Stretched bellies, brittle hair, aching back and hips, and the whole world reminding you that you need to be the healthiest “you” you can be while you’re carrying human life. Pregnant women have a lot on their plate. But sometimes, they have no idea what they should or shouldn’t eat off that plate. There is increasing evidence that collagen should be in the should camp. In this article we’ll discuss if it’s safe to take during pregnancy, some possible benefits, how much to take, and how to take it.
What is collagen anyway?
Collagen is in your skin, bones, cartilage, and more — in short, it’s the most abundant protein in your body. There are a multitude of reasons that collagen could greatly benefit pregnancy, from inside your beautiful pregnant body to the outside.
What are collagen peptides?
Collagen peptides are very small proteins — subunits of collagen. They are made up of anywhere from two to one hundred amino acids (source). In plain English? They are amino acid-rich animal parts (such as a cow hide, chicken feet, fish skin, etc) that have been soaked in hot water to release their collagen, then evaporated and milled to create a powder form. What makes them ideal for consumption is that they have excellent cold-water solubility (i.e. you can put them in most foods).
Mama Natural Multi Collagen Protein smoothie scene
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What about the different types of collagen?
There are at least 16 types of collagen, but the most important ones for your body are types 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 ( I, II, III, V, and X).
Type I is the biggest one, accounting for 90% of your body’s collagen. It is made of densely packed fibers that contribute to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth (source).
Type II is found in elastic cartilage — the kind that cushions your joints. It is much more loosely packed than Type I (source).
Type III consists of only one collagen, and supports the structure of the muscles, organs, and arteries. Those low in this collagen often suffer from viral and nonviral liver diseases, kidney fibrosis, and vascular disorders (source).
Type V collagen works with type I collagen to provide structure to bone, skeletal muscle, liver, lung, and, most notably, the cells of a pregnant woman’s placenta (source).
Type X can be found in endochondral bone formation (a fancy way of saying bone and cartilage creation) (source).
Is taking just one collagen bad?
Taking just one type of collagen is not bad, it just may not be as beneficial as taking them in concert. As we explained above, each type of collagen contributes to a different area of the body. A multi-collagen peptide is going to use multiple sources such as porcine skin, chicken feet, cartilage, and even eggshell membrane, compared to a normal collagen peptide that may just use bovine. Because your body is being taxed in so many different ways — from your skin and hair, to your bones and joints — a multi-collagen may be the most beneficial.
Is collagen safe during pregnancy?
Collagen in its natural form is found naturally in your diet. It is in everything from bone broth to bell peppers. With that in mind, we’re going to go ahead and say yes, it’s safe (and encouraged) to eat a nutrient-rich diet that includes well-sourced meats, colorful veggies and fruit during pregnancy.
What about collagen powder? Is that safe to use during pregnancy?
Again, most likely, yes. But — wait for it — you should always consult your doctor or midwife before starting any new supplement. Unfortunately, because of ethical reasons, the research on the effects of collagen peptides on pregnant women is very limited. That said, collagen peptides are a pretty simple food source as supplements go. As we talked about above, in original form, they are animal parts. What’s important is where those animals came from (grass-fed and pasture-raised vs. factory-farmed) and what else, if anything, has been added to the product.
Mama Natural Multi Collagen Protein baking scene
How much collagen peptides should I take during pregnancy?
With collagen supplementation being relatively new, health authorities haven’t established any official guidelines for how much collagen to take per day — pregnant or not. If you and your doctor or midwife agree that collagen is safe for you to take during pregnancy, you can follow the dosage directions on the package. Typically, a scoop of collagen peptide every morning in your coffee, tea, or smoothie is recommended.
Can you take collagen peptides postpartum, while breastfeeding?
Again, we believe that this should be safe. And in fact, there is a 2016 study that found pregnant and postpartum women demonstrated improved protein levels and quality of life after collagen supplementation (source). More specifically, the collagen supplement subjects showed no impact on breastfeeding or post-delivery or newborn problems. But again, please consult your physician or midwife for any supplement you take while breastfeeding.
What are some potential benefits of collagen during pregnancy?
Studies show that pregnant women require a substantial amount of additional grams of protein per day. American Pregnancy Association recommends 75 to 100 grams of protein per day, while The Brewer’s Diet recommends 80 grams of protein a day up to 100-120 grams per day.
For those of you who struggle with morning sickness, it can be difficult to get all that protein in your diet. Collagen peptides have become a popular choice with pregnant women as a sneaky way to offer a protein boost in the foods that they can stomach.
Please note that collagen is not a replacement for other well-sourced protein in your diet, just a compliment to it. In fact, collagen on its own is not a complete protein. Unlike a grass-fed burger or a serving of safe pregnancy seafood, it lacks the complete essential amino acid profile. Collagen only contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids, with the bulk of them being glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (source). What do we mean by essential? These are the guys that our body can’t produce on its own. They are essential for us to eat to obtain our ideal nutrient profile (source).
2. Increase your nutrient intake through collagen
We all know the importance of a nutrient-dense diet when pregnant. The Weston A. Price Foundation is quick to remind us that primitive societies through Africa and the South Seas spaced their children out three years apart because they recognized the importance of a mother’s nutritional stores when carrying a baby. In short, it’s always important to eat a nutrient-rich diet, but never so important as when you’re pregnant.
The beauty of collagen is that it really packs a nutritional punch. With 50% of the RDA of Vitamin A, 625% of Vitamin C, 100% of Vitamin D 50% of Vitamin E, 50% of Calcium, 30% of Zinc and 50% of Copper, a slightly (or very) nauseated pregnant woman can get a lot of her daily needs in a small amount of food.
