Although vanilla extract--which is frequently used in cake, pie, bread or cookie recipes as a sweetener--contains alcohol, pregnant women should not be concerned about any adverse effects on the development of their unborn babies.
Vanilla extract is commonly used as a flavoring in foods or medications, or as a scent component in candles, perfume, lotion or soap. Traditionally, it has been used as an aphrodisiac or a stimulant and may be added to foods to reduce the amount of sugar needed for sweetening.
Pure vanilla extract is made by percolating the vanilla bean with a mixture of water and alcohol and accounts for only 6 percent of the vanilla flavoring market, according to Drugs.com. Synthetically produced vanilla extract is more widely available and is less expensive.
Vanilla extract that is consumed in food is generally considered safe during pregnancy and does not pose any risk to a fetus. Topical application of products that contain vanilla are also considered safe for use by pregnant women.
A pregnant woman should avoid dosages of vanilla extract that are more than those found in food, since its safety has been unproven. Vanilla extract does contain alcohol and should not be consumed excessively during pregnancy.
While pregnant women may safely use products or consume foods that contain vanilla extract, some women may experience headaches or dermatitis (skin inflammation or rash) as a result. Contact a health care professional if an adverse reaction is experienced.