Is Collagen Safe During Pregnancy?
Time to read 8 min
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Time to read 8 min
Of the many lifestyle changes that happen during pregnancy, one of the most important considerations for any expectant mother to think about is their dietary intake. For many, this means embracing a new regimen of supplements. Some may be seasoned pros at taking vitamins and supplements, having long incorporated them into their daily routines. Others may find dietary questions to be totally foreign and unfamiliar. In either case, being pregnant means you will have new dietary concerns to keep in mind.
One popular supplement included in many pregnant women's diets – as well as the diets of plenty of people who aren't pregnant – is collagen. However, there has been some debate as to the effectiveness and safety of taking collagen supplements, in particular collagen peptides, while pregnant.
So why the debate? And more importantly, are collagen supplements safe to take during pregnancy? Read on to learn more.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, serving a host of critical functions. Most notably, it is the substance that gives structure to our connective tissues, enabling a host of other functions, including ease of joint movement, strong bones, and healthy skin. In fact, there are many different types of collagen found in the body that each play different unique roles to support our health.
Each of us produces collagen naturally, though our levels of natural collagen production begin to wane after the age of 25. Beyond synthesizing our own collagen, we can also consume it in our food, which can contain the same essential amino acids as supplements.
Some foods are direct sources of collagen, providing similar benefits to a collagen supplement:
Bone broth: Made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue, this is one of the richest direct sources of collagen you can find. Bone broth can be made from chicken, pork, or beef bones.
Animal skins: Chicken, pork, and fish skins are all good sources of collagen.
Gelatin: Derived from collagen, gelatin is used in cooking and baking and is a good source of this protein.
Meats with connective tissues: For the carnivorous, cuts of meat that are cooked with their connective tissues (like beef shank or oxtail) can be good sources of collagen.
Fish collagen: Among the many nutritious benefits of fish are its high levels of collagen, found in the skin, bones, and scales.
Pork rinds: Made from fried or roasted pork skins, pork rinds are rich in collagen.
You may be happy to learn that other foods that are a staple of your diet also help promote new collagen production, even if they are not themselves direct sources of collagen. These foods tend to contain vitamin C, sulfur, or the amino acids found in collagen. These include:
Berries: Berries of all types are rich in vitamin C, which is a crucial ingredient for collagen synthesis.
Red and yellow vegetables, such as bell peppers and tomatoes: Rich in vitamin C, these vegetables help facilitate the production of new collagen.
Garlic: Foods that contain sulfur, such as garlic, help the body prompt collagen production.
Eggs: Among the many nutritional components of eggs is proline, found in egg whites, which is one of the amino acids necessary for collagen production.
Leafy greens: Lettuces such as spinach and kale are rich in antioxidants that protect collagen in the body.
Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are another well-known source of vitamin C.
Beans: Beans of all types provide amino acids, which are the building blocks of collagen.
Some of these may be easy additions to your diet during pregnancy – bone broth is as fortifying and delicious as it is simple to prepare. Still, many decide to boost their collagen intake through dietary supplements instead, as they can offer even more streamlined benefits.
As we have gained a better understanding of the role collagen plays in supporting skin, bone, and joint health, more and more people have begun embracing collagen supplements as part of a healthy diet. There are all sorts of collagen supplementation options available, from collagen powders to gummies to liquid forms of the substance.
Collagen supplements are perhaps most popular for those looking for its benefits to the skin, as it is known for its anti-aging properties. It has also been used as a treatment to relieve joint pain for those with conditions such as osteoarthritis.
In recent years, science has refined our means of deriving collagen in the form of collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen. Collagen peptides pare down collagen to its essential amino acids – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – which the body is able to absorb and make use of more efficiently.
As mentioned above, there are many different types of collagen. Types I and III are linked to skin and tissue health, while Type II is associated with joint health. Type V is associated with fetal growth and neonatal development – more on that later. The list goes on.
Some collagen peptide supplements feature just one type of collagen, while multi-collagen supplements feature several side by side.
