Women generally require more protein during pregnancy and it is essential to make sure that you are making use of the best sources of protein for your little one as well as yourself.
If you’re generally don’t like eating a lot of meat, protein shakes are a great way to boost your daily protein intake of 71 grams (as recommended by the American College of Nurse-midwives).
When your current protein intake is not adequate during your pregnancy, then protein supplements would be a great choice.
Some supplements are not recommended for pregnant women as they contain a large amount of artificial flavouring and additives and the recommended dose may be too large for your body to absorb. An overdose of protein or any other supplements can have negative effects on pregnant women.
Certain protein shakes also contain herbs which can be harmful, therefore it’s best to check with your doctor prior to taking any protein supplements to make sure you are in the clear.
Diary free (vegan) option
For you to find the best protein supplement for pregnancy that suits your needs best you may want to consider dairy free or vegan options (such as Pea protein), especially women that are looking to steer away from animal products that contain dairy due to intolerances. Pea protein digests slower than whey protein but contains 10-15% less protein per serving and contains amino acids which is beneficial. It can be incorporated into healthy smoothies, but it should be noted that the “pea taste” is predominant and are not the best choice for people that don’t like peas in general.
Plant-based proteins such as hemp, brown rice powder, pumpkin or pea are excellent choices for vegetarians or women that are allergy prone that can’t consume diary or meat-based products.
Dairy based option
Whey protein is a popular choice as it digests faster and contain less carbohydrates, but it has a higher protein content than peas. Whey protein is an acceptable and high-quality protein source for healthy pregnant women as it contains alpha-lactalbumin which is one of the main why proteins found in breast milk and is often used in baby formulas including premature infants.
Whey powder is an excellent healthy choice as an extra source of protein especially if the product is organic or natural. Apart from casein, whey is the second ingredient found in milk and contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein.
However, there is not enough evidence available on the use of whey protein during breastfeeding or pregnancy, therefore it is essential that only approved sources of whey protein must be used in infant formulas. Whey protein can cause allergic reactions which include diarrhoea, infant colic, failure to thrive and rash.
If you are lactose intolerant or are looking to avoid animal products, then this product is not recommended. Parents of young children and pregnant women must consult a physician to make sure the whey protein is safe for consumption, as whey allergies are customary and some pregnant women may experience digestion issues.
When is it beneficial to take protein supplements?
Protein is a vital component when it comes to the fat burning and muscle-building process of the body, but most women are not sure how to use it or where to begin. Women often fall short with having adequate protein intake in their diets. Women who are malnourished and enters pregnancy must take a protein supplement to improve fetal growth and increasing the infant’s birth weight. Most midwives, paediatricians and GP’s will agree to one or two servings per day given that it is not the only source of protein for the day.
Protein powder is also ideal for women in general who wants to burn fat or build muscle.
What are the considerations and what to avoid when taking protein supplements?
Heavy metals – most proteins contain traces of natural heavy metals. Animal based proteins tend to contain lower heavy metal counts (whey protein in particular) as opposed to veggie or lower quality proteins. Make sure you buy protein powders from a quality source.
Sweeteners – most sweeteners, in moderation, are deemed safe but women who are nursing or pregnant are cautioned to avoid saccharin which can cross the placenta and remain in the fetal tissue.
Additives – the most significant concern with protein supplements are the additives or ingredients that are added for colouring or flavouring which can be potentially harmful to yourself or your unborn baby. Protein supplements that are marketed for athletes may contain ingredients such as extra caffeine or creatine which is not suited for nursing or pregnant women. There are many shakes available on the market and it is essential to read the label to ensure you are buying a high-quality protein without additional herbs, stimulants etc.
Best Protein Supplements for Pregnancy
Baby Booster Kona Mocha prenatal vitamin supplement shake
- Obgyn / Gynaecologist approved product which was primarily developed with the focus of providing proper nutrition for expectant Moms and made with the best quality ingredients.
- This product is made with all-natural ingredients and is free from gluten, caffeine, soy, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and contains non-GMO protein.
- Baby booster’s high content of high-quality and all-natural ingredients make is safe for Mom and baby and provides proper nutrition and is suitable for Moms suffering from gestational diabetes.
- This product provides twenty grams of protein per serving.
- Baby booster is one of the leading products when it comes to great tasting prenatal powder and can be added to smoothies or other favourite recipes.
Protiva prenatal vitamin supplement protein shake
- Protiva collagen protein was proven safe to use by pregnant women in a published clinical study performed and has helped 100% of women to safely increase their daily protein intake by 50% and improving their protein levels.
- Manufactured in the United States and all finished products and raw materials were tested in an ISO 17025:2005 accredited testing lab and adheres to the highest cGMP standards.
- Protiva was formulated for improving protein levels to a normal state during pregnancy and has a positive effect on baby’s development during the third trimester and can be used in conjunction with any prenatal vitamin regimen which is prescribed by your physician.
- This product is made with all-natural ingredients and is non-GMO and contains no allergens, preservatives, gluten, soy, artificial colours or flavours, caffeine and is lactose and dairy free.
