Can I Eat Honey While Pregnant?

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You may have heard that children under 1 year old should not eat honey. That's true: Experts recommend holding off on introducing honey to babies because it can carry a bacteria that is especially dangerous for infants.

It's natural to wonder, then, whether you can eat honey while pregnant. Luckily, this sweet and sticky treat is generally safe for you and your unborn baby. Learn more about why you should feel free to enjoy honey while expecting—but take precautions for your baby once they're born.

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Eating Honey During Pregnancy

Since ancient times, honey has been enjoyed as a tasty food and home remedy for certain ailments. Before, during, and after pregnancy, you might have a taste for this natural sweetener, whether spooned into tea or drizzled over toast or yogurt.

The reason some people question the safety of honey is that it sometimes contains bacterial spores called Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria may grow quickly in your gut and produce neurotoxins that lead to botulism, a rare but serious disease that can cause weakness and paralysis in the arms, legs, abdominal area, and respiratory system.

However, this risk is not a concern for most kids and grown-ups. "Children over age 1 and healthy adults—including pregnant women—can safely consume honey because their immune systems protect against any bacteria the honey might contain," says Sandy Procter, PhD, a professor of nutrition at Kansas State University.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating honey while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Honey is safe for the baby in your belly, too. Even in isolated cases when pregnant people contracted botulism, researchers have found no evidence that their babies were born with the condition. Expectant parents' botulism infection wasn't linked to pregnancy problems or birth defects, either.

For something in your system to harm your unborn baby, it has to enter through the placenta. The botulinum toxin has a high molecular weight, which makes it unlikely to pass through your placenta and reach your baby. That means that even if you eat honey that contains botulism spores, your baby should be protected.

However, once your baby is born and no longer protected in your womb, they are vulnerable to that bacteria—at least for a little while. "Honey is a concern for young infants due to their underdeveloped immune systems—they are unable to combat the botulism spores that are sometimes present in honey," says Dr. Procter. Keep raw honey out of reach of your baby until after their first birthday.

About 110 cases of botulism are reported annually in the U.S., and around 70% of those affected are newborn babies.

Benefits of Honey During Pregnancy

In general, honey isn't considered to be an especially vitamin or mineral-rich food source. But it is still thought to have some possible health benefits.

  • Fertility: There is some thought that preconceptional use of honey may help improve your ability to become pregnant, says Andrea Chisholm, MD, an OB-GYN and member of Verywell Family's Review Board.
  • Respiratory health: Some studies have found that eating honey may help with asthma, treat coughs, and soothe sore throats.
  • Antioxidant protection: Honey, especially dark-colored varieties, contains antioxidants that may boost health by combating molecules in our bodies that damage healthy cells.

Safety Precautions

Almost always, you should feel free to enjoy honey while you are pregnant. But it's best to follow a few precautions.

Talk to Your Doctor If You Have Gastrointestinal Abnormalities

People who have had bowel or gastric surgery or have Crohn's disease may have a harder time processing everyday bacteria in their intestinal tracts. Since honey may contain bacterial spores, it's important to ask your doctor about your honey consumption if you have these conditions.

Limit Intake If You're Taking Heavy Antibiotics

Heavy-duty antibiotics can wipe out the "good" bugs in your gut that normally fight off bacterial spores. If you are taking or coming off a course of antibiotics, check in with your doctor to see if it's a good idea to limit honey in your diet temporarily.

Go Easy on Honey If You Have Gestational Diabetes

"In pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes, it's best to minimize any added sweeteners, including honey, as it may drive up your blood glucose level," says Dr. Chisolm. Still, Dr. Chisolm prefers honey to table sugar on an occasional basis for her patients. "Honey has a slightly lower glycemic index and additional vitamins and antioxidant properties, making it a better choice as your go-to sweetener," she says.

Keep Honey Away From Your Baby Once They're Born

Of course, once your baby is born, honey is a no-no until they reach age 1. Infants who get botulism are typically between 3 weeks and 6 months old, but it's safest to keep raw honey out of your baby's food (and reach) before their first birthday.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to be conscious of what you eat during pregnancy because some foods can be unhealthy for you, your unborn baby, or both. Fortunately, honey does not carry the same risks as many other uncooked or unpasteurized foods.

In general, honey is a safe sweet treat for you during pregnancy. So if you want to swirl some honey in your tea, use it to sweeten your baked goods, or take a spoonful to soothe a sore throat, feel free.

Honey can carry bacteria, but your body should have no problem processing it as long as you are a healthy adult. Still, if you have gestational diabetes, a gastrointestinal problem, or are coming off a course of antibiotics, it's a good idea to discuss your honey intake with a doctor to be extra safe.

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7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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