Can You Take Collagen While You're Pregnant? What The Experts Say
For those expecting, it's only natural to rethink your habits. All of a sudden, choices you normally wouldn't think twice about are thrown into question as they can now (potentially) affect the pregnancy. On that list of new habits are likely supplements.
Many people, at the advice of their doctor, take vitamins before, during, and after pregnancy. These tend to be highly targeted for optimal fetal growth and development—as well as maternal health. But those who already had a supplement may be left wondering where their other products fit into the lineup. Like, say, collagen supplements: Are they pregnancy safe, or do you need to put them on the bench for the time being?
What is collagen?
Collagen is a family1 of proteins that are actually the most abundant proteins in the animal kingdom. In fact, there are at least 28 kinds of collagen2 that we know of that exist in vertebrates (yes, us included), but types I, II, and III are the most common in the human body. Collagen's role in the body is both simple and complex (at the cellular level): It helps make up the structure of our skin, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, gut, and muscle, with the purpose of helping tissues be more elastic and withstand stretching. Your body makes its own collagen naturally, but its output starts to decline with age—usually starting in your 20s.
As we noted, collagen is also present in other animals, so if you consume meat or fish, you're already consuming collagen via your diet. However, some people like to add additional sources of collagen, and this is where collagen supplements come in; These targeted nutritional supplements are made of collagen peptides, or broken-down, digestible forms of collagen (derived from things like cows, fish, and chickens), usually in a powdered form.
Can you take collagen while pregnant?
Always, always, always consult with your doctor about what supplements you can take during your pregnancy. Only they will be able to give you the green light on making any changes in your nutrition regimen during this time.
"It's protein in its basic form, so there shouldn't be any reason why pregnant people can't take it," OB-GYN Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA, says about collagen, noting that there likely isn't any additional "specific benefits other than what people generally like for hair, skin, and nails." There are also no studies available, due to ethical challenges involving research in pregnant people.
As Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, mbg’s VP of scientific affairs, adds that "collagen studies are certainly possible, just like any other protein source could be researched during pregnancy or lactation." Ferira goes on to say that "while these studies aren't available yet to demonstrate that collagen intake positively affects mom and baby, given the massive abundance and predominance of collagen in cells, organs, and systems throughout the human body, it certainly seems possible and biologically plausible that collagen could be useful."*
As we noted, if you eat fish, poultry, and meat, then you're already ingesting collagen naturally. And just like you may be more curious about your animal sources for food, you should also be for supplements. Be sure to find a product that is transparent with their sourcing, and always buy from reputable supplement brands (we dive into what to look for later in the article, so keep reading), and again, we encourage you to talk to your medical practitioner about your supplement of choice prior to taking it.
Benefits of collagen.
There are many benefits of taking collagen supplements. And if your doctor gives you the green light on your collagen supplements, you may find that a few of these come in handy during your pregnancy.
Collagen is a protein and can contribute to your overall protein needs. Collagen powders are made up of amino acids, or the building blocks of all proteins. There are 20 to 22 amino acids that build up proteins3, including arginine, glutamic acid, lysine, proline, and tyrosine. However, we must note that collagen is not a complete protein—meaning it's low in or does not contain all nine of the essential amino acids (which are phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, leucine, and lysine), although it typically contains some amount of all of these except tryptophan. In other words, it provides eight of the nine essential amino acids.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant people should consume 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. But as Ferira explains, that's a broad range, and actual protein needs depend on the individual. She shares, "The latest research for protein needs during pregnancy4 demonstrate that an average of 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight are required during early (about 16 weeks) and late (around 36 weeks) stages of pregnancy. That's more than the previously discussed and recommended 0.88 to 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight."
Collagen supplements can support your nutritional needs to meet this recommended dosage. As an incomplete protein, it should be paired with other protein sources to create a diverse array of the essential amino acids.
The benefits of collagen that are most often touted fall into the beauty category—notably the skin. The research shows that these collagen peptides are able to support skin elasticity and dermal collagen density5 as hydrolyzed collagen peptides have been shown to help promote your body's natural production of collagen6 by supporting the fibroblasts.* Thanks to this, it can help improve hydration levels, as well as support skin as it stretches—two concerns pregnant people may face.*
Want more info on skin supporting vitamins? Check out our anti-aging supplements roundup.
Joint comfort may become a consideration for pregnant people as there's added weight or pressure on joints as time goes on. One randomized clinical trial found that people who took a type II collagen supplement for 180 days experienced improvements in their physical function and helped improve joint mobility and comfort.* Another recent study showed that when athletes regularly took collagen, their overall joint health and recovery were supported7.*
What to look for.
We already did a pretty thorough deep dive into finding the best collagen supplements on the market (including our favorites!), but as a quick recap, here are some standout points that signify that said collagen powder is top-notch.
Collagen dosage can get quite nuanced (so we wrote more about it here), but in general we recommend looking for a supplement that has 10 to 20 grams per serving. Collagen powders are the best delivery format for packing in these higher doses.
Look for brands that describe in detail where their collagen is sourced from (the animal, the country or region, etc.), be it on the packaging or website. Buzzwords like "grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen," or "sustainably, wild-caught cod" are all good signs. Ideally, they'll also note what collagen types (type I, II, or III), as well as the typical amino acid profile.
Powders are the best, as they are able to deliver the most potent amount of collagen and blend easily into a wide variety of drinks and dishes. However, collagen does come in other formats—pills, drinks, gummies, and so on—if that's more your thing. Capsule forms will contain small amounts of collagen, and liquid and gummy forms will have a longer list of additives (including added sugars, flavors, and colorants).
As with most things we recommend, make sure the formula is clean. Less is more here: Skip artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors, as well as fillers, chemical preservatives, gluten, GMOs, soy, and other known major food allergens. If your collagen product is flavored, look for plant-derived, responsibly sourced varieties (such as organic cocoa and organic vanilla). If there's a sweetener, we also recommend plant-origin sources like organic monk fruit extract or organic coconut sugar.
Most collagen supplements deliver just collagen, but some multi-ingredient formulas will also weave in "extra" ingredients (i.e., useful, high-quality nutrients or phytonutrients) to complement the role of collagen in the body, for additional support for your skin, joints, gut, and so on.* Vitamins C and E, biotin, hyaluronic acid, and turmeric are a few examples of these incrementally useful additional bioactives in a collagen formula.
When you're deciding if you should take a collagen supplement, you should always consider any extras in the formula—and check with your doctor if they are safe for consumption as well.
This is less about decoding an ingredient label and more about finding brands that are open and honest about their product. It shouldn't be hard to find their Supplement Facts panel, other ingredients list, and amino acid profile. The sources of any sweeteners or flavors should be readily apparent.
The type and source of collagen should be apparent. If they make any benefit claims, there should be science to support them. They should be open about where the ingredients come from, and they should explain the packaging it comes in (i.e., is it environmentally friendly?).
You should be extra cautious about what you consume when pregnant, supplements included. Always speak to your doctor about collagen supplements prior to taking them during pregnancy, but overall they should be well tolerated.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.