3 Harmful Effects Of MSG On Pregnancy

✔ Research-backed

Most doctors advise against consuming additives during pregnancy and recommend sticking to basic and homemade meals and organic foods. One food additive that your doctor may recommend that you be wary of is monosodium glutamate or MSG during pregnancy.

Whatever you eat or consume daily throughout your pregnancy can significantly impact you and your baby. MSG has no unique flavor of its own, but it is used to enhance the inherent savory flavor of various meals. While MSG is generally safe to consume, you may want to consider whether it is safe for maternal health.

Read this post to know more about MSG and its effects on pregnancy.

In This Article

What Is MSG? 

MSG is a food additive and flavoring substance

Image: Shutterstock

Monosodium glutamate is a food additive and flavoring substance used primarily in various cuisines. MSG is also a common component in many packaged, especially ready-to-eat canned foods, and is used to add flavor and taste. The Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) allows the addition of MSG to food as an additive to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), which means it is a safe food ingredient (1).

protip_icon Did you know?
The body digests MSG in the same way as glutamate, which is naturally found in several foods, such as tomatoes and cheese (8).

MSG And Pregnancy Effects

Is MSG harmful during pregnancy? This is one big question that can be raised. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Avoid if you are allergic

Avoid salts and MSG during pregnancy if you have water retention

Image: Shutterstock

It is best to avoid eating msg during pregnancy, if you are allergic to it, as the effects and allergic reaction could multiply in reaction. MSG has been known to cause certain allergy type reactions with symptoms which include but are not limited to (2):

  • Sweating and flushing
  • Headache, numbness and muscle tightening
  • Nausea and chest pain

2. Avoid if you have water retention

You may experience water retention during pregnancy. Salt is a major contributor to this problem. If your body is retaining excess water during your pregnancy, avoid MSG and consider a low-sodium diet.

3. Glutamate effects

As per a study, when MSG was injected into pregnancy monkeys, there was no increase in glutamate levels. In fact, the amino acids were transferred, ensuring fetal growth (3). However, it is important to note that this was in animal studies, and it is not precisely known if these effects are applicable to humans.

The Best Way to Deal with MSG Exposure

There is no proven scientific study that says MSG has a proven adverse effect on women and the fetal development during the pregnancy. However, since pregnancy leads to hormonal changes, you may have heightened responses from the body. The best way to deal with MSG is:

  • Avoid it if you are allergic to MSG.
  • Avoid it if you want to exercise caution and pregnancy complications.
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On average, the amount of MSG ingested as a food additive in a meal is minuscule when compared to the total glutamate present in our body (9).

How To Know If Food Has MSG?

FDA has instructed all food manufacturing and packaging companies, as a mandate, to mention the MSG content-related information on the food packet. While buying any packaged food or processed food, you can make an informed choice by reading through the nutritional labeling on the food products.

Which Common Foods Contain MSG?

MSG is found in several consumable items. Processed and packaged items like chips, soups, and canned goods frequently include MSG as a flavor enhancer. Condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce often contain MSG. Several seasoning blends also use MSG to intensify the taste and umami flavor of different foods, such as soups and stews. Frozen foods, processed meats, fast food, and instant noodles can also contain MSG in varying amounts (1) (4).

Is It a Yes or No to MSG During Pregnancy?

Have minimal or no consumption of MSG during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

During pregnancy, always try to have fresh food, practice healthy eating habits and avoid packaged and processed food as it has reduced nutritive value. Exercise caution when you go out to eat or buy packaged food. MSG can make your food flavorful and sumptuous, but is it worth the health of your baby? We suggest minimal or no consumption of MSG during pregnancy. It is important that your baby gets all the necessary nutrients needed for healthy development. Do check on the same with your doctor to get the most informed advice. Eat healthy, and practice food safety for what you eat is what your baby does!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can MSG cause birth defects in the baby?

A study conducted in rats demonstrated that administering MSG during pregnancy negatively impacted fetal growth and skeletal development, confirming MSG’s toxic and teratogenic effects (5). More human studies need to be conducted to produce conclusive evidence.

2. Does MSG affect the development of the baby’s brain?

A study showed that oral consumption of MSG at acceptable daily doses may promote injuries in the brain and cause brain cell damage in infant mice (6). Further studies are needed to determine if these effects occur in humans.

3. Does MSG affect the taste of breast milk?

It is not known whether MSG affects breast milk’s taste. Most mothers who consume MSG may not notice any difference in their babies’ feeding patterns, indicating that MSG may have little to no effect on the milk’s taste.

4. Does MSG affect the mother’s mood or mental health?

A study evaluated the role of dietary MSG in psychiatric stress. It was found that MSG may be associated with the onset and progression of psychiatric symptoms (7). However, more research is needed to determine if MSG is the cause or if other factors also play a role.

Studies have not yet proven any adverse effects owing to MSG intake. However, consuming MSG during pregnancy is not recommended, especially if you have had allergic reactions, such as headache, morning sickness, and sweating. Further, avoiding MSG and other salts is recommended if you experience excess water retention and bloating in pregnancy. Carefully read all food labels, especially packaged and processed foods, to ensure they do not contain MSG. Further, include more fresh foods in your diet for a healthy and safe pregnancy.

Infographic: Side Effects Of MSG In Pregnant Women

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is known for its savory taste and flavor and is used as an additive for various dishes. However, it may cause a few adverse effects, and pregnant women are particularly more sensitive to the effects of MSG. The below infographic mentions the probable side effects of monosodium glutamate in pregnant women.

possible adverse reactions of msg in pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • MSG (Monosodium glutamate) is a food additive and flavoring substance that’s considered safe by the US FDA.
  • If you have a known allergy to MSG, avoid it during pregnancy to prevent allergic reactions such as sweating, flushing, headache, nausea, chest pain, and muscle tightening.
  • Consuming MSG during pregnancy hasn’t been proven to have any adverse effects on pregnancy.
  • It’s best to limit or avoid MSG intake during pregnancy and focus on eating fresh and nutritious foods for a healthy pregnancy.

There is a lot of hearsay and rumor about the adverse effects of this flavoring agent. Watch this video to clear all your doubts as it presents a clear picture concerning the truth behind MSG and its effects on our health.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Questions And Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  2. MSG symptom complex.
  3. Fact or Fiction. The MSG Controve
  4. How Can You Know if There Is Monosodium Glutamate in a Processed Meat or Poultry Product?
  5. The Umami Factor: 4 Surprising Facts about MSG.
  6. Some Facts about Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
  7. Hadeer M. Shosha et al.; (2023); Effect of monosodium glutamate on fetal development and progesterone level in pregnant Wistar Albino rats.
  8. Majeda Noori Ibrahim et al.; (2021); Histological Effects of Monosodium Glutamate on Brain of Infant Albino Swiss Mice Mus Musculus.
  9. A. Zarina Kraal et al.; (2020); Could dietary glutamate play a role in psychiatric distress?
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Hannah is a pregnancy and pediatric dietitian with seven years of experience. She specializes in milk allergy and vegan pregnancy. She has been working with women and children for nearly 20 years, the last seven years as a registered dietitian. She manages her private practice bump2baby in the UK but has clients globally.  Hannah did her bachelors and PG diploma...read full bio