Plantfusion vegan vanilla bean complete protein shake
- This product contains 21 grams of plant-based and complete protein with only 120 calories per serving and is ideal for recovering from stressful days, exercising, improving energy and managing appetite.
- Easily digested and suitable for individuals suffering from sensitive stomachs.
- The product contains no major allergens, rice, soy, dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts, fish, tree nuts and shellfish.
- Packed with nutrients and a proprietary blend of enzymes.
Vega plant-based protein and greens (chocolate flavour)
Plant-based protein powder containing a blend of:
- Brown rice protein
- Pea protein
- Sacha inchi protein
as well as greens including:
- Spinach powder
- Broccoli powder
- Alfafa powder
- Organic kale powder
- Vega Greens and protein includes no added sugar and is sweetened with stevia, a naturally calorie-free sweetener of choice. Customers that doesn’t have a taste for stevia also have a choice of plain unsweetened flavour.
- This product is easily blended and can be added to a morning smoothie or can be added to non-dairy milk or water for a quick afternoon snack.
- This product is vegan-certified, non-GMO verified, gluten-free, low-glycaemic and contains no soy or dairy products.
Seeking Health Prenatal protein supplement
- This product received the 2018 Women’s choice award as the ninth out of tenth recommended brand for prenatal supplements.
- A vegetarian-friendly prenatal protein supplement powder.
- Contains ginger and Vitamin B6 for supporting digestive comfort.
- Providing active folates for supporting healthy fetal development during pregnancy.
- Promoting and supporting immune health.
Pure Whey chocolate flavoured protein powder
- Pure Whey protein is an easily absorbed and digested concentrate which is highly bioavailable and suitable for all ages to provide benefits such as:
- Sports nutrition
- Weight management
- Immune support
- General wellness
- Bone health
- This product is safe for children and breastfeeding Moms and pregnant women.
- Contains no gluten, soy and artificial flavouring or sweeteners and is non-GMO.
- Ingredients are sourced from grass fed cows which are not treated with bovine growth hormones or antibiotics.
- A trusted brand which contains no proprietary blends or unknown ingredients and the active protein has a natural high content of BCAA’s, is minimally processed and undenatured making it a safe choice for pregnancy.
- This product is easily absorbed in the body (easier than whey protein isolates).
- Low lactose and cholesterol content and high in free calcium.
- Contains essential amino acids needed by the body daily.
- Pure whey protein supplement is a great tasting chocolate flavoured powder that can be mixed with water as a shake or can be baked into other protein foods to provide added nutrition.
Benefits of protein during pregnancy
Protein is essential for promoting growth of your baby and assisting with your baby’s brain development and growth for it to be healthy and functional. Balanced protein supplementation can be beneficial for improving fetal growth and increasing infants’ birth weight. It can also assist Moms with not gaining weight while nursing as protein is a dens calorie source.
During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases drastically and protein helps producing the right volume of blood cells as well as aiding the body to produce iron which is a vital element needed to sustain a healthy immune system. Women often need more iron during pregnancy, as they are eating for two.
Health considerations when taking protein supplements:
Protein powder is safe to use during pregnancy provided that you follow a few rough guidelines when choosing the right product.
- Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements. Find it if it is necessary to supplement or protein intake and how much protein should be taken in addition to your existing diet. Most health care professionals recommend one or two servings of protein powder per day.
- Just like any other food products or supplements relating to pregnancy and nursing, it is essential to read the labels and make smart and healthy choices.
- Be careful not to buy products that contain sweeteners or additives that can be harmful to you and your baby. Most sweeteners these days are derived from organic or natural ingredients which is deemed safe by the FDA for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Make sure you avoid products which contain aspartame or saccharin and make sure they don’t contain additives such as caffeine or other stimulants. Generally, products that are used by body builders contain enhancers that should not be consumed by pregnant women.
- Avoid products that contain heavy metals i.e. arsenic, mercury or lead.
- Always buy protein powders from a reputable source and reliable brands, specially targeted for nursing or pregnant Moms. (Meat-based products such as whey contain lesser traces of heavy metals than the vegetable-based products).
Protein rich foods
Poultry, lean meats and fish are usually excellent sources of protein, however an easier way to maintain adequate protein intake is by adding four cups of milk and two eggs to your daily diet. These ingredients are extremely versatile, relatively inexpensive plus it can provide you with more or less 32 grams of protein every day. Eggs can be scrambled or used to make French toast or egg frittatas for variety. The best breakfast for optimum health and even weight loss post-pregnancy is a protein-rich breakfast in the morning.
Another great way to boost your protein intake as well as Omega-3 fatty acids (essential for baby’s brain development) is by eating fish that includes salmon, halibut, trout, cod and perch. Fish intake must be limited to approximately 12 ounces per week. Avoid eating fish with high levels of mercury such as shark, swordfish, King mackerel, fresh tuna, sea bass, tilefish, amberjack, grouper and mahi-mahi.