One reason why so many people have embraced a collagen supplement regimen is because consuming collagen can improve our natural collagen production. Indeed, nutritionists have determined that the body produces more collagen of its own when prompted by external collagen intake.
Many consume hydrolyzed collagen alongside vitamin C, which has also been shown to increase the body's collagen production. This is recommended for those who wish to prompt all the collagen synthesis they can.
As you can see, there are many scientific reasons to support the effectiveness of a collagen supplement regimen generally. But are collagen's effects different if you are pregnant?
Yes and no. For the most part, collagen's effects appear to be the same for pregnant women as for others. The needs of pregnant women just happen to be different, meaning different considerations must be taken.
Here are some of the reasons you may want to consider taking collagen peptides if you are pregnant.
There is growing evidence to support the theory that certain collagen peptides support fetal growth, as Type V collagen is found in the decidual tissue of the maternal-fetal interface – in other words, the placenta of an expecting mother. One such study was conducted in 2020 by the NHC Lab of Reproduction Regulation and published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences. Of all the benefits of collagen, the strengthening of the maternal-fetal interface is the one most directly linked to a healthy pregnancy.
If you are already taking collagen, chances are it is for its benefits to skin hydration and skin elasticity. This has been substantiated by significant scientific research, including a 2021 study published by the International Society of Dermatology. These skin-enhancing benefits could prevent stretch marks, though this effect has not been studied.
As mentioned above, collagen is already a go-to supplement to help those with joint conditions. Since pregnancy can increase wear and tear on the joints, reinforcement from collagen peptides could be useful.
Collagen is known for increasing bone mass, meaning pregnant women and their babies may benefit from a diet of increased collagen during gestation.
Another reason why many who are pregnant consider taking collagen supplements is to increase their protein intake. While collagen is not on its own a complete protein, it can still provide eight of the nine amino acids our bodies need. This means that though it is an incomplete protein, collagen protein can still provide some of the nutrients we need to stay strong.
Many collagen products now make use of hydrolyzed collagen peptides, including collagen powder. These are typically made from animal products, including cows, chickens, and fish. Consider this if you have food allergies, and look into the sourcing of your products, opting for grass-fed and organic options when possible.
So, is it safe to take collagen during pregnancy? The evidence points to yes, though it is always recommended to speak to your doctor when considering taking supplements beyond your prenatal vitamin while pregnant.
In fact, the main reason why there is debate over the question is because the effects of collagen peptides during pregnancy have not been studied in great detail. However, based on what we know about the effects of collagen, most experts support using collagen supplements during pregnancy.
Most doctors seem to be in agreement that collagen supplements are safe to take while pregnant, with some arguing that they can even be helpful to the baby. However, since collagen use during pregnancy has not been studied specifically, doctors do not have direct evidence-based research to cite but rather base their opinions on what they already know about what collagen supplementation does for us.
It is very important to speak directly with your own doctor before taking collagen peptide supplements while pregnant to assess your unique health needs.
Some collagen supplements contain added ingredients, such as herbs, vitamins, or minerals, that may not be recommended during pregnancy. Always check the label and discuss with a healthcare professional.
Most doctors are in agreement that it is safe to take collagen supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding unless you have an existing allergy to the source ingredients. Still, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should always consult your doctor before adding to your dietary regimen.
Typically, doctors and nutritionists recommend an intake of 2.5 to 15 mg of collagen daily. Some argue this is on the low side for pregnant women, but it is a good place to start if you are beginning to incorporate collagen powder, gummies, or concentrate into your diet.
Pregnant women benefit from collagen by making use of its key amino acids, which are known for supporting improved bone health, decreased joint pain, strong connective tissue, and healthy skin. Collagen can also be a helpful way for pregnant women to boost their much-needed protein intake.
Jack Levinson is a writer born and raised in Los Angeles. He received his bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. When not writing, his interests include the arts, cooking, and exploring the California coast.
Dr. Sanober Doctor is a dual-board certified dermatologist, & a leading expert in Integrative and holistic Dermatology. She is a proactive, compassionate medical practitioner with a thorough understanding of mind-body-spiritual wellness.