at best.
Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any sort of herbal supplement during pregnancy, as many are not considered safe.
If you’re wondering about other ‘superfoods’ during pregnancy, you may also be interested in: