Whey Protein During Pregnancy: Is it Safe?

When you are pregnant, it is vital that you are careful to eat the best foods for you and your growing baby. You want to keep both you and your baby as healthy as possible and avoid any complications. It is critical to eat a well-balanced diet– getting plenty of complex carbs, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

But, there are many foods that could be harmful during pregnancy. These foods are anything that could have a negative effect on your body or your baby, and you’ll be surprised to find that there are quite a few of them. It is likely on your first appointment your doctor will provide you with a list of foods to eat and those to avoid.

Does whey protein fall under the category of foods to avoid during pregnancy? Can pregnant women drink protein shakes during pregnancy? Could it pose a danger to a pregnant woman’s body or to the baby? Read on to find out everything you need to know about taking whey protein during pregnancy.

Whey Protein While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Protein is an important nutrient during pregnancy. It is critical to grow healthy tissues and cells for the new baby. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that women get between 75-100 grams of protein a day during pregnancy. Whey protein might be a good option for meeting those protein needs, but there are a few potential consequences to be aware of if you use whey protein during pregnancy.

Protein Powder for Pregnancy: What’s the Evidence?

Generally, most doctors will recommend you avoid any dietary supplements during pregnancy, with certain exceptions, like a prenatal vitamin. The reason is not because supplements, like protein powder, are necessarily harmful, but that the supplement industry doesn’t require the high scrutiny a mother needs for a growing baby. When you ask your doctor if you should use whey protein during pregnancy, all products are not created equal. Therefore, it is simply easier for the advice to just be “don’t use supplements” and then each doctor can discuss supplementation with patients on an individual basis. But, here are a few things that we do know about whey protein during pregnancy.

Protein and Pregnancy: Balance is Key

A 2014 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both low and high protein diets during pregnancy seem to have a detrimental effect on offspring. The report discusses that most of the research on protein needs during pregnancy is based on animal studies. It is challenging to extrapolate the results of this research to humans.

But, what we do know is that inadequate protein can impact fetal development, resulting in low birthweight and other complications. It also may cause long-term health effects later in life.

High protein diets were also problematic. Research has found that it may increase the risk of preterm birth and fetal death. Excessive protein has also been linked to preeclampsia, a dangerous rise in blood pressure with many serious side effects for mothers and babies.

Maintaining protein during pregnancy within the recommended levels is the safest for both you and the baby. If you are struggling to get in enough protein, drinking whey protein shakes during pregnancy can help you meet your needs. But, if you are able to eat enough high protein foods then you may want to skip the additional protein powder.

Calcium and Whey Protein When Pregnant

For those who are consuming a lot of protein, this may cause increased calcium excretion. Although this won’t impact the baby directly, it can impact the mother’s long-term bone health, leading to weak bones and osteoporosis. This is unlikely to impact the health of the fetus in any significant way, unless calcium deficiency becomes severe.

Indigestion and Whey Protein

When you are pregnant, you are already going to be experiencing a number of digestive health issues: heartburn, acid reflux, and constipation among them. The hormonal changes in your body are going to affect your digestive system, and adding whey protein into the mix could make these issues worse. Many people who take whey protein during pregnancy suffer from indigestion or upset stomach. If you experience any of that, it is important to stop taking the supplement.

Dangerous Additives of Whey Protein Powder

Many whey protein products have unnecessary and potentially harmful additives in their products for pregnant women.

Saccharin or other artificial sweeteners are commonly added to protein powders. It is recommended that pregnant women limit artificial sweeteners during pregnancy.

Some protein powders are manufactured for athletes, and thus contain additives meant to boost energy (such as caffeine and taurine). These additives could prove detrimental to both the mother’s and infant’s health, so it’s wise to avoid them.

Protein Powder and Shakes for Pregnancy: Being a Safe Consumer

If you’re going to consume whey protein for your pregnancy, follow the tips below:

  • Read the labels carefully You need to make sure that there are no artificial sweeteners or additives in your whey protein powder, as they may have a detrimental effect on baby’s health. You also need to make certain that you are not getting any stimulants in the powder. Make sure to read each label carefully before consuming.
  • Show your doctor specific products Taking whey protein in general should only be done after consulting a doctor, but it’s also wise to bring the specific protein powder to your doctor to let them see what you are going to be taking. They’ll be able to read the label and see exactly what’s in the product. If they recommend you avoid it, heed their advice!
  • Go for natural Instead of taking whey protein powder during your pregnancy, try to find a way to get more natural protein in your diet. Eat more protein-rich foods, such as quinoa, meat, chicken, fish, and dairy products. These natural sources of protein are much better for your body and much easier on your digestive system.

We have not had any conflicts with pregnant woman taking our products, however, we would recommend that you talk with your health care provider before consuming our range of grass fed whey proteins.

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Jaime Rangel, RD
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