For women looking to get their daily servings of protein without the taste of a traditional protein powder, collagen powers or peptides may seem like a no-brainer.
The colorless and flavorless supplement blends seamlessly into many dishes, which can be especially useful for women with severe pregnancy-related food aversions.
However helpful collagen may seem, is it safe to use while pregnant?
There isn’t much research into collagen and pregnancy, but collagen is generally regarded as safe for most healthy adults. Pregnant women should opt for bovine collagen rather than marine collagen to avoid pregnancy-related risks associated with fish and mercury.
Collagen doesn’t just come in the form of dietary supplements.
I’ll break down the sources of collagen, foods you can find it in, and some recommendations for supplements that are certified for safety to help you keep yourself and baby safe.
Note: As far as possible, objective studies are used in this article to back up any factual claims. Studies funded by supplement companies have not been included.
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Are Collagen Powders or Supplements Safe in Pregnancy?
Collagen, sometimes referred to as collagen peptides, comes in many different forms including pills, powders, ready-to-drink beverages, and even specialty items like collagen coffee creamer.
Across all these different types of products, the collagen in them can come from two distinctly different sources: bovine (and other land-animals) and marine collagen.
Since these two differ when it comes to their safety during pregnancy, I’ll talk about them separately below:
Bovine (and other Animal) Collagen During Pregnancy
Bovine collagen, or collagen that is produced from cattle, is arguably the more widely known form of supplemental collagen.
Additionally, gelatin is another source of bovine collagen.
While bovine collagen is an animal-derived product, the process of making the collagen involves boiling, so there shouldn’t be any risk for foodborne illness (source: Science Direct).
A small study from 2016 found that women who consumed a collagen-based beverage during their third trimester and postpartum tolerated the supplement and didn’t experience any adverse side effects (source: Journal of Pregnancy and Child Health).
Bovine collagen is regarded as safe for pregnant women to use, even without cooking to an internal temperature of 165°F.
This is especially helpful since hydrolyzed collagen will completely dissolve in cold liquids as well as hot!
The Safety of Marine (Fish) Collagen During Pregnancy
The process of making marine collagen is similar to that of bovine collagen, with the exception of using fish as the collagen source.
While there is very little research into the safety of collagen, this difference is why it is best to avoid marine collagen while pregnant.
There are no standards for what part of the fish or what type of fish is used to make marine collagen, meaning that the collagen supplement could contain high levels of toxic metals, such as mercury, if not produced properly.
Overall, there is very little research into the safety of collagen, and even less when it comes to pregnant women. However, there is no evidence that bovine collagen has any negative effect on pregnancy.
As with any supplement, it’s always important to purchase from a reputable company that received their-party testing for purity and safety.
Wondering about brands? I’ve provided a list of common brands and their safety standards further down this article.
Is There Collagen Suitable For Vegan or Vegetarian Mothers-to-be?
While bovine collagen and its gelatin counterpart are safe during pregnancy, unlike marine collagen, these products are animal-derived and may not fit into your dietary practices.
So is there such a thing as vegan collagen? There are a few on the market, but it’s very hard to say if they have the same benefits as animal or fish collagen.
Most are sold as collagen ‘boosters’, rather than containing collagen themselves, which isn’t the same thing.
A genetically engineered product using bacteria and yeast is the nearest scientists have come to true vegan collagen (source: Springer), but it’s not widely available yet.
As with any supplements, check carefully what they actually contain, as they’re not regulated and safety is left up to the manufacturers (source: FDA).
The Benefits of Collagen During Pregnancy
Collagen is an umbrella term for a type of protein that provides structure in the body, including the skin and bones.
Under collagen’s umbrella are 5 different types, based on what part of the body they are found in.
For the purpose of this article (and simplicity’s sake), I’ll just refer to all the different types simply as “collagen.”
As you age, the collagen in your body naturally diminishes, causing wrinkles, drier skin, and bone loss.
It is thought that dietary collagen can reverse or prevent these natural age-related changes from occurring. In addition, there is some evidence that collagen could improve skin elasticity, help improve joint pain, and prevent athletic injuries.
During pregnancy, bones lose some of their mass to help grow baby, joints and ligaments experience stress from carrying extra weight, and skin stretches to accommodate your growing belly (source: PMC).
Thinking about collagen’s supposed benefits, it seems collagen could be a cure-all for these common pregnancy-related changes.
There have been many studies examining the effects of collagen on bone loss, which is a particular worry for pregnant women.
While some of the results have been promising, the studies looked solely at postmenopausal women (source: Nutrients Journal).
As postmenopausal women have drastically different hormone levels, which alters bone metabolism, the results may not mean much of anything when it comes to pregnancy.
Feeling achy all over? The evidence for collagen’s effect on calming joint pains is much more promising.
Athletes who supplemented collagen reported significantly less joint pains than athletes who didn’t (source: Current Medical Research and Opinion).
However, there are still no specific studies relating to pregnant women, collagen and joint pain.
Arguably one of the most well-known reported effects of collagen comes from the beauty industry- skin elasticity. While our skin is up to 80% collagen, the jury is still out on this one (source: New York Times).
A 2019 study concluded that collagen does improve skin elasticity, however, the collagen supplement studied here also included vitamins C and E which are known to improve skin (source: Nutrients).
The other caveat when it comes to collagen supplementation is that it’s not a guarantee.
Any collagen you eat gets broken down in the body to amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
While these amino acids may go on to re-form into collagen in the body, they also may go on to be used in other ways.
The breakdown? Consuming collagen doesn’t always equate to collagen build up in the body.
Ways to Increase Your Collagen Intake
For women who do want to increase their collagen intake, supplements aren’t the only way to go!
I’ve already mentioned gelatin, but collagen is present in other animal products too.
Bone broth, whole meats, whole fish, and even marshmallows all contain collagen. You can also eat gelatin, such as in jello – an excuse to eat dessert, too!
If you’re looking to increase your collagen intake, there are more creative ways to include the protein in your diet than just popping a collagen pill or gummy.
If you do opt for collagen powder, a couple of suggested ways to get your collagen serving include:
- Using collagen powder in a smoothie
- A scoop of collagen powder mixes well into coffee
- Boosting casseroles and soups with supplemental collagen
What’s the Best Collagen Powder for Pregnant Women?
Collagen supplements are in no short supply these days, but what’s the best one to take?
The short answer is always a supplement made by a reputable company and one that has been tested by a third-party to ensure quality and safety.
Below are several well-known brands and their safety certifications, but there are others as well:
|Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides||NSF|
|Vital Proteins Marine Collagen||none|
|Bubs Naturals PowderSticks||NSF|
|BioCell||Underwriter Laboratories (UL)|
|Further Food (all varieties)||none|
You could also check out the National Science Foundation (NSF) database for their list of NSF certified products.
In conclusion, collagen protein is abundant in the body, and some research suggests that including collagen in your diet may help alleviate joint pains.
The evidence for collagen as a beauty aid and bone builder is less than adequate, however, and there’s no guarantee that consuming collagen will lead to collagen building up in the body.
Collagen is safe to consume while pregnant and many foods such as meats and gelatin contain collagen, as well as supplements.
During pregnancy, it’s best to choose bovine sources over marine collagen to avoid the risk associated with fish.
Remember, consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, and always choose a product that has a third-party safety certification to ensure the product you’re getting is pure and safe.
Considering supplements during pregnancy? You might want to read:
- Whether protein powder is safe during pregnancy
- How much fish oil you should be taking when pregnant
- Why choline is important during pregnancy and what to do about it
This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.