Patient :Hi there - I am 15 weeks pregnant with twins - in the last week eaten about 350g liquorice in total over the week (about 200g black liquorice sweets from supermarket about 150g of salty liquorice). This is the equivalent of around two big bags and the reason I have eaten so much is it helps my nausea. While the NHS explicitly states liquorice is fine, I have just found lots of countries advise against it based on a 2010 study stating that consumption of lots of liquorice, especially in the second trimester is very bad for a child's brain development - significantly affecting IQ and behaviour http://www.livestrong.com/article/518232-can-pregnant-women-eat-black-licorice/#page=1. I now feel concerned and guilty! I have stopped eating all liquorice but can you tell my why the NHS has advised liquorice is ok (ie is this study discredited) and whether one week of consumption would be enough to cause a problem. Thank you for your help!
Thank you for your query at AskTheDoctor.com
I understand your concern.
Liquorice can be consumed safely up to 4 weeks irrespective of pregnancy. If consumed more than 4 weeks continuously, it does cause side effects like hypertension, mood changes, neurological symptoms, gastric upset as well as electrolyte disturbances.
Yes, it is not the preferred medicine, and seeing the side effect profile, a lot of studies as well as countries ban liquorice and consider it unsafe. We don't have sufficient studies in our literature to show up to what amount can be consumed. But NHS has stated that liquorice in moderate amounts, not more than 100 grams per week, for 4 weeks, does not cause any side effects. But anything more than that can cause fetal problems as well as early delivery or miscarriage. Considering you took around 350 grams, I will advise you to stop any further consumption, as one week is not enough to cause any severe damage. I would have been worried if you continued it for 2-3 weeks.
So, in absence of conclusive evidence, I will suggest you abstain from any further consumption, as I will once again reinstate that one week of liquorice consumption is not likely to cause any damage to the growing foetus.
I can understand you did it to control nausea, so you can't blame yourself for it. But if you stop it right now, it won't harm you in any way.
Hope this was helpful,
These Q&A’s are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.