Is It Safe To Consume Protein Powder During Pregnancy?

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It is well known that protein plays a key role in the growth and development of the fetus. While protein can be availed from several natural sources, some women may consider using protein powders during pregnancy to meet their additional protein needs. However, they may have some questions regarding the safety of using protein powders.

Read this post as we tell you about the recommended protein intake levels in pregnancy, the natural sources of protein for pregnant women, and whether protein powders are safe and necessary for pregnant women.

Why Do You Need Protein During Pregnancy?

Protein is considered highly important for expecting moms as it aids in building tissues for both the mother and the baby. Adequate protein helps in general growth and development through all the stages of pregnancy, and more so during the third trimester (1).

Protein also builds other tissues, muscles, antibodies, hormones, and enzymes in the baby and mother. Moreover, extra protein helps in amniotic fluid production and improves blood volume as well (2).

Pregnant women should make sure they are consuming adequate protein for a healthy outcome, as too low or too high quantity might lead to certain complications.

How Much Protein is Required When Pregnant?

Doctors recommend a daily intake of approximately 71 grams of protein during pregnancy. The limits can go up to 90 grams a day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. In all, the protein requirement increases by around 25 grams per day for pregnant women (3) (4).

A few good sources of protein include nuts, beans, soy, chia seeds, peas, eggs, poultry, fish, and lean meat. Vegetarians and others who are lactose intolerant may not get enough protein from these sources and may have to rely on protein powders to meet the recommended daily intake of protein during pregnancy.

Are Protein Powders Safe During Pregnancy?

No. Protein powders are usually not recommended for pregnant women because they contain several ingredients that might be harmful to the baby’s health. Protein powders come under the supplements category, and the FDA has left the evaluation of the product’s safety and labeling at the discretion of the manufacturers (5).

For instance, certain ingredients that are generally considered safe during pregnancy might not be safe when they are mixed with other compounds in the supplement. Protein powders are also not considered safe during pregnancy for other reasons that we discuss next.

Why Are Protein Powders Not Recommended During Pregnancy?

Here are some reasons why protein powders are not good for pregnant women.

  1. Protein powders may contain certain additives such as extra vitamins, caffeine, creatine, and fillers/flavoring agents that may not be good for pregnant women. For a safe pregnancy, you should avoid these powders.
  1. Most of the protein powders available in the market are milk-based and may cause gastrointestinal problems for women who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies (5).
  1. A lot of artificial sweeteners are added to protein powders. Although there is no proper evidence showing any adverse effects of sugar substitutes during pregnancy, they should be consumed in moderation. Some sweeteners you need to avoid are acesulfame potassium and thaumatin. Also, additional sugar content in protein powder may result in weight gain and increased blood sugar levels (5).(6).
  1. Some ingredients used in protein powders do fall under the GRAS or generally recognized as a safe category. However, when used in high amounts, these ingredients can have certain adverse effects during pregnancy (7). Hence, make sure you do your research before buying any protein powders from the market.
  1. Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium are also found in some protein powders that are available in the market. These might increase certain health risks for the baby and mother and should be avoided (8).

Before picking up protein powder that you think is safe for you, talk to your doctor and get their opinion. If the doctor thinks it is a bad idea, you can look at other sources of protein that are safer for you and the baby.

What Are The Other Ways To Get Protein During Pregnancy?

According to the USDA Food Composition Databases for Standard Reference, the following are good sources of protein (9).

FoodProtein value per 100g
Peanut butter24g (10)
Chicken30.39g
Eggs12.56g(11)
Milk (dry, nonfat, regular)36.16
Fish (Salmon/Tuna)24-25g
Yogurt (plain/low fat)5.25g
Grains/Mixed-grain (oats/corn/granola)6-11g
Tofu17.27g

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens if I don’t eat enough protein during pregnancy?

Inadequate protein intake during pregnancy may lead to intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, or excessive fat deposition in the baby (12).

2. Can too much protein cause miscarriage?

Yes, excessive protein intake may lead to fetal death or loss of pregnancy (12).

Protein is essential for both the mother and the infant in developing tissues. However, consuming protein powder during pregnancy is not considered safe since it contains chemicals and artificial sweeteners harmful to pregnant moms and newborns. However, not all protein powders are dangerous, so talk to your doctor about which ones are safe to consume during pregnancy. Alternatively, you may fulfill your protein needs by eating protein-rich foods such as nuts, beans, soy, chia seeds, peas, eggs, and other foods. It’s important not to take too much of it because it can cause complications.

Key Pointers

  • Protein helps build tissues in both mother and baby, and additional protein increases amniotic fluid production and blood volume.
  • The recommended daily protein consumption during pregnancy is 71g, which can reach 90g in the second and third trimesters.
  • Protein powders are not safe during pregnancy as they have certain additives and artificial sweeteners that are not considered safe for expectant mothers.
  • Peanut butter, chicken, yogurt, and tofu are a few important protein sources as per the USDA.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. R. Elango and R. O. Ball; Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy; Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal (2016)
2. Pregnancy: Human Nutrition (Chapter 13); University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program
3. M. Wyatt and V. Silva; Eating for Two – A Healthy Pregnancy Starts with a Healthy Diet; The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (2017)
4. Should Women Eat Red Meat During Pregnancy?; Peconic Bay Medical Center Northwell Health (2016)
5. The hidden dangers of protein powders; Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (2018)
6. E. Pope, G. Koren, and P. Bozzo; Sugar substitutes during pregnancy; Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada (2014)
7. Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay; Shake it Up, Baby? Maybe Not. Considering Nutritional Shakes in Pregnancy; Mother to Baby: Medications & More During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Ask The Experts; OTIS (2017)
8. C. Holman, N, Kathuria, Y. Chen, and A. Singh; The Dangers of Protein Drink Supplements; Rutgers University (2010)
9. Nutrients Lists: Protein; USDA Food Composition Databases
10. Peanut butter; USDA
11. Eggs whole; USDA
12. Cassandra M Herring, et al.; Impacts of maternal dietary protein intake on fetal survival, growth, and development; National Library of Medicine
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Dr. Anita Gupta

(MS)
Dr Anita Gupta is currently working in University College of Medical Sciences (Medical School) & Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi. She has been practicing as a gynecologist & obstetrician for the past 31 years and as a lactation consultant for 18 years. Dr. Gupta is a fellow of Indian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and a master trainer and course... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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