The Best Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powders, According to a Prenatal Dietitian

Needed Prenatal Collagen is our top choice for pregnant parents

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Extra attention is placed on nutrition during pregnancy because it can impact not only the pregnant parent's health, but baby’s as well. Protein is especially important because it plays important roles like building, supporting, and maintaining cells and organs in yours and your baby’s growing bodies. 

While most people do not struggle to get enough protein (and actually eat much more than enough protein), your individual protein needs increase during pregnancy—and pregnant people can struggle to meet these higher needs.

Casey Seiden, MS RD CDECES, a prenatal dietitian in New York City, advises choosing a protein powder “that is third party tested, does not contain questionable herbal blends, and limits added sugars.” Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also recommends avoiding powders containing caffeine, and, for the best outcome, consulting with a prenatal dietitian for individualized guidance. 

Verywell Family Approved Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powders

  • Best Overall: Needed Prenatal Collagen is a versatile option that helps pregnant people meet their daily protein needs. We like that it's unflavored so it can be easily incorporated into sweet and savory dishes alike.
  • Best Vegan: Ritual Essential Protein is a complete protein that also contains the key nutrient choline (which is lacking from many prenatal multivitamins).

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Given that protein powders are supplements that are minimally regulated by the FDA, the quality of the brand matters even more to ensure a safe product. If you are taking other prenatal supplements, we recommend avoiding powders with added vitamins and minerals to help prevent over-consuming these nutrients.

How to Supplement for Pregnancy

Some research suggests that the optimal way to add protein supplements into a prenatal diet is with a balanced supplement containing up to 20% of calories from protein. In order to do this using a protein powder, which is often 70% to nearly 100% protein, it is important to combine the powder with other ingredients that contain fat and carbohydrates. 

Make a protein smoothie or shake with protein powder and include ingredients like milk, yogurt, banana, blueberries, oats, avocado, and peanut butter. Sick of smoothies? You can also use your protein powder as an ingredient in homemade desserts or soups or stir it into a yogurt parfait or oatmeal.

Is Protein Powder Beneficial During Pregnancy?

Research shows that many pregnant people struggle to meet their elevated prenatal protein needs, especially during the second and third trimesters, where anywhere from 13% to 67% of pregnant people may not be getting enough protein. 

Those at higher risk of not meeting their protein needs include pregnant people who:

  • Suffer from nausea and/or vomiting: “If a pregnant [person] is suffering from nausea and/or vomiting, and having a very difficult time consuming food sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, then a protein powder would certainly be appropriate,” says Seiden.
  • Follow a plant-based diet: If you are eating a vegetarian or vegan diet while pregnant, you may especially benefit from adding a protein supplement, since these diets are usually naturally lower in protein, and plant proteins are not as easily digested as animal proteins.

With current low carbohydrate diet trends, you may be tempted to curb your carb intake and add more protein, but it is essential not to compromise carbohydrates, the key energy source for mom and baby. Protein should be in addition to carbs, not in replacement of them.

Who May Not Benefit from Protein Powders

It is possible to meet pregnancy's increased protein needs through just the food you eat, including chicken, fish, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Consuming protein in whole food form also provides the benefits of other important components of the food such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

We don’t recommend protein powder if you are able to meet your protein needs from food. Taking a high protein supplement if your diet already includes sufficient protein may even result in negative outcomes for your baby such as low birth weight, premature birth, and impaired growth.

Best Overall: Needed Collagen Protein Powder

Needed Collagen Protein Powder

Amazon

Pros
  • No additives

  • Glycine-rich

  • Appropriate for Gestational Diabetes

Cons
  • More expensive

What do buyers say? 83% of 150+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

We love Needed Prenatal Collagen because it provides you with exactly what you need from a protein powder without any unnecessary extras. The only ingredient is hydrolyzed bovine collagen protein, which is sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. It is unflavored, making it an easy addition to smoothies, soups, bars, oatmeal, or drinks.

Collagen protein may be especially beneficial in late stage pregnancy because it is high in the amino acid glycine. Your need for dietary intake of glycine increases in late stage pregnancy when your body may not be able to produce enough to meet your baby's developmental needs.

