A little tickle in a throat may entice you to reach for Emergen-C during pregnancy or breastfeeding. But can you take Emergen-c during pregnancy or breastfeeding? Read on to learn the risks and benefits of taking Emergen-C during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The last thing you want during pregnancy or breastfeeding is to come down with cough, cold, or flu. And while many of the over-the-counter medications are off-limit during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may want to reach for Emergen-c when you feel that you will be down with the virus.
During pregnancy or breastfeeding, you take prenatal or postnatal vitamins daily to support your growing fetus or a baby’s extra nutritional needs. It would be best if you were extra careful about adding extra vitamins and other supplements in the form of Emergen-c during pregnancy or breastfeeding. There are chances that your baby will get the extra load of vitamins and minerals.
Let’s talk in detail about whether taking Emergen-c during pregnancy or breastfeeding is safe and associated risks to the baby.
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What is Emergen-C?
Emergen-C is a supplement formulated to help fight off cold or other viruses at the beginning of infection or prevent it from worsening. It comes in powder, single-serving packet form that you mix with 4-6 ounce of water and consume it. It also comes in gummies and chewy tablet form. There are several different kinds of Emergen-C available. All of them contain varying levels of Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals-reportedly to improve your immune system and energy levels.
The Original Emergen-C formula comes in 12 different flavors and contains a whopping 1,000 mg of Vitamin-C, amount more than 10 oranges!
Along with the original formula, there are 7 other Emergen-C formula including,
- Enhance Immune support
- Botanicals (with turmeric and ginger)
- Nighttime Sleep aid (with melatonin)
These formulas contain varying Vitamin-C levels, so be sure to check the level of it before choosing the formula for your need.
Ingredients of Emergen-C
In addition to 1,000 mg of Vitamin-C, the original Emergen-C formula contains calcium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, sodium, potassium, sugar, and other additives.
Depending upon the formula, there are variations in ingredients. For example, Emergen-C sleep aid has melatonin, and Emergen-C Immune support has a lot more zinc as an ingredient. Both of these lines should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Is it Safe to take Emergen-C during Pregnancy?
The majority of supplements – other than prenatal or postnatal vitamins, are not safe to take during pregnancy or breastfeeding because FDA does not regulate supplements rigorously as they do drugs. And because research is also very limited on pregnant women, considering their safety, supplements should not be taken without consulting your health care provider.
The safety of Emergen-C during pregnancy is not evaluated to date. Most information on the safety of Emergen-C focuses on the safety of vitamin C as it is its main ingredient.
There is a very