Article at a glance:
- Spirulina is a blue-green algae rich in essential nutrients that may promote a healthier pregnancy.
- Iron, calcium, and folic acid are vital nutrients for pregnant mothers and their babies that are all naturally available in spirulina.
- Human and animal studies demonstrated that spirulina supplementation may lower the risks of pregnancy-related nutritional deficiencies while supporting healthy fetal development.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time for women, yet it’s also a very delicate period that comes with exceptional nutritional requirements. It’s common for pregnant ladies to take dietary supplements like spirulina for optimal health support.
The green superfood is well-known for its rich nutritional profile, but is spirulina safe for pregnancy? Keep reading to find out what science says about consuming spirulina for pregnant ladies and what are the potential spirulina pregnancy benefits.
Is spirulina good for pregnancy?
Spirulina is a famous dietary supplement, and for a good reason! Because of its pigment composition, it comes from photosynthetic microalgae species, also known as cyanobacteria or blue-green algae. Unlike chlorella, spirulina’s most abundant pigment is phycocyanin, which also contains chlorophyll. Hence, the blue and green colors.
Despite being an algae food source, spirulina is astoundingly rich in protein, which accounts for more than 60% of its dry weight. It’s been widely recognized as a fantastic protein source for vegetarian and vegan diets.
Spirulina has also been dubbed the “best food for the future.” Also, because of its abundant nutritional profile, it’s a highly recommended food source by agencies like NASA and WHO.
Despite the delicate health requirements for pregnant women, why is spirulina a promising dietary supplement? That’s because spirulina is filled with essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids, all essential amino acids, and carotenoids like beta-carotene.
With these micronutrients in a single food source, spirulina is widely considered a tremendous dietary support. It’s also the main reason spirulina is one of the most researched algae food sources, as it has demonstrated antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory properties, and immune system support.
It’s not hard to see why it’s deemed that taking spirulina is good for pregnancy.
Can You Take Spirulina When Pregnant?
Is spirulina safe for pregnant women?
Despite the well-documented health benefits of spirulina supplementation, we can’t gloss over how safe it is for pregnant ladies. There’s some evidence of how spirulina may support pregnant and lactating women. However, they’re primarily from preliminary research, limited clinical trials, and animal studies.
Because of the evidence available to us at the moment, health and pregnancy experts have yet to provide a conclusive answer to the question, is spirulina safe for pregnancy?
What that means is previous studies rarely reported adverse effects of spirulina for pregnant women. However, further research is still necessary before experts conclude that spirulina is safe for pregnancy.
That said, it’s also essential to look into the spirulina benefits for pregnancy demonstrated in various studies while being fully aware of the potential risks. Most importantly, taking spirulina while pregnant must always be done with the guidance of your healthcare provider.
Spirulina: A Nutrient-Dense Superfood for Pregnant Women
Regarding supplementing spirulina for pregnant women, some nutrients take higher importance due to the common maternal nutrition deficiencies. When considering spirulina or other dietary supplements, pregnant ladies are likely to be more interested in some micronutrients like calcium, iron, and folic acid.
This is one of the most vital nutrients for pregnant women, as it has been associated with lower risks of pregnancy-related hypertension. Calcium deficiency could also lead to preeclampsia and affect birth weights.
Does spirulina have calcium? Yes!
While spirulina is more well-known for its protein and phycocyanin content, the blue-green algae is also an excellent source of calcium. There can be as much as 107.83 mg of calcium per 100 g sample of Spirulina platensis, the species commonly used in spirulina products.
An animal study with male rat models also revealed that a diet supplemented with Spirulina platensis might help increase the bioavailability of calcium. Spirulina-treated subjects also showed improved femur bone integrity and bone density.
During pregnancy, there’s a natural increase in the volume of blood in a woman’s body. That means expecting moms need more iron to produce enough red blood cells during pregnancy. Iron deficiency, which could lead to pregnancy-induced anemia, is one of the most common health concerns monitored in pregnant ladies.
Is spirulina rich in iron? Yes, this is another area where spirulina may benefit pregnant women.
Research notes that spirulina contains 5,100% more iron than spinach, making it a fantastic source of this vital mineral.
Some clinical trials of spirulina supplementation for pregnant women also indicate that it may lead to better health results than iron supplements.
A 2017 study showed that supplementing spirulina led to better results in attenuating hemoglobinemia in pregnant women compared to consuming iron and folic acid supplements.
Similar results were observed in a 2019 study. Compared to taking iron supplements, higher increases in hemoglobin were recorded after pregnant women in their second trimester were supplemented with spirulina.
Does spirulina contain folic acid? Yes, it does!
You’ll often find folic acid supplements recommended to pregnant women because this B vitamin plays a crucial role in forming the neural tube during pregnancy.
Taking spirulina and folic acid for pregnancy may lower the risks of birth defects that could affect the infant’s brain and spine.
Other Nutrients in Spirulina
An analysis of spirulina powder revealed that the blue-green algae contains a long list of vital minerals and vitamins, making it a promising nutritional support for pregnant women.
The research found the following micronutrients:
- Provitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin K
The pigment composition of spirulina mainly includes phycocyanin, which has exhibited some potent antioxidant effects in various studies. Spirulina also has chlorophyll and carotenoids, primarily beta-carotene.
These findings are supported in other papers, with one pointing out that beta-carotene makes up to 80% of the total carotenoid content of the blue-green algae.
Spirulina is also a good source of fatty acids, especially gamma linoleic acid and other omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It may also provide essential amino acids critical to maintaining healthy body functions.
Potential Health Benefits of Spirulina for Pregnancy
While still limited, existing evidence presents promising spirulina benefits for pregnant women. Being aware of these potential benefits can help make an informed decision about taking spirulina during pregnancy.