Needed's collagen powder provides 14 grams of pure collagen protein per serving. This product is also third party tested for heavy metals, microbes, pesticides, allergens, and other contaminants. Since it is more expensive than other options, rather than use it every day, you may want to keep this protein powder on rotation with another more affordable option.

Servings per container: 30 | Type of Protein: Hydrolyzed bovine collagen | Grams of protein per serving: 14g | Grams of carbs per serving: 0g | Grams of fat per serving: 0g

Best Vegan: Ritual Essential Protein

Ritual Essential Protein

Courtesy of Ritual

Pros
  • No added sugar

  • 250mg choline

  • complete protein source

Cons
  • More expensive

  • Contains additional ingredients (natural flavors and high intensity sweeteners)

Ritual is a vegan protein powder made from pea protein with the added amino acid L-methionine to make it a complete protein source.

Ritual's powder has a vanilla flavor with hints of caramel and spices. It includes ingredients such as natural flavors, monk fruit, and sweetener Rebaudioside-M (Reb-M, one of the sweet components of stevia). You might notice that the no calorie, high intensity sweeteners monk fruit and Reb-M have a distinct flavor, which you may or may not enjoy.

It also includes a few other ingredients that act as stabilizers. While the ingredient list is a bit longer, one benefit is that Ritual adds the nutrient choline to the product. Choline is important for neurological development, gene expression, and placental function, and most prenatal multivitamins do not meet the recommended amount of choline of 450 mg /day.

For vegan moms, it can help to fill key nutrient gaps of both protein and choline. Ritual is also Informed Sport Certified which reflects their third party testing for contaminants, particularly those banned in sports.

Servings per container: 15 | Type of Protein: Pea protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20g | Grams of carbs per serving: 4g | Grams of fat per serving: 2g

Best Whey Protein: Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Klean

Pros
  • NSF certified for sport

  • Unflavored option

  • High quality protein source

Cons
  • More expensive

  • Not suitable for dairy allergies 

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate uses whey protein isolate as the protein source, with the aim of providing a high concentration of quality milk protein without the lactose. It meets one of our highest standards with a third party certification by perhaps the most intensive certification, NSF Certified for Sport. This means not only that it is tested to ensure it contains what it says it contains and is free from harmful contaminants but that it is also free from any substances or masking agents that are prohibited for athletes.

The lactose content of whey protein isolate can vary, but is generally much lower than standard dairy. Therefore, those with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate a whey-based powder. However, this is not a good choice for those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity. The whey protein source also provides calcium and potassium which are important for pregnancy. The powders come in an unflavored version which is pure whey protein isolate or in chocolate or vanilla which have added sweeteners. This powder would not be suitable for vegans or those with dairy allergies.

Servings per container: 22 | Type of Protein: Whey | Grams of protein per serving: 20g | Grams of carbs per serving: 1g | Grams of fat per serving: 0g

The Difference Between a Dairy Allergy and Lactose Intolerance

A dairy allergy is diagnosed when someone's body mistakenly targets and attacks the proteins in dairy as if they are harmful invaders. It is dangerous for people with a dairy allergies to eat foods that contain milk or milk proteins because the immune response can cause anything from stomach upset to hives to anaphalactic shock (which is life-threatening).

Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is a condition where someone's body does not make enough lactase, or the enzyme that digests lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance can cause stomach upset and other digestive symptoms, but it is not dangerous for someone with a lactose intolerance to eat foods that contain lactose.

Best Whole Foods Based: Drink Wholesome Chocolate Protein Powder

Drink Wholesome Vanilla Protein Powder

Source: Drink Wholesome

Pros
  • No protein concentrates

  • Protein balanced with other nutrients

  • Gentle on the stomach

Cons
  • Larger serving size (½ cup)

  • 7g saturated fat

  • Added high intensity no calorie sweetener (monkfruit)

We appreciate Drink Wholesome's Chocolate Protein powder because it uses a limited number of ingredients to create a protein-packed powder. Some types of protein powders can cause stomach discomfort and bloating, but Drink Wholesome prides themselves on creating powders that are gentle on the stomach and easy to digest. This may be especially helpful if you experience nausea during your pregnancy. Since the products don’t contain protein concentrates, the serving size is larger at ½ cup.

