By: Emily Hirsch, MS, RD
Bringing new life into this world is no easy task. Pregnancy can trigger an onslaught of various uncomfortable conditions from heartburn to aches and pains.
Joint pain is a common condition among pregnant women which can sometimes be felt throughout the body. Not only is joint pain uncomfortable, but it can limit mobility and ultimately affect the quality of one’s life.
Common Joint Pain Areas in Pregnancy
While your body may ache all over during pregnancy, there are certain areas that are more prone to joint pain than others.
One of the most common areas of joint pain for pregnant women is the lower back. Your growing uterus can alter your center of gravity while weakening your abdominal muscles which can lead to an aching back.
Another common area of joint pain in pregnancy is the hips. During pregnancy, your body releases hormones that allow your ligaments to relax.
As a result, the ligaments and joints in your pelvis begin to loosen, increasing flexibility, allowing the baby to eventually move through your pelvis when labor strikes. The loosening of these ligaments can create pain throughout your hips.
Gaining weight around your hips is common during pregnancy. This added weight increases stress on your bones and joints, causing pain when you walk, sit, or even when you sleep.
Other causes of hip pain may include increased pressure on your sciatic nerve. There are two nerves in your body that run from your lower back to your feet. Your growing uterus puts increasing pressure on these nerves which can lead to sciatica.
Sciatica is the pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the buttocks, hips, and thighs as a result of sciatic nerve stress.
Due to increased weight, changes in gait, and differences in sitting and resting, some women may also experience knee pain during pregnancy.
The hormones released during pregnancy not only relax the ligaments in the pelvic area, but they can also relax and loosen other ligaments and tendons, including those around the knees. This can result in shifting of the kneecap which can lead to pain and discomfort.
While some of this pain is inevitable, collagen supplements during pregnancy might be able to help.
What is Collagen?
Collagen, often referred to as the body’s scaffolding is the most abundant protein in your body. Collagen is the building block of your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and is responsible for healthy joints and skin elasticity.
Collagen supports the structural component of cartilage. The cartilage in your body acts as a shock absorber in joints. Therefore, collagen plays an essential role in keeping joints healthy and flexible.
Types of Collagen in the Body
There are many different types of collagen; however, the 3 main types of collagen found in the body are type I, II, III.
Type I collagen accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen. This type of collagen provides structure to your skin, tendons, cartilage, tissue, bones, and teeth.
Type II collagen is found mostly in your found in cartilage, allowing “springiness” while cushioning the stress on joints.
Type III collagen supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries, and bone marrow.
Benefits of Collagen on Joint Health
Collagen has gained a lot of traction as a nutritional supplement due to its ability to naturally alleviate joint pain and discomfort.
The most common collagen supplements are those that are hydrolyzed, meaning the collagen has been partially broken down, making it easier for your body to absorb.
Research shows that collagen supplements may prompt your body to produce more collagen, which can reduce joint inflammation and ease discomfort and pain.
A 2021 study explored the efficacy of collagen peptides on knee joint discomfort in young, active adults. Researchers found that collagen peptides derived from type I collagen led to a significantly higher reduction of exercise-induced knee pain.
Another 2016 study found that supplementation with hydrolyzed type 1 collagen resulted in a significant reduction in inflammation in joints. The study showed collagen may help prevent synovial thickening, a major contributor to joint inflammation and pain.
A 2014 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found a link between collagen supplementation and improved joint health. In the study, researchers administered collagen peptides to women with mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis over the course of 6 months. They found that collagen supplementation reduced overall pain and increased mobility among the study participants.
Collagen During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can create a tremendous amount of strain on your joints causing pain in your hips, back, and knees.
Since we know that collagen supplementation may benefit your joints, perhaps this type of protein supplementation can also help alleviate joint pain in pregnancy.
While all nutrient needs are increased in pregnancy, your need for protein increases more than 50% during this time to support fetal growth and milk production.
There is some research to suggest that women may not be increasing their consumption of protein to ideal levels, particularly into the second and third trimesters when protein needs are the highest.
Taking a collagen supplement during pregnancy may also help women meet their increasing protein needs. But, a collagen supplement for pregnant women has to be safe.
One study evaluated the safety and efficacy of Protiva, which uses types I and III collagen, for pre and postpartum women. Researchers determined that Protiva was safe and well-tolerated when taken during pregnancy and postpartum.
Researchers found that study participants had lower than ideal levels of protein at the start of the study.
After collagen protein supplementation subjects improved quality of life, improved wound healing, and 100% improvement in protein levels in study participants. It is also important to note that collagen supplementation appears to improve protein status which is associated with improved pregnancy outcomes.
When selecting a collagen supplement during pregnancy, you should consider only using a product that has been researched and proven safe for use in pregnancy. Protiva is the only collagen formula found to be safe for use in pregnancy and is also more bioavailable (absorbed better), than other collagen supplements.
Collagen and Joint Pain During Pregnancy
If you’re experiencing joint pain during pregnancy, you may benefit from taking a collagen supplement.
Protiva was found to be safe in pregnancy and may help alleviate joint pain. The link between collagen supplementation and joint health is encouraging, making it a natural option for pain relief without the use of drugs.
In summary, collagen supplementation may:
- Reduce inflammation and help ease joint discomfort thereby increasing mobility
- Stimulate collagen production which protects joints
- Improve protein status among pregnant women
- Improve pregnancy outcomes
Improving Joint Pain During Pregnancy Naturally
There are some other ways to naturally help relieve joint pain during pregnancy. A few other things to try might include:
Regular exercise. Regular exercise can help keep your muscles strong and helps to keep your joints flexible. Try low-impact exercises like walking or swimming which place less stress on your joints.
Try using heat. Taking a hot shower or bath, or using a heating pad on aching joints will help ease some pain and discomfort.
Use a belly band. A belly band can support your abdomen and reduce some of the pressure on your lower back.
While pregnancy can bring much joy and excitement, it can also take its toll on your ever-changing body.
Collagen supplementation appears to be a safe and effective option for women who may be experiencing joint pain during pregnancy.
It is best to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement to ensure its safety for you.