What Are The Side Effects Of Activated Charcoal During Pregnancy?

by Elizabeth Helen Spencer

A positive pregnancy test can be the most exciting news of your life. But while your emotions may trend toward joy, you're probably not feeling in the best physical shape. Whether you're suffering from morning sickness, swollen feet, or general aches and fatigue, your body takes a beating during pregnancy. Some expectant moms develop more extreme nausea or rare conditions such as cholestasis, too. If your doctor offers to prescribe activated charcoal for these or any other pregnancy symptoms, you're probably wondering, what are the side effects of using activated charcoal when pregnant?

To get the lowdown on activated charcoal use during pregnancy, Romper spoke with Miao Crystal Yu, M.D., OB-GYN, of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. So what's the purpose of using activated charcoal when pregnant? Over email, Dr. Yu explains that "activated charcoal is used as an antidote to treat poison ingestion. Even though it is not well studied, some pregnant women also use it to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation related to pregnancy." So if you're having more extreme symptoms of morning sickness and digestive upset, you may want to ask your doctor if activated charcoal could help you. But first you’ll want to know what side effects you may experience.

According to Dr. Yu, "most side effects are gastrointestinal, including nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Some women may experience temporary discoloration of their teeth or have black tarry stool. There have been cases reported where women develop intestinal obstruction as a result." The irony is that you could wind up with side effects that mimic the symptoms you were trying to treat.

However, there are ways to alleviate side effects from taking activated charcoal — constipation is a relatively common symptom of pregnancy in general. Most new mothers also find themselves constipated for a few days after giving birth, so learning to deal with it now will help you later on.

Constipation can be treated with dietary changes such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and drinking enough water. Dr. Yu also reports that most over-the-counter stool softeners and suppositories are safe to use while pregnant. However, "if you have diarrhea for more than 48 hours, you should see your physician to rule out a stomach virus."

If you find yourself debilitated from intense nausea or other gastrointestinal issues when pregnant, it makes sense to consider treatment options for relieving your discomfort. Overall, activated charcoal has mainly been studied for its ability to treat poison consumption. If you are pregnant and want to use activated charcoal for gastrointestinal symptoms related to pregnancy, Dr. Yu recommends speaking to your doctor first. They can help you decide if activated charcoal is the right choice for you and your baby.