Can You Drink Activated Charcoal While Pregnant? An OB-GYN Explains

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Charcoal — not just for grilling anymore. If you’re a fan of Pinterest, just type in the words “activated charcoal” and you’ll find pins upon pins of the benefits and uses of activated charcoal — everything from whitening teeth to inducing labor. Activated charcoal is typically used to detox your body of toxins, and help with constipation (which makes you feel toxic). But what if you want to cure that pesky pregnancy constipation? Can you drink activated charcoal while pregnant? I know you feel pretty crummy and constantly hungover while pregnant — especially in the first trimester — and pregnancy constipation is no joke, but is it safe to use this natural method to cleanse your system while a baby is in there?

Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper that even though activated charcoal is not officially FDA approved to use while you’re pregnant, “it can be safely given to pregnant women for certain intestinal conditions including diarrhea and constipation.” However, it’s super important to drink a lot of water when taking activated charcoal for constipation during pregnancy to avoid dehydration — which is bad in and of itself for non-pregnant ladies, but even worse if you’re pregnant. The Mayo Clinic also noted that less common side effects can include pain or swelling in your stomach — which could indicate a bowel obstruction. And it’s a pretty safe bet your stool will be black.

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However, Ross says there are many safer alternatives to consider when treating constipation. “The most common side effect is vomiting when ingesting activated charcoal. Aspiration of activated charcoal is another serious side effect which could lead to dangerous complications,” she explains. Yikes. So it appears that Colace may be your friend during those pregnancy constipation blues. Ross suggests that other potentially safer ways to “get rid of toxins" while you’re pregnant include drinking plenty of water, getting exercise, and eating more fiber.

“Water is the best choice, and I would recommend drinking at least eight to 10 8-ounce glasses a day. Fruit juice, especially prune juice, will help regulate your constipation. Drinking warm liquids in the morning is also effective,” she recommends. As far as daily exercise goes, you don’t have to run a marathon every day to stay regular. Ross says, “Daily walks, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, and other aerobic activities can help prevent pregnancy constipation. Exercising regularly aids in your digestion and makes you feel physically and emotionally stronger and more energetic.”

Need ideas to get more fiber in your diet? Ross says high-fiber foods include fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. “Fiber helps bring water into the intestines, softening the stool and allowing it easier to pass,” Ross says. If you’re having trouble keeping anything down these days, and the thought of eating a vegetable makes you gag, Ross suggests, “With your healthcare provider's OK, consider a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil, Citrucel, or Miralax.”

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Stool softeners like Colace moisten your stool to make it easier to pass, according to Ross. “I encourage most of my patients to take 50 milligrams to 100 milligrams of Colace two times a day throughout the duration of the pregnancy. However, make sure you’re not using stimulant laxatives like Ex-Lax and Senokot. They’re the hardest on your already fragile intestines and should not be used during pregnancy without the consent of your healthcare provider.”

So it looks like if you’re a charcoal newbie, it may be best to stick to other safer methods when detoxing and helping with your pregnancy constipation. And if you do decide to go the activated charcoal route, please drink plenty of water and take the recommended dosage, and have your healthcare provider on speed dial in case things go awry. Otherwise, drinking plenty of water, exercising daily, and getting enough fiber in your diet should help with constipation. If not, there’s always Colace, Metamucil, Citrucel and Miralax. Good luck.

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