When you get a new type of Chinese takeout for dinner, you might notice a common taste between that and the different Chinese takeout you had last time, even if you got a different dish. This is no coincidence, as you probably taste a compound called monosodium glutamate. Monosodium glutamate, more commonly called MSG, can be found in many foods. Chinese food is a classic example, but it can also be found in sausage, salty chips, lunchmeats, Asian-inspired sauces and chicken products. It has been deemed safe by the FDA, but many people experience negative symptoms when they eat too much. In fact, some people are allergic to it and experience more serious symptoms such as chest pain and swelling. Many people are skeptical about how safe the compound really is since it can have some negative side effects not usually associated with food. While you might feel fine consuming MSG in your daily life, you’ll probably wonder if it’s safe during your pregnancy.

There have been no negative side effects on fetal development associated with the consumption of MSG. Women who consumed it regularly before they became pregnant can continue to consume it during pregnancy without putting their baby at risk. However, if you have migraines during your pregnancy, you should consider cutting back on MSG. Along with nitrates and aspartame, MSG has been associated with increased migraines in pregnant women. Additionally, you should be careful not to gain excess weight during your pregnancy. Foods with a lot of MSG tend to be unhealthy, so if you’re consuming a lot of MSG, it’s not likely you are following a healthy pregnancy diet.

If you’ve never had a negative reaction to MSG in your life, there is no guarantee you won’t be more affected by it during gestation. Many changes occur in your body when you’re pregnant, so you could be especially sensitive. Even if you don’t feel directly affected by it, consider cutting back if you’re getting a lot of migraines. As far as fetal development goes, MSG has been tested and shows no negative side effects. As long as you watch your weight, you can continue to eat your favorite junk food during your pregnancy without worrying what might be in the ingredients. Your hungry belly will appreciate some hearty Lo Mein, and your husband will appreciate the lack of dishes at the end of the meal.

Source: Christina Sud-Edelstein et al: Foods and Supplements in the Management of Migraine Headaches. Clinical Journal of Pain Volume 25 Issue 5 June 2009