This One Supplement Can Make Your Pregnancy More Comfortable, OB-GYNs Say

by Kristina Johnson
Originally Published: 

It's hard not to stress over every single thing you put in your body when you're pregnant, and your whole life is consumed with the task of growing a baby. Figuring out which medications and supplements are safe to take isn't always easy, and some women end up suffering in silence because they just aren't sure. There's one supplement, though, that's generally doctor-approved. The potential benefits of magnesium during pregnancy might make you want to run out and buy some ASAP (but call your OB-GYN first).

Most pregnant women probably get enough magnesium, according to Dr. Jimmy Belotte, an OB-GYN in the Montefiore Health system, and won't specifically need a supplement. “Most of the supply of the magnesium… is from the food that she eats. If she eats a healthy diet, the magnesium level shouldn’t be low, and it should be adequate during pregnancy as well.” Magnesium-rich foods include seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens, according to Baby Center. Prenatal vitamins typically have magnesium in them, too, so if you're taking them in combination with a balanced diet, your magnesium needs will likely be covered.

A little extra magnesium in the form of supplements, however, can make you more comfortable if you're suffering from some common pregnancy ailments, according to Dr. Angela Bianco, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies in the Mount Sinai Health system in New York City. "It's a smooth muscle relaxer, it's very calming, it promotes sleep," says Dr. Bianco. It can also be used to treat headaches in pregnancy. "There's actually a powdered form of magnesium citrate which is safe to use in pregnancy. It's very relaxing to take at bedtime." And if tummy troubles are plaguing you, magnesium might also help. "It also helps people with constipation because it relaxes the smooth muscle in the gut."

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Magnesium is also administered in hospital settings when severe pregnancy complications arise. It is used to treat preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition that causes dangerously highly blood pressure in pregnant women. "It's usually after 20 weeks and up to 41 days after delivery, that this condition can occur," say Belotte. "One thing that can happen is seizure... and that can be an even more fatal situation, or the mom and baby can be at risk. In order to prevent the seizure, we use magnesium sulfate infusion."

The mineral can also be used when a mom goes into labor early. Hooking a pregnant woman up to a magnesium sulfate infusion can help protect the baby from some of the most devastating and extreme effects of prematurity. "One of the chief complications is brain development and brain impairment... To protect the baby's brain, we use magnesium," Belotte said. Infusions of magnesium sulfate can reduce the odds of the baby having cerebral palsy, as nurse Cheryl Bird explained on Verywell Family.

If you're considering taking a magnesium supplement while pregnant, you'll want to make sure you don't go overboard. Too much magnesium can have uncomfortable side effects including cramps and diarrhea, according to Live Strong, so take it with caution and in moderation.

In general, you should always talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits before starting any new supplement, especially if you're expecting, and work with them to figure out a safe dosage. But if you doctor approves, or even recommends adding a little extra magnesium to your diet, it could help you have an easier pregnancy.

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