Can I Take Emergen-C While Pregnant?

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When you're pregnant, staying as healthy as possible is top of mind. Perhaps you're considering ways to best boost your immunity, particularly during cold and flu season. Previously, you might not have thought twice before reaching for a packet of Emergen-C (ascorbic acid-multivitamin-minerals), a supplement that claims to support the immune system.

Now, however, you're quite naturally suspicious of everything you put in your body. That packet, which once looked perfectly innocent, is making you raise an eyebrow.

Emergen-C's primary ingredient is vitamin C (a whopping 1,000 mg), but also contains other antioxidants like manganese and zinc. There's also a smattering of B vitamins and electrolytes.

Daniel Roshan, MD, a high-risk maternal-fetal OBGYN in New York City, says that Emergen-C is fine to take while pregnant.

"Vitamin C increases iron absorption from the stomach and decreases anemia," Dr. Roshan says. "It also helps people to recover from a cold faster, so overall it's a good supplement to take. Vitamins B and C are both water-soluble which means that any excess of it you don't need comes out of the body."

Let's dive more into what Emergen-C is and the benefits and safety precautions associated with it.

What Is Emergen-C?

Emergen-C Original Formula Immune Support is the supplement largely known as a fizzy mix of nutrients (again, primarily vitamin C and B vitamins) designed to be mixed with water and drank as an immune booster. The very first iteration of Emergen-C was an orange flavor, likely developed to drive home how much vitamin C it includes, but now there are many different flavors available.

People may take Emergen-C at the first signs of a cold, while traveling, or if they have recently been around others who are sick. Some people will take it during the winter months for added vitamin C when they are spending more time indoors than out.

There are no studies specifically testing the effectiveness of Emergen-C, so we can't definitively say whether or not this particular supplement actually works. However, a 2013 study did evaluate the efficacy of vitamin C in preventing and treating common colds. Ultimately, the researchers found that while vitamin C didn't reduce the incidence of colds, it did appear to shorten the duration of a cold as well as decrease the severity of its symptoms.

Is It Safe to Take Emergen-C During Pregnancy?

It is safe to take Emergen-C while pregnant, despite the previously mentioned unknowns about its efficacy. Whether or not you choose to take the supplement is more of a risk-reward question you have to ask yourself and your healthcare provider.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recommend the widespread supplementation of vitamin C during pregnancy," says Marco Mouanness, MD, an OBGYN at Rejuvenating Fertility Center in New York, NY. "That doesn’t mean vitamin C use during pregnancy could harm you, but it does mean there’s not enough evidence that the benefits outweigh the risk."

For adults, a tolerable upper intake level of vitamin C is 2,000 daily (that's twice the amount in one packet of Emergen-C). Side effects associated with taking too much vitamin C are rare, but it still should be noted. Side effects can include bouts of diarrhea and overall gastrointestinal upset. So while it's OK to use Emergen-C, there's no need to take it frequently.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Emergen-C while pregnant.

What If I Take Emergen-C Before Realizing I’m Pregnant?

If you took Emergen-C as directed before you knew you were pregnant, there is no cause for concern. It's extremely rare to "overdose" on vitamin C. If you took too much vitamin C, it may have resulted in side effects like diarrhea or stomach discomfort. There is no evidence suggesting too much vitamin C while pregnant, including those days and weeks before you know you're pregnant, will have adverse effects on your baby.

Benefits of Emergen-C During Pregnancy

The jury is still out on whether or not Emergen-C is a truly effective supplement, but as Dr. Roshan stated, vitamin C itself has been shown to help decrease the chances of becoming anemic by increasing iron absorption in the stomach. In addition, research has shown that vitamin C can help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.

While it's rare in the United States, people can develop a vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy. Scurvy generally only occurs when someone doesn't have enough access to food to meet their basic nutritional needs. Therefore, supplementation with Emergen-C to prevent a vitamin C deficiency isn't necessary unless you're experiencing food insecurity.

A potential benefit to taking Emergen-C, or other vitamin C supplements, that has been scientifically studied has to do with the chorioamniotic membranes, which make up the amniotic sac that protects the fetus.

"Some studies have shown a reduced risk of preterm rupture of the two chorioamniotic membranes in patients supplemented with vitamin C during pregnancy," says Dr. Mouanness. "These membranes are called the amnion and the chorion, which make up the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus, providing it protection."

When these membranes rupture, it's what is known as your "water breaking" and can be one of the first signs of labor.

Safety Precautions

Even though Emergen-C is believed to be safe during pregnancy, it's always important to check with a healthcare provider before self-supplementing. If you notice any unusual symptoms or changes after taking Emergen-C, be sure to let them know.

"Some of the signs that you should look for are severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, heartburn, stomach cramps, bloating, fatigue and sleepiness, insomnia headache, and skin flushing," says Dr. Mouanness. "However, it is very difficult for patients sometimes to differentiate between pregnancy symptoms and the development of these symptoms due to vitamin C."

He suggests making sure you are getting enough vitamin C in your daily diet. Incorporating foods like broccoli, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes, which are all high in vitamin C, into your meals is a good place to start.

A Word From Verywell

Emergen-C is safe to take while pregnant, but its efficacy isn't so clear among the medical community. While it might not prevent a cold, it could help shorten the period of illness and reduce the severity of symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns about taking Emergen-C or any other supplements or medication during pregnancy, reach out to a healthcare provider about your individual situation.

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