3. Collagen may benefit baby
As we stated in the beginning, collagen is critical for your skin, bones, and cartilage. So when you’re growing a baby in your belly, you can only imagine what that little one requires of you to build its own skin, bones, and cartilage.
A 2019 study from Purdue University found that a significant number of pregnant women are not getting enough vitamins D, C, A, B6, K, and E, as well as folate, choline, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc even with the use of a multi or a prenatal supplement. As mentioned above, collagen is a great source of six of the aforementioned vitamins and minerals.
In addition, a review in the International Journal of Biomedical Sciences explains that collagen plays a critical role during a successful pregnancy, from establishing itself in the decidual tissue (simplify term) to assisting in a healthy immune system (source).
4. Possibly prevent stretch marks with collagen
When you’re pregnant, your belly grows, stretching your skin in ways that it hasn’t been stretched since you were going through puberty. However, as you age, your body produces less collagen on it’s own, leading to dry skin, and possibly in the case of pregnancy, stretch marks. Skin health is kind of collagen’s claim to fame. Multiple studies have found that collagen peptides or supplements may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness (source) (source) (source). Moreover, in one study, women who took a collagen supplement experienced a significant increase in skin elasticity (source).
What’s important to note here is that collagen has been shown to increase skin elasticity before the skin has been stretched; not after. That’s why it may be most beneficial to take collagen early on in pregnancy before the belly is stretched to its max.
5. Collagen may help keep hair beautiful during pregnancy
Even if you’re not typically a woman who suffers from thin or brittle hair, the hormonal shifts during pregnancy can lead to dry hair and even hair loss. Collagen brands and collagen users alike love to brag about how much thicker and longer that hair has become since starting a collagen peptide. Unfortunately, there is not a ton of scientific studies on the effects of collagen on hair growth and health. However, here are a few basic facts:
- Hair is mostly comprised of the protein keratin (source)
- Proline is one of collagen’s primary amino acids (source)
- Proline is also the main component of keratin
6. Collagen may help relieve joint pain during pregnancy
The stress of a growing baby on your body can lead to all sorts of new pain on your body parts (round ligament pain, sciatica, overall muscle aches). You may have heard of the infamous Relaxin by now — the hormone released early in pregnancy intended to relax the ligaments so that later, during labor, the uterus and pelvis can more easily expand. This hormone is known to do its job a little too well because it helps other joints lose their normal stability and can even lead to injury.
Enter collagen. The word actually comes from the Greek word “glue” because it keeps your cells glued together (source). In this case, it can help keep your cartilage and tendons together. Studies have shown that collagen supplementation can reduce joint pain, and possibly reduce inflammation (source). In one study, 147 athletes (a high risk group to joint pain) found that those who took a collagen supplement had significantly less pain than those who didn’t.
7. Possibly combat morning sickness with collagen supplementation
One of the key reasons that pregnant women suffer from morning sickness is that they suffer from nutritional deficiency. Again, collagen provides substantial, and often lacking, nutrient content.
Blood sugar fluctuations also tend to induce nausea in pregnancy. The best way to balance blood sugar is to include both fat and protein in your meals — no matter how small. A smoothie with a scoop of collagen and a spoonful of almond butter could make all the difference in your typically nauseating morning.
What do Midwives have to say about using collagen peptides during pregnancy?
Studies have shown that pregnant women who choose a midwife have fewer medical interventions with no negative health implications on mom or baby (source). Moms who give birth with midwives are also more likely to breastfeed (source). All this to say, midwives have a reputation for putting the mother first, and being by her side throughout the entire pregnancy. A good midwife is completely immersed in the prenatal and postnatal world. They know their stuff.
Maura Winkler, CNM at FIKA Midwifery is a proponent of collagen peptides during pregnancy. She says,
“Collagen peptides are not just safe for pregnancy, they’re beneficial! Collagen helps support skin elasticity and joint health—two body systems that are pushed to the max during pregnancy. Collagen also contains amino acids that may help to seal the gut and promote gut health, a trait you’ll likely pass on to your baby through vaginal birth.”
Heather McCullough, CPM, a Certified Professional Midwife in Chicago, says,
“Please do add collagen every day to your routine! I’m such a huge fan of collagen – for all people, but most importantly during pregnancy and postpartum. Collagen in pregnancy has been associated with stronger amniotic sacs, decreasing occurrences of early release of the membranes and therefore decreasing risk of infection during birth. Other common concerns during pregnancy are round ligament pain, sacroiliac pain (SI joint dysfunction) and symphysis pubis dysfunction. All of which can see improvement with the addition of daily collagen and vitamin C intake. What’s not to love?”
How should I take collagen?
Collagen is first and foremost available naturally through food. Beef, fish, chicken, beans, eggs, dairy, and animal bones (i.e. bone broth, bone marrow). But because pregnancy can be especially exhausting, collagen supplementation is also an option. You can easily throw a collagen peptide powder in a smoothie, your morning tea, soup (even bone broth to double your collagen intake), baked goods, oatmeal, yogurt, pasta, and more. A good collagen peptide powder is tasteless and odorless, making the food possibilities endless.
What collagen do we recommend?
I’m so passionate about collagen that I created my own custom blend! Mama Natural Multi-Collagen Protein serves up 10 grams of protein, six types of collagen, and zero additives, fillers, or preservatives.
Each serving also delivers over 1000 mg of alanine, over 2000 mg of glycine, and 1500 mg of proline 一 among many other amino acids!
Our Multi-Collagen Protein is unflavored and hydrolyzed. Which means it’s easy to add to savory or sweet dishes, hot or cold drinks 一 you name it!
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Mama Natural Multi Collagen Protein tea scene
How about you?
Did you take collagen during pregnancy? What was your experience with it? Any great recipe ideas? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.