1. Abundant Source of Protein
As mentioned, spirulina microalgae is famous for its high protein content. This may be particularly beneficial for a pregnant woman because sufficient protein intake could aid in the growth and development of the fetus. Protein malnutrition has also been linked to a weaker immune system and compromised brain functions in children.
Various studies have found spirulina supplementation, thanks to its rich protein content, may provide neuroprotective effects and help develop the central nervous system. Spirulina’s high protein has also been associated with regulating brain inflammation and enhanced reproductive functions.
2. Antioxidant Support
Spirulina is one of the superfoods known for its robust antioxidant profile. Its potential to work against oxidative stress has been widely associated with phycocyanin, beta-carotene, and vitamin E availability in blue-green algae.
One study noted that protein malnourishment may also cause oxidative stress and neuron damage in the hippocampus. However, after supplementing female Sprague Dawley subjects with spirulina, researchers observed that spirulina helped “partially restore” hippocampal changes and oxidative stress linked to protein deficiency.
Studies have also linked protein malnourishment to increased oxidative stress and inflammation. However, a scientific review found that spirulina supplementation helped lower inflammation and oxidative stress markers in several experiments.
3. Immune System Boost
Catching the common cold or flu while pregnant is quite common. For the most part, it’s also a good sign because cold and flu symptoms are indications that your immune responses are working against harmful bacteria and pathogens.
However, expecting mothers may experience harsher symptoms compared to non-pregnant women. Evidence also links inflammatory immune responses to early labor and preterm birth. That means boosting the immune system so you don’t fall ill while pregnant is extremely important.
Fortunately, spirulina has also demonstrated its potential to boost the immune system. Studies indicate that spirulina may modulate immune responses and help produce white blood cells, which are the body’s defense against pathogens and infectious diseases.
4. Management of Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, and Cholesterol
High blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol are some of the most common health conditions. However, they could present more significant risks when they occur during pregnancy. These health concerns might lead to preeclampsia and other serious complications that could harm the mother and the baby.
The good news is that blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels can be managed for a healthier pregnancy and delivery.
It’s worth noting that spirulina supplementation has demonstrated promising benefits in managing these health aspects. Various clinical studies found that consuming spirulina may lead to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, reduced blood sugar levels, and improved lipid profile.
Is Spirulina Safe for Pregnancy?: How to Consume Spirulina When Pregnant
Spirulina is considered generally safe to consume as a dietary supplement. That said, you should remember a few things to ensure you will enjoy the amazing spirulina benefits for pregnant women.
Ask Your Doctor First
This is the most important thing to do when you’re planning to consume spirulina while pregnant. Consulting your healthcare provider before taking any supplement is vital to ensure it’s the best product for your nutritional needs throughout pregnancy.
How Much Spirulina Can I Take a Day While Pregnant?
Research on the appropriate dosage of spirulina for pregnant women is limited.
An earlier study reported that consuming 3 g spirulina daily from the third trimester to 45 days after giving birth improved hemoglobin levels, increased bioavailability of beta-carotene in the fetus, and retinol concentration in breast milk.
There’s still not enough research to provide a definitive daily dose of spirulina during pregnancy. However, the usual recommended daily dose of spirulina is 1 to 5 g for healthy adults.
Starting at a lower dose is best when trying any dietary supplement for the first time. Then, make sure to observe how your body responds to it. But for the best results possible, consult your doctor on the appropriate dose when taking spirulina while pregnant.
How to Incorporate Spirulina Into Your Diet
Another great thing about this algae supplement is that you have many options for adding it to your diet.
The easiest way, of course, is to consume spirulina as a tablet or capsule. This will make it easier to monitor your dosage, and you don’t have to worry about its flavor and smell.
However, if you prefer to take spirulina powder for pregnancy, you can enjoy this healthy supplement in more ways. You can add spirulina powder to your morning smoothies, salads, healthy snacks, and desserts.
Are There Risks and Side Effects When Taking Spirulina?
Is spirulina safe for pregnancy? Available human and animal studies generally indicate that it is possibly safe for pregnant women.
The National Library of Medicine also notes that minor side effects from taking spirulina supplements have been reported that may be experienced by anyone (not just pregnant women). Sometimes, it may cause diarrhea, stomach upset, flatulence, and headache.
Spirulina supplementation has no known adverse effects on lactation. However, there are some reports of breast milk discoloration.
Spirulina is generally safe for human consumption, especially when harvested and manufactured in controlled conditions. Otherwise, there’s a risk of exposure to spirulina contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins.
It’s vital only to purchase spirulina supplements from trusted brands and health stores. Look for products that contain pure spirulina, certified organic, and follow high manufacturing standards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spirulina Safe During Early Pregnancy?
The body goes through many changes during the first trimester so it can be a much more sensitive stage of pregnancy. Without scientific evidence on the effects of taking spirulina during early pregnancy, it’s best to ask your doctor what supplements to consume.
Is Spirulina Safe for Babies?
Research on the safety and efficacy of spirulina supplementation for babies and children is limited. However, one study indicates that infant spirulina supplementation may lead to better motor development, language, and social skills upon reaching preschool age.
Is Spirulina Good for the Uterus?
A more recent animal study presents a potential benefit of spirulina in lowering the risks of uterine dysfunction through its antioxidant properties.
Spirulina: A Nutrition Powerhouse for Healthy Pregnancy
The abundance of protein, vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants in this algae superfood explains why spirulina is recommended for pregnancy.
With the guidance of your healthcare provider, spirulina can be an amazing supplement to reduce the risks of common nutritional deficiencies. Ultimately, consuming spirulina products from reputable brands could support a healthier pregnancy and childbirth.
You may also want to look into its cousin chlorella, which offers health benefits to pregnant and lactating mothers.