It is important for pregnant mothers to understand the effects of the food and medication that they consume because their food intake is important to their baby’s development. For women who have painful joint problems, glucosamine is often recommended by their physicians or pharmacists. However, is glucosamine safe for pregnant mothers?
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is naturally found in shells or shellfishes, and can also be manufactured synthetically in laboratories, to be consumed as a supplement. Glucosamine works to repair and build the cartilage in human joints, by stimulating the production of synovial fluid (to remove friction between joints) and increasing the viscosity of the synovial fluid.
In short, glucosamine helps to reduce inflammation in the joints, reduces joint pain and reduces the degenerative process of joints. It is commonly taken as a supplement by individuals who suffer from arthritis and osteoarthritis. However, Glucosamine is not recommended for individuals with shellfish allergies to avoid having an allergic reaction.
Even though pregnant mothers may have more inflammation and joint pains, glucosamine manufacturers strongly discourage pregnant or nursing mothers to consume glucosamine, as there is a lack of medical evidence suggesting its safety.
What Research Says
Past medical researchers have found that the possible mild side effects of glucosamine supplements are heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Other possible, but less common side effects are bloating, upset stomach, insomnia and rashes. Pregnant women commonly suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort, and glucosamine might worsen it.
One clinical trial conducted on pregnant mothers found that ingesting glucosamine did not increase the risk of their baby having birth defects or negative effects. However, the researchers mentioned that the data is limited, so it cannot be generalised to all mothers. Also, it is important to note that clinical trials for pharmaceutical medicine are extremely important to ensure the safety of the medicine for pregnant mothers. Studies that are too small or few, might be unable to uncover potential problems.
According to the Health Ministry of Malaysia (KKM) and National Institute of Health of the United States, pregnant mothers should avoid using glucosamine unless under a doctor’s supervision.
If you have any joint pains that are starting to feel unbearable, it is advised to seek your doctor’s opinion to determine the best option to reduce the pain, without jeopardising your baby’s growth and health. Additionally, you can try doing low-impact exercises (i.e. swimming or walking) that can help blood circulation and keep your joints flexible. If your joints feel hot or have visible swelling, you can also wrap an ice pack with a towel and place it on the swollen area.
Although preliminary research did not find any evidence suggesting that glucosamine has harmful effects on the foetus, there is still no concluding evidence confident of the overall safety of glucosamine for pregnant women. Before sufficient research has been done, it is crucial for pregnant mothers to consult their doctors before they take any medicine.
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