Can I Take Collagen While Breastfeeding?

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After childbirth, you might be looking forward to reincorporating any number of things you gave up during pregnancy. From raw sushi to retinol, a variety of formerly off-limits items might be on the table again. But if you're breastfeeding, you’re likely to still feel the impulse to stop and mull over every possible outcome that may result from just about anything you do.

The process of breastfeeding can be influenced by many variables. There are hormones involved, which can fluctuate with bodily changes. The milk you produce is affected by what you, as a breastfeeding person, consume. With the potential for impacting your child’s nutrition, you'll obviously be taking stock of your own dietary intake.

While you might have taken supplements, like collagen, before pregnancy, it's worth reevaluating them with your healthcare providers before resuming. Collagen supplements, like any dietary supplement, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety before they hit store aisles.

And it’s not like there’s a bottomless pool of unbiased research targeting breastfeeding and the intake of collagen supplements. “I have not seen studies on the safety of collagen supplements or powders during pregnancy or breastfeeding,” says Jessica Wu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles, and author of "Feed Your Face." While some experts might say they’re safe to take, and some collagen supplement brands might tout their benefits on their websites, it's best to consider them with care.

What Are Collagen Supplements?

Collagen is an essential protein that's found in abundance in our bodies. With stores of healthy collagen, skin is more elastic and resistant to sagging. Collagen can also help preserve joint and bone health. Some types are also found in cartilage. However, collagen production becomes less plentiful as you age.

Several varieties of ingestible collagen supplements are marketed as ways to introduce more collagen into the body and improve overall health. And there are studies to suggest that oral collagen supplements can have a beneficial impact on one's skin, both on its health and appearance. However, researchers also say that more studies are needed to support manufacturers' claims about benefits to skin, hair, and nails.

Can You Take Collagen Supplements While Breastfeeding?

If you took supplements before or during pregnancy, it's still best to stop and do another evaluation with your healthcare provider to determine their potential effect on breastfeeding and milk production. While collagen supplements are generally thought to be safe for breastfeeding individuals, they have also not been shown to help, says Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, a Los Angeles-based doctor board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"Some postpartum women struggle with hair loss and stretch marks so they take collagen, as well as other supplements, in hope that they will help," Dr. Yamaguchi says. While there are some studies to show that collagen intake can help improve skin moisture, the studies do not specifically explore its impact during breastfeeding.

Putting their potential benefits aside (which might vary, depending on what specific collagen supplement you take), it's perhaps most important to remember that supplement safety is not regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers do not need to prove safety or efficacy, Dr. Wu says.

In general, says Dr. Yamaguchi, "I tell my patients that they can take collagen supplements if they feel they are going to help them, but the most important thing is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, and get rest."

Safety Precautions

If you speak with your healthcare team and decide you might want to take a collagen supplement, then it's time to do a little more research. Remember, collagen supplements are not all the same, so you'll need to figure out exactly what you're taking. Here's some expert advice on how to navigate the aisles.

Examine the Ingredients

Since collagen supplements are sourced and created differently, it's important to know exactly what's in them so you can have an informed conversation with your healthcare provider. "It’s possible that supplements could contain toxins—such as mercury, especially if they come from fish—or other contaminants," says Dr. Wu. "So discuss with your doctor before taking any supplements. I often ask patients to bring in their supplements so we can review the labels together." 

Don't forget to discuss dosage with your provider, too. Not only can the content of collagen supplements vary by brand, but so can amounts. You also want to be mindful of potentially taking in too much of any one vitamin, mineral, or supplement.

Understand How the Supplement Works

Not every collagen supplement on the market is absorbed into your body in the same way. If you're interested in taking one, consider that hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides are small fragments of collagen that are more easily absorbed by your digestive system, says Dr. Wu.

Think About What You're Already Taking

Your healthcare provider might suggest that you take some supplemental vitamins while breastfeeding, such as vitamin D. But collagen isn't usually among the suggested supplements for breastfeeding parents. You'll want to make sure that the supplements you take won't negatively interact with one another, which is why it's so important to run new supplements by your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Discussing recommendations around dietary supplements is tricky due to their lack of safety regulations. It's extremely important to talk about the possibility of taking a collagen supplement during breastfeeding with your healthcare providers.

While some vitamins and nutrients may pass on through to your breastmilk, collagen is not typically referenced as an often-needed supplement during breastfeeding. You may get the green light to add it to your daily routine, or you may decide to wait. However, the decision shouldn't be made without becoming completely informed about the exact type and formulation of the supplement in question.

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