Supplements and Herbs During Pregnancy – Yay or Nay?Checkable Health
Staying healthy is always important, but even more so when there's a tiny human growing in your belly. Lots of changes are coming, but first thing first. You should start making some changes to your health and wellness routine. You may want to add some things and some things you should cut out until the baby is born. But some of the health supplements that you are currently taking may be good for you AND the baby.
Getting the proper nutrients is essential at every stage of life, but it's especially critical during pregnancy, as you'll need to nourish yourself and your growing baby. It might be tough getting all of the needed nutrition, even with a balanced diet. I'm sure your OBGYN has already told you to avoid certain things like alcohol, raw foods, smoking (of anything), and certain medications. But what about health supplements? All-natural doesn't always mean it's good or safe to take while pregnant. Your pre-pregnancy health supplements might need to be tweaked, at least for a year, especially if you also plan to breastfeed.
Pregnancy can also bring a few ailments, like morning sickness, random cravings, and heartburn, just to name a few, so taking herbal or “natural” supplements might sound like a good idea. The benefits of taking supplements while pregnant can vary from managing vomiting and nausea reducing the risk of preeclampsia, preventing urinary tract infections, and overall wellbeing. But there are risks, including premature labor, miscarriage, increase in blood flow, and allergic reactions. Although some are considered safe, others may not be or there is not enough data to say, which makes it complicated. Most dietary supplements or herbs are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) the same way over-the-counter medication or prescription drugs are, and research is limited. The safest bet? Consult with your OBGYN about ANY supplements you are considering or ask them for advice for certain ailments. But here is a general cheat sheet in the meantime.
What Health Supplements Are Safe and What's Not When Pregnant
Prenatal Vitamins: These are for sure a must. Generally, this multivitamin contains all the nutrients you and your baby need, including folic acid, which is crucial for brain health, heart health, and cell growth. They also contain omega 3’s, DHA, folate, iron, and Vitamin Bs to help improve energy and mood, and Vitamin D for immune function, bone health, and cell division. Some even have probiotics. It’s always a good idea to ask your OB for one they recommend over the counter or a prescription.
Cranberry and D-Mannose: We already know that cranberry and D-Mannose are essential for urinary tract health, but pregnancy is a whole other ballgame. UTIs are very common during pregnancy, but these two powerhouses combined really can help prevent them. Hormones, unbalanced vaginal pH levels, and frequent peeing can all create the perfect environment for bacteria to fester. To help prevent UTIs during pregnancy, there are some home remedies that have been clinically proven to be safe for use during pregnancy. This includes drinking plenty of water, always wiping front to back, peeing before and after sex, and taking extra supplements like probiotics and Urinary Tract Supplements containing D-Mannose and cranberry powder. Those will help prevent E. coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary system.
Collagen: As the most abundant protein in the human body, collagen is generally considered safe to ingest during pregnancy. While there is a long list of benefits of taking collagen supplements, including anti-aging, glowing skin, and strong hair and nails, you should still definitely check with your doctor first. Plus, if you are taking a prenatal vitamin, there may not be a need for collagen supplements, as prenatals typically have biotin and lots of other good stuff that can provide the same benefits.
Ashwagandha: Sorry, mamas, but ashwagandha is considered a no-no during pregnancy. Like all other herbs and supplements, there is very limited data, and not FDA approved. Some claim that this evergreen cure-all plant that we’ve grown to love, might not be the best for your little one. Ashwagandha may cause the early onset of menstruation and could increase the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. This goes for breastfeeding mamas too. Better to ‘err on the side of caution.
Goldenseal: Goldenseal is another plant prego’s should avoid. Although it has many health benefits, there’s very little research on its effects and safety. Goldenseal contains a berberine, which can cause or worsen jaundice in newborns or possibly lead to a condition called kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can be fatal. With limited research, it’s best to avoid it for 9 months.
Some other herbal supplements that are considered unsafe (mostly due to lack or research) include:
- blue cohosh
- red clover
- saw palmetto
On the Fence:
Melatonin: Although melatonin is a hormone that our bodies produce naturally to regulate our sleep cycles, taking it while pregnant is up in the air. Generally, melatonin is safe, but pregnancy causes the female body to produce more melatonin than when not pregnant, so supplements may be too much. Studies are minimal at this point, but there are a few theories that have the researcher’s attention. For instance, animal studies suggest melatonin supplements may help decrease the risk of intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia. A very low dose of melatonin may be safe for your sleepless nights if you are not a high-risk but check with your doctor before swallowing. Checkable’s Sleep Easy Gummies only have 1 mg of melatonin, plus 2 mg of Vitamin B6, and a tiny amount (10 mg) of Passiflora to help clear your mind in each yummy bite.
As for breastfeeding moms, according to the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), melatonin is considered safe for short-term use and unlikely to harm the nursing baby. Yet again, it's always best to consult with your doctor as there is not enough data to give breastfeeding moms the green light to use melatonin.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is another supplement that researchers are on the fence about whether it is considered safe for pregnancy. No research proves that ACV is 100% safe or unsafe for pregnancy. For that reason, we say check with your OBGYN first. Some rumors say ACV can help with morning sickness and heartburn, but no scientific evidence exists. We will say that we found no current reports of harm from using ACV during pregnancy.
Even though all of the studies are a bit wishy-washy, it is always best to ask your doctor because every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different. The best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby is with a balanced diet, sleep, and exercise. If you are having some health issues from pregnancy, talk to your OBGYN for the best course of action. After all, it’s not just you anymore. Before popping a supplement, make sure it is safe for you and the baby so that your pregnancy is filled with happiness and joy.
Life is too short to sit in a doctor’s office
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