Maternal Resources

Should Pregnant Women Avoid Licorice

Pregnant women are often getting told what they should or shouldn’t eat by family and friends. It can actually become a little frustrating, being told constantly what you should avoid eating, what you should never eat, and what you should always be eating.

Of course, your physician is a trusted source and you should go to them for any questions you have regarding your pregnancy diet.
One of the latest controversies regarding a very popular candy that pregnant women are being advised not to eat involves licorice.

Licorice has remained a top sweet treat for decades, but after a small Finnish study was conducted, results showed that when pregnant women consume licorice, they could be more likely to have children with cognitive or behavioral problems.
Lead Study Author, Katri Raikkonen from the University of Helsinki said, “Some previous lab experiments have linked glycyrrhizin, a natural sweetener in licorice root, to changes in the placenta that may make it easier for the stress hormone cortisol to travel from mothers to the developing babies. Some cortisol aids fetal development but too much may alter neurodevelopmental processes and contribute to cognitive or behavior issues later in life.”

Finnish researchers put together a study on children that were born in Helsinki in 1998. Within the study, eleven percent of the mothers consumed more than 500 milligrams of glycyrrhizin a week.

Children in the study around 13 years old, that had mothers who consumed more licorice root than others, averaged seven points lower on I.Q. tests.
These children also had a tripled risk of being diagnosed with attention deficit disorders.

The girls from the high-consumption group from the study also reached puberty earlier and had a higher body mass index.

Researchers do recognize that studies, such as this one, do have limitations in observation. Although the results did indicate that licorice consumption did have a negative effect on children, it is still up for debate.

If you are concerned about what you should or shouldn’t be eating while pregnant, it is important to talk to a trusted medical professional.
Although the results of this study are interesting, you can’t base your pregnancy diet off of it.

At Mindful Midwifery, we provide collaborative midwifery and obstetrical care, with excellence in personalized OB/GYN wellness and birth.