Creatine During Pregnancy and Post-partum

Creatine monohydrate is a very commonly used supplement among athletes and active adults. Creatine monohydrate is deeply researched for its benefits in athletic performance, bone health, and lean muscle maintenance in both males and females. As we continue to see more and more female athletes become pregnant (and continue to train while doing so), we are getting asked daily about creatine during pregnancy and during postpartum.

That is what we will dive into today!

What is Creatine?

First of all, what exactly is creatine? Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that is found in muscle tissue. Our body also makes around a gram of creatine daily through our liver and pancreas.

We can also get it naturally by incorporating animal products into our diet. Creatine is at its highest levels in beef and seafood. Creatine is stored in the body as phosphocreatine, which is used for energy in your muscles. As such, it has gotten a lot of hype for strength and fitness levels. If you didn’t know, creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market!

A recommended serving of creatine is 3-5 grams. Many research studies have found this dosage is sufficient to maintain creatine muscle levels after they have been saturated. This “saturation” occurs after 4 weeks of taking 5g of creatine monohydrate per day or can be accomplished with a loading phase. We will get into the loading phase a little later. 

can creatine affect a baby

Benefits of Creatine during Pregnancy

Limited literature exists on creatine usage during pregnancy though promising animal studies have been conducted. Research done in many animal studies has shown some specific benefits when it comes to benefits for babies. One major benefit is the prevention of low birth weight and ensuring your baby’s cells have the required energy it needs to promote healthy growth. 

Now, let’s talk about creatine benefits for the mom. There are also some major benefits for the mom before, during, and after pregnancy.

Because of the increased demands your body is going through to grow another human, pregnant individuals often see a large decrease in their body’s natural creatine stores. This can have negative effects on muscle maintenance, power, bone health, and athletic performance. Creatine has the important function of providing your muscle’s energy but is also involved in many different systems in your body. Here are some benefits of having strong creatine stores. 

  • Greater strength and muscle performance. 
  • Preventing muscle, ligament, and tendon injury.
  • Speed up recovery. 
  • Improved cognitive function. 
  • Counteracts bone aging. 

Creatine is also found in lower levels in women than in men, which already puts pregnant mothers at a disadvantage. This is due to female hormones, making creatine synthesis difficult at different stages of life and our menstrual cycle. The molecule that works to turn creatine into energy, creatine kinase, is at its highest levels during menstruation. When females are pregnant, these levels are lower and are sustained at lower levels because we don’t have the hormonal changes to increase levels. 

Talking with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian to see if you should incorporate creatine monohydrate into your fueling plan during pregnancy can help keep creatine stores high and mitigate any negative performance or health effects.

Creatine in Different Stages of Pregnancy

Pregnancy – Can Creatine Affect a Baby?

Once you are pregnant, you may be watching everything you put into your body, and you may discontinue some supplements and add others. Creatine and pregnancy are not something that is heavily researched in the field of nutrition, but the research that has been done shows no harm to you or your baby. Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule in the body and it is naturally suppressed during pregnancy. Introducing amounts that will help replenish those stores during pregnancy may have benefits for the baby and you. We highly recommend talking with your doctor about creatine if you want to continue taking it during pregnancy.

can creatine affect a baby

What About Breastfeeding?

Now that you have made it through pregnancy and you are raising your new baby, you may be easing back into exercise (with the doctor’s permission of course!) and also could be breastfeeding. If you have taken creatine throughout pregnancy, then you can take it throughout breastfeeding or lactating. Even if you didn’t take it during pregnancy, creatine has not shown any effects on milk production and composition. Taking a recommended amount will not harm you or your baby, and it may help your recovery as you begin to introduce movement! 

How much creatine should you take?

You may be wondering how much and what you should take. There is a set protocol that is found to be beneficial in creatine supplementation. This includes a loading phase, which is useful to build up your creatine stores. This consists of 5-7 days of 20 grams of creatine a day (usually broken into 4 doses). After this loading phase, you can continue to take 5 grams as a maintenance dose daily. 

Is Creatine Safe?

Many studies have been done to examine the safety of creatine and if creatine can affect a baby, and so far, research has found that proper supplementation is safe. Make sure to consult with a health professional to see if there is anything in your personal situation that would prevent you from supplementing. 

So, is it safe? Creatine supplementation is researched heavily in an athletics space, along with older populations, but not during pregnancy. While we recommend confirming with your doctor if creatine is right for you, we believe it isn’t something to shy away from when you are pregnant. Since creatine is a naturally occurring compound that we know is depleted in pregnancy, why not get ahead and help your body with supplementing in the first place?

The most heavily researched form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, but you can’t just take any supplement on the shelf. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so there is a chance you are taking something that isn’t what it says it is. To counter this, there are outside companies that conduct third-party testing of supplements. This is super important to make sure you aren’t wasting money and you are staying safe. 

How to Spot Third-Party Tested Supplements

When shopping in a store you may be overwhelmed with the options of supplements, I know I am! There are certain labels you can look out for on a supplement label. My favorite stamps to look for are NSF, NSF for Sport, Informed Choice, and USP. These two are constantly used and have good practices when it comes to third-party testing. This ensures what is on the label is what you are getting in your supplement. 

Conclusion

Pregnancy can be overwhelming with many changes and new beginnings. I hope this blog post gave you some insight on the role of creatine in pregnancy, how creatine can affect a baby, and how supplementing can benefit you and your baby. Creatine is super important in our bodies and it is something that we frequently recommend to our clients. 

If you have more questions about supplementation and want to work with a professional to see if creatine is for you, apply for 1:1 coaching! We have great resources we want to share with you to make sure you do things correctly and see the results you want. 

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