Which Supplements Are Safe To Take During Pregnancy & Lactation?
Published August 27, 2012
For those women with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition who are pregnant or lactating, it can sometimes be a challenge following a natural treatment protocol. After all, some of the supplements which might normally be recommended won’t be safe to take under these circumstances. For example, when a woman is pregnant, not only does she need to be careful about the dosages of certain vitamins and minerals, but there are also certain herbs she won’t be able to take which otherwise might be recommended for someone with a hypothyroid or hyperthyroid condition.
Two Herbs Which Are Contraindicated During Pregnancy & Lactation
For example, for those people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, Bugleweed is a common herb that is recommended to help with the excessive secretion of thyroid hormone. However, someone who is pregnant or lactating won’t be able to take Bugleweed. On the other hand, some people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis take the herb Bladderwrack, and this herb is also contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation. The good news is that while these two herbs can benefit people with hyperthyroid and hypothyroid conditions, they usually aren’t an essential part of a natural treatment protocol. While they can definitely help with the recovery process, most people can still restore their health back to normal without taking these herbs.
Besides Bugleweed and Bladderwrack, there are other herbs in which women who are pregnant or lactating need to be cautious about taking. Motherwort is another herb commonly taken for those with hyperthyroid conditions, as it can help with the cardiac symptoms, especially the heart palpitations. While this herb is usually fine to take while breastfeeding, one needs to be cautious about taking it when pregnant. Hemidesmus is an herb that can help suppress the autoimmune response, and shouldn’t be taken in those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some herbs which have been proven safe to take during pregnancy and lactation include Echinacea, Ashwaganda, and Licorice. Gymnema is another one, as is Chaste Tree. There are numerous herbs which supposedly are safe when one is pregnant or lactating. However, even though there are many herbs which seem to be compatible with pregnancy and lactation, I’m still cautious about giving these herbs to my patients who are pregnant, especially in the first trimester. When someone is pregnant I try mainly to use vitamins and minerals, along with modification of the lifestyle factors to restore one’s health. After all, while many people are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, I’ve never come across anyone who is deficient in Eleuthero or Licorice. This doesn’t mean they can’t be useful, as I do recommend these herbs to some of my patients who aren’t pregnant.
I’m a little bit less cautious when recommending herbs to women who are breastfeeding, although I of course will still have them avoid herbs which are contraindicated, and will still try to minimize the number of herbs given. But if a woman who is breastfeeding her baby has very low cortisol levels, I won’t hesitate to give her some licorice, while in a pregnant women I may try some other things first to raise the low cortisol levels, and resort to herbs only if I feel it’s absolutely necessary.
Supplements Which I Recommend During Pregnancy And Lactation
At this point you probably get the idea that while I like to use herbs in my practice, I’m cautious about giving them to pregnant and lactating women. Once again, there are circumstances when I will give herbs to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, but it’s only when I strongly feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. So for any women who is pregnant or breastfeeding who would like to take herbs for her thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, I would without question seek the advice of a competent natural healthcare professional who has a good deal of experience dealing with herbs. Before I discuss some of the vitamins and minerals which are important for pregnant and lactating women, I first would like to briefly talk about the importance of managing symptoms during thyroid and autioimmune thyroid conditions.
Hyperthyroidism & Graves’ Disease. It is very important to manage the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Many women want to avoid taking antithyroid medication, which I completely understand, but remember that it’s all about risks vs. benefits. And while there without question can be risks to your baby when taking the drugs, there is also a big risk if you don’t manage the hyperthyroid symptoms.
Remember that Bugleweed is contraindicated, Motherwort also probably should be avoided, and the same can be said for other supplements commonly taken such as L-Carnitine. So then what else can someone do to help manage the hyperthyroid symptoms? Well, with my pregnant and lactating patients I usually will turn to the goitrogenic foods, such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc. I don’t typically do this with people with hyperthyroid conditions, but I will take this approach with my pregnant and lactating hyperthyroid patients. In fact, one of the supplements I commonly give is called Cruciferous Complete, which when taken in higher dosages can help to manage the hyperthyroid symptoms, although it admittedly isn’t as effective as an herb like Bugleweed.
Of course diet plays a big role in the person’s recovery, and so just like anyone else with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, eating well is extremely important, as is managing stress, getting sufficient sleep, and minimizing one’s exposure to environmental toxins. And I will also recommend a hair mineral analysis to help determine some of the mineral deficiencies, which of course will factor into my decision as to which supplements one should take, as well as the dosages.
Hypothyroidism & Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I also come across some people with hypothyroid conditions who prefer not to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone while pregnant or breastfeeding. Once again, it all comes down to risks vs. benefits, and especially during pregnancy for someone with low thyroid hormone levels it usually is a good idea to take thyroid hormone. This doesn’t mean other things can’t be done to help get to the cause of the hypothyroid condition, but at the same time you want to make sure you don’t do anything that can negatively affect the health of your baby.
Both Conditions. Whether someone has a hypothyroid or hyperthyroid condition, or an autoimmune thyroid condition, most pregnant and lactating women can benefit from taking minerals such as calcium, magnesium, selenium, and chromium. These are commonly deficient, although once again, testing should be done to see exactly what someone is deficient in. Other common deficiencies include zinc, iron, and manganese. One can also be deficient in copper, although it is also possible to have a copper toxicity issue, which is why you need to be careful about randomly taking minerals.
As for the vitamins one should take, it of course is a good idea for any pregnant woman to take a good quality multivitamin. Source Naturals has an excellent prenatal vitamin, and there are many other good ones out there. I also think most pregnant and lactating women can benefit from taking a separate B Complex supplement, since many are deficient in the B vitamins. Many pregnant and lactating women are also deficient in Vitamin D, and the 400 IU typically found in most prenatal vitamins usually isn’t sufficient to correct this deficiency. Of course unlike the B vitamins, vitamin D is fat soluble, and so you do need to be cautious about taking too much of this vitamin. So I would first recommend to get tested to confirm a vitamin D deficiency, and if this is the case, consult with a natural healthcare professional to see what dosage you should take.
How about iodine? This one is controversial, regardless of whether someone is pregnant or lactating. Most endocrinologists would advise their patients with hyperthyroidism to completely avoid iodine, and some people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis don’t do well when taking iodine. On the other hand, iodine is very important to the developing fetus. And just as is the case with vitamin D, the amount of iodine found in a prenatal vitamin usually won’t be sufficient to correct a deficiency of this mineral. I’m not suggesting for anyone who is pregnant or lactating to randomly take large dosages of iodine, as this definitely isn’t a good idea. If anyone is going to take iodine they should be be tested first for an iodine deficiency, and then if it is determined they are deficient in this mineral, they should begin taking small dosages of iodine. And someone who has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis might have an iodine deficiency but might not do well when taking iodine, and so this needs to be considered. Every now and then someone with Graves’ Disease won’t do well either when taking iodine. So once again, I recommend for people to consult with a natural healthcare professional for some guidance regarding iodine testing and supplementation.
The purpose of this article wasn’t to give specific recommendations regarding which vitamins and minerals pregnant and lactating women should take. And the reason for this is because different women will have different requirements. So while it’s great when pregnant and lactating women take a quality prenatal vitamin, this usually won’t be sufficient enough to correct any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which of course could affect the health of the baby. As a result, it’s a good idea for any woman who is pregnant or lactating to consult with a natural healthcare professional to help determine which vitamins and minerals are needed, as well as if any herbs are necessary to take.