Their traditional powder uses egg white protein as the protein source, and the only other ingredients are coconut, cocoa, and monkfruit. This makes the powder not only a significant source of protein but also of fat, with a few grams of carbs to boot. Blend with milk, a banana, oats, and some berries for a well-balanced smoothie on-the-go.

Drink Wholesome has an array of options in their protein powder line. There is a mocha flavor that contains caffeine so it is important to factor this caffeine content into your total daily caffeine intake. There are also vegan varieties that use chickpeas and peanuts. Of note, the company requires third party testing on their products.

Servings per container: 14 | Type of Protein: egg white | Grams of protein per serving: 20g | Grams of carbs per serving: 6g | Grams of fat per serving: 7.5g

Best Budget: Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber

Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber

Source: Hemp Yeah! 

Pros
  • Budget friendly

  • No added sweeteners

  • 8 grams of fiber

Cons
  • Earthy flavor

Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber is unique in that it is not only a vegan product, but it is made entirely from hemp seeds, which provide a variety of nutritional benefits. It is generally considered to be a complete protein source, and one serving provides a whopping 8 grams of fiber in addition to plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. Fiber has a whole host of health benefits, including helping support digestion, lasting fullness, and feeding healthy gut bacteria. Higher fiber intakes are connected to a reduced risk of most lifestyle-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. The omega 3 and omega 6 fats from hemp seeds are connected to a number of health benefits, perhaps most notably heart health.

Given that hemp seeds are the protein source and no other ingredients are added, some note a more detectable flavor (and color) of the powder, but, when combined with other tasty mix-ins, it can be a great choice. Manitoba Harvest also conducts third party testing for microbial contaminants and impurities.

Servings per container: 15 | Type of Protein: Hemp protein | Grams of protein per serving: 15g | Grams of carbs per serving: 8g | Grams of fat per serving: 3g

Best Pre-mixed: OWYN Vegan Protein Shake

OWYN
Pros
  • No preparation required

  • Vegan

  • Allergy friendly & certified kosher 

Cons
  • Not third party tested for contaminants

  • Added sugar, high intensity sweetener, and natural flavors

If you don't have time to create your own protein shake, we appreciate that Owyn offers a variety of pre-mixed protein shake flavors that are all vegan-friendly. Unlike many other pre-mixed shakes, Owyn does not add vitamins or minerals that may exceed the daily recommendations when combined with a prenatal multivitamin. It is also—you guessed it—a complete protein.

Owyn's shakes do contain a small amount of added sugar, monk fruit sweetener, and natural flavors. If you have a food allergy, Owyn might be a great choice, as they conduct third party testing for the presence of allergens. Because of this, they are recognized by Food Allergy & Research Education (FARE), whose goal is to improve the lives of those living with food allergies. They do not report third party testing for contaminants or heavy metals.

Of note, there is a cold brew coffee flavor containing caffeine which should be taken into consideration, as pregnant people need to be mindful of their caffeine intake.

Servings per container: 1 | Type of Protein: Pea protein, Pumpkin seed protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20g | Grams of carbs per serving: 10g | Grams of fat per serving: 7g

Final Verdict

Needed Prenatal Collagen (view at Amazon) is a versatile option to help pregnant people meet their daily protein needs. Since it is unflavored it can easily be incorporated into sweet and savory foods alike for a protein boost. For a vegan option that is not only a complete protein but also contains the key nutrient choline, try Ritual Essential Protein (view at Ritual).

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLabs.

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in a Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powder

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLabs, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Third party testing is especially important for protein powders because of the risk of contamination with heavy metals which could be particularly problematic in the pregnant population. 

Form

Since protein is found in a variety of foods, protein powders can be derived from multiple sources. Common protein powder sources are collagen, whey, soy, rice, pea, and hemp seed. At this point, there have not been high quality studies that have evaluated the efficacy of one source of protein supplementation over another in pregnancy. 

