You can't open a magazine or website (including this one) without seeing multiple articles about activated charcoal. Gaining in popularity recently, activated charcoal has been all over the beauty and health world, but with mixed messages. Is it safe? What about if you're pregnant? Everyone claims that the stuff is pure magic, but does activated charcoal have any benefits for pregnancy?
Activated charcoal has been used clinically for decades to bind to pharmaceuticals and poisons in the stomach and help flush them out of the system to prevent the acute effects of whatever was ingested, according to the Mayo Clinic. I remember one Christmas, many years ago, my tiny dog ate an entire chocolate Santa Claus. A 15-pound Bichon Frise is not supposed to eat even a bite of the sweet stuff, let alone the entire 2-pound candy. The vet prescribed activated charcoal to be given to him in a most undignified manner (shoved down his throat, forcibly) and then, hopefully, he'd be OK.
14 years later, he's still alive, and you'd never know he went to town on Father Christmas. It was like a miracle. Clearly, something that works so wonderfully on toxins in the body must have some therapeutic benefits, right? Especially when you're making a baby. Does activated charcoal have any benefits for pregnancy? What if you just really want to relive your super hardcore goth youth by eating black ice cream to match your soul?
There are plenty of articles that tout the benefits of activated charcoal —everything from whiter teeth to better digestion — but few talk about the fact that precautions must be taken.
In an interview with certified nurse midwife Hanna Hay, she tells Romper that activated charcoal simply hasn't been studied enough to prove any benefits, but that it has been proven to absorb more than just toxins in the gut, possibly taking vital nutrients along with it. "It's truly not worth it. The FDA lists it as Category C because it's not been studied," she says. Hay adds that it is beneficial for one part of pregnancy for sure, and that is possibly creating an unplanned pregnancy, pointing to studies that show that taking activated charcoal tablets may decrease the effectiveness of your birth control.
"The studies aren't there yet, so there's no reason for a mom to risk her or her child's health based on a fad that is likely not to last. Charcoal has been around for ages, and we know what it does with poisons and medicines, but we haven't yet found any magical detox properties that many of these products claim to have," Hay says. "If your OB-GYN or midwife tells you to use it for an acute exposure, that's one thing, but it shouldn't be a part of your daily routine."
As with anything when you're pregnant, you should ask your provider before taking anything, and maybe save your triumphant return to your goth roots for after the baby's born.