Whether you want to maintain your weight or stay fit to prepare for childbirth, you will definitely need protein.
However, even in a perfectly healthy pregnancy, it can be challenging to get enough protein into your system. This is especially true if you can't eat certain protein-rich foods.
With the help of my dietitian and the TotalShape team, we analyzed dozens of products to identify the best protein powder for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
As it turns out, we couldn't agree on just one option, so we're highlighting a few to cover dairy, vegan, and organic protein powders for pregnant women.
Top Protein Powder for Pregnancy (2021)
1 - Cira Nutrition Bright Whey Protein Powder (Editor's Choice)
When it comes to finding an easily digested whey protein that doesn't cause bloating, CIRA Bright Whey Protein Powder is our top recommendation.
Each scoop comes with 25 grams of protein that should be enough to supplement fitness and pregnancy needs to achieve a fully balanced diet.
From a price perspective, it's an affordable product considering that you're getting high-quality protein. And most importantly, there's no added sugar to mess up your diet.
We also liked the flavors, which are pretty unique and not at all overpowering.
- Provides a great dose of 25 grams of whey protein
- Ideal for pregnancy as it won't mess up diet needs with added sugar
- Very tasty flavors that aren't too overpowering
- Affordable price for a high-quality protein powder with hardly any carbs
- Some bulk-order options would be great
We would just like to see some bulk discounts in addition to the subscription offers.
2 - Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder
One of the best protein powders available right now is the Transparent Labs whey protein option. What people love about it is that every ingredient you'll find on the label actually serves a purpose.
There are no fillers or artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, which is of particular importance to pregnant women.
Each serving of this protein powder contains 24 grams of grass-fed whey, which ensures high quality nutrients. The only thing better would be an organic option, but given the quality of the dairy ingredients, this shouldn't pose any concern.
- 28 grams of protein per serving
- Contains no artificial sweeteners or additives
- Gluten and GMO-free
- Sourced from grass-fed cows
- Not available in an unflavored option
I know that a lot of pregnant women like making a healthy protein shake with protein powders and superfoods. Having an unflavored protein powder option would be great to not overpower some of those prshakes.
See this related article on the best low carb protein powders on keto diet, where Transparent Lab's Grass-Fed whey protein powder is also ranked number one.
3 - Mommi 90 Prenatal Protein Powder
Mommi 90 Protein Powder was specifically formulated to support a healthy pregnancy and nursing in terms of the dosage of the whey protein and the added nutrients.
The flavors are subtle enough to make a nutrition-rich pregnancy protein shake by blending the protein powder with other ingredients.
Their initial idea was to make it easier for pregnant mothers to absorb all the good nutrients without taking pills through this tasteful protein powder.
What my dietitian highlighted as a real positive is the broad selection of vitamins and minerals that can help to support a healthy body for both the mother and baby.
- 15 grams of protein per serving
- Contains essential vitamins and minerals to support pregnancy and nursing
- Many reviews are positive on the flavors and consistency
- Available in good bulk order options
- The bags can be difficult to seal
The only real downside I could identify with this protein powder is that it comes in resealable bags where the seal sometimes doesn't close tightly enough.
4 - Baby Booster Prenatal Protein Powder
Next on our list of protein powders for pregnancy and nursing is from Baby Booster.
What many women love about this protein powder is that you can blend it easily with other foods to create a creamy, nutrition-packed protein shake.
It's not only gluten- and soy-free; you won't also find any unnecessary additives that are common with other protein powders on the market.
- Does not have allergens and any artificial ingredients
- Contains important nutrients including folic acid
- Blends easily to mix with protein shake and smoothies
- Comes with no-fuss refund policy if you're not happy
- Some more prenatal vitamins would make it even better
While it does contain important mineral nutrients, this protein powder lacks a bit in the vitamin department, considering that it's specifically advertised as a pregnancy and baby booster.
5 - Tera's Whey Grass-Fed Organic Protein Powder
For some woman, organic whey protein powder is going to be the only option, which makes this Tera's Whey an ideal choice.
It's healthy and safe among various stages of pregnancy as well as during breastfeeding.
As a low-carb, gluten-free protein powder, you can avoid any gluten reactions as well as blood glucose spikes that can have negative health impacts.
- 21 g of organic whey protein powder per serving
- Certified gluten-free to help women with celiac disease
- Low carb and glycemic to avoid blood sugar spikes
- Available in vanilla, chocolate, and plain taste
- Doesn't contain vitamins or minerals
6 - Pure Food Plant-Based Protein Powder with Probiotics
Although not specifically designed as a prenatal supplement, this plant-based protein powder has all organic ingredients.
Based on rice, hemp, and pea protein, you get the full range of essential amino acids to support a healthy body and baby.
What a lot of people comment positively is that the vegan-friendly BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
- Based on organic real vegan food sources
- Plant-based protein powder that contains a broad range of pea, rice, and hemp protein
- Contains 4.5 grams of BCAAs to help with weight management
- Has added probiotics to support a healthy digestion
- Limited flavor options
While this is one of the ideal choices for protein powders to support pregnancy, you can get a bit bored with having just a vanilla option available.
Are Protein Powders Safe For Mothers?
Yes, generally speaking, protein powders are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
However, many protein powders also contain ingredients designed to be performance-enhancing which may not be suitable for pregnancy and potentially unhealthy.
While this can be achieved through careful food selection, like extra dairy products, including milk and cheese, protein powders and supplements can give you a lot more flexibility with your diet.