One important thing to note is that plant proteins may not be as easily digested as animal proteins, and plant proteins are usually not complete protein sources, while animal proteins are. This does not mean that it is impossible to be vegetarian or vegan and have a healthy pregnancy, it just means that a bit more attention needs to be paid to protein for people who do not eat animal products. It is also a consideration when choosing a plant-based protein powder. That's why all of the plant-based powders we recommend are complete proteins.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Herbal blends may be added to protein powders. However, there is insufficient research on the safety of most herbs in pregnancy, so it is important that you exercise caution with these products. Some powders may also contain added vitamins and minerals which, in combination with prenatal multivitamin supplements, could potentially risk exceeding the recommended daily value of certain nutrients. We recommend consulting with a Registered Dietitian about the ingredient list to confirm that all ingredients are considered safe for pregnancy. 

Protein Dosage

The recommended amount of protein varies by pregnancy stage, as needs increase as your baby grows and develops. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein throughout pregnancy put forth by the Institute of Medicine is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or .36 grams per pound) during the first trimester and 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (or .5 grams per pound) during the second and third trimesters. However, some recent research suggests protein needs are actually higher, instead ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram (.54 grams per pound to .68 grams per pound) of body weight.

That’s about 105 grams of protein per day for someone who is 155 pounds at a point during their second trimester, compared to their needs of 51 grams of protein if they were 140 pounds before pregnancy.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no established upper limit for protein in pregnancy or any life stage according to the Dietary Reference Intakes. However the Institute of Medicine has set an acceptable range for protein at 10-35% of total energy intake for all adults (the rest of the energy comes from carbohydrates and fat).

Some studies suggest that adding a high protein supplement when the diet already provides sufficient protein could have potential harmful effects. One possible explanation is that consuming the supplement resulted in excess protein and reduced carbohydrate intake, which could negatively impact your baby’s growth. Another hypothesis is that there is a negative impact on how the baby's body utilizes amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and/or that excess protein leads to reduced levels of growth hormones.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of protein powder should I avoid during pregnancy?

    Quality matters. Avoid powders that have not undergone third party testing to ensure purity, those made with herbs that have not been confirmed safe in pregnancy, and those that contain unnecessary additives. Individuals with dietary restrictions such as food allergies and intolerances should avoid powders containing those ingredients. Likewise, those with medical conditions such as IBS or celiac disease should avoid powders containing ingredients that may trigger symptoms such as FODMAPs or gluten.

  • Can I continue using protein powder while I am breastfeeding?

    Yes, postpartum recovery and lactation are stages where nutritional needs continue to be elevated. The same considerations to keep in mind for pregnancy will hold true throughout breastfeeding as well. 

  • What should I mix protein powder with?

    “Protein powders can be easily incorporated into smoothies, hot drinks, soup, oatmeal, or energy bites, to name a few,” says Al Bochi. If you want to use protein powdered in a savory dish, be sure to choose an unflavored variety, like Needed's collagen powder.

  • What is the best time of day to use protein powder?

    The optimal timing is when it is most practical and feasible for you. There is no research-based consensus around ideal timing for protein supplementation.

  • How do I know if I need protein powder?

    According to Al Bochi, “Protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy, and it may be challenging to meet your nutritional requirements from food alone." You may especially benefit from a protein supplement if you struggle with nausea or vomiting or eat little or no meat during your pregnancy.

    The best way to assess whether your diet is meeting your protein needs is to meet with a Registered Dietitian who can analyze your intake and guide you on how to incorporate supplemental protein as needed. 

Why Trust Verywell Family

Alexandra Paetow is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, mom of two, and founder of Thrive and Bloom Nutrition, a virtual nutrition practice based in New Jersey.

Alexandra specializes in nutrition through preconception, prenatal, and postpartum life stages. She uses intuitive eating principles to help women learn to trust and care for their changing bodies by breaking the diet cycle, building a positive relationship with food, and healing body image struggles. As a mom of two (soon to be three!) she understands the importance low-stress, practical strategies and the profound impact that mom’s nutrition and body image can have on the whole family.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Alexandra Paetow MS RDN
She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with master’s degree in nutrition education from Teachers College Columbia University.Alexandra is the Founder of Thrive and Bloom Nutrition, a private practice specializing in maternal nutrition.She is the creator of @postpartumnutritionist, a social media account bringing attention to the importance of nutrition for new moms.She says, “Nutrition is more than nutrients. If we don’t address the relationship with food and body image, we are missing out on a critical component of nutrition especially in the prenatal and postpartum population as parents create lifestyles that influence not only their own wellbeing, but that of the next generation.”