The protein powders for pregnancy recommended above would be considered safe for prenatal use, but it's always best to discuss your supplementation needs with your doctor.
During pregnancy and nursing, your body will need significantly more protein.
This will also help with determining the right amounts at different stages of your pregnancy.
Pregnancy complicates the already complex metabolism of amino acids. Expansion of blood volume and growth of the maternal tissues require substantial amounts of protein. Thus, additional protein is essential for the maintenance of a successful pregnancy (1).
Benefits for Pregnant Women
There are 3 main benefits where having enough protein is critical when you’re expecting.
1. Control Weight Gain
Weight gain is going to be inevitable and also highly important as your baby grows. Not only will your unborn require vital nutrients, but your own body will become more reliant on energy storage.
This means you may gain weight when you drink a protein shake. However, it should not lead you to obesity. The good news is that proteins can help with managing stored body fat levels, thus can control weight gain efficiently.
2. Aid in Baby’s Brain Development
While your baby will need a lot of protein for every single cell development, it becomes especially critical in the third trimester, where a lot of the brain development activity happens . With the right protein powder, you can make sure you get all the critical nutrients needed in this phase.
3. Support Increased Blood Supply
When you're pregnant, the amount of blood that circulates your body will significantly increase. The increased blood volume may result in spikes in blood pressure, which can be detrimental to your health.
Research shows that protein supplementation helps normalize your blood pressure levels, avoiding any potential harm to you and your baby .
Benefits for Lactating Women
1. Lose Some Baby Weight
A lot of your baby weight, especially fat, will start dropping off during breastfeeding, as your milk supply will be very reliant on fat. However, moderate amounts of protein can also help to lose any excess body weight to get you back to your pre-pregnancy shape.
2. Increase Your Milk Supply
Some studies have revealed that there is a link between protein intake and milk supply for breastfeeding moms . While the studies have not been extensive enough, as long as you're taking high-quality protein products, this is a safe way to give your feeding a boost.
Choosing the Right Protein Powder
Based on our team's experience and conversations with some of my pregnant clients, we have come up with this list of factors that you should consider when looking for protein powders for pregnancy.
1. Protein Source
The source of protein is directly linked to ease of digestion as well as receiving the full amino acid profile.
When it comes to dairy-based protein powders, choose a grass-fed one. And when it comes to plant-based protein powders, make sure that it's a blend of rice, soy, and pea protein because it contains a full range of essential amino acids.
- Everything You Need to Know: Collagen vs. Whey Protein
- Organic Pea Protein Powders
- Whey Protein vs. Hemp Protein
2. Presence Of Additives & Sweeteners
It's a bit annoying to see how many types of protein powders have synthetic stuff added in as fillers, colors, and flavors. These are always chemical-based, and they should always be avoided, especially during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
3. Taste & Flavor
This is an important one to consider as you don't want anything to make your morning sickness any worse. One option is to buy an unflavored protein powder that you can add to protein shake and snacks.
My advice is to stay away from the cheap protein powders out there. They don't usually contain high-quality protein, and you might be better off taking less of a more expensive option. Grass-fed protein or organic plant-based protein powders are most suitable. See the difference between cheap vs expensive protein powders.
5. Other Ingredients
Some of the above protein powders contain prenatal vitamins such as folic acid, which can be vital while your baby is growing. If you're taking other supplements, then these may not be as important, but you can achieve multiple nutritional goals with just a protein powder.
Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy
There are certain things that you should never see on the label of protein powders for pregnancy. The more limited the ingredient list is to protein, the better.
1. Certain Herbs
You will find increasing numbers of whole food protein powders and supplements that have added herbs that can provide health benefits. However, there are dozens of ufsuppsually safe herbs that can have adverse effects for expecting moms .
Herbal supplements that were perfectly safe for you before pregnancy might cause pregnancy complications or harm your baby. Herbs are all-natural, but natural is not synonymous with safe, especially when you're "with child".
- Becky Hand, Registered Dietician
2. Heavy Metals
Some studies have shown that protein powders and dietary supplements have increased levels of heavy metal content . This can be limited by choosing an organic plant or grass-fed dairy protein.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have become so abundant in protein powders despite having significant negative effects on your gut health.
4. Caffeine Or Other Stimulants
Caffeine is a common ingredient in protein powders but overstimulation can have a negative effect on your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as on your baby's development.
The Right Amount of Protein Powder
Pregnant women can need up to 20 grams of extra protein in their diet, especially in the third trimester, where the demands from the baby's development are highest.
Overall though, your total amount of daily protein is dependent on your weight and height. The general guideline is to aim for 0.5 g of protein per pound of body weight, which ranges from 60 to 100 grams. But it's probably best to discuss it with your doctor to avoid over or underestimating what you need.
Most of this should come through the food you eat, but proteins powders are a great way to give you more flexibility.
Other protein powders:
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that mothers who don’t eat enough protein tend to have smaller babies and higher rates of pre-term births.
- Monica Reinagel, Nutrition Journalist
Which Protein Powder Should You Buy?
The best protein powder for pregnancy is one with an ingredient list limited to protein, with minimal other ingredients.
For us, that means recommending CIRA Bright Whey Protein Powder to all of our pregnant clients and readers.
It's is one of the healthiest protein powders with no added sugar to mess with your diet and a high dose of protein to easily balance your macros during pregnancy.
Order yours today and see why so women love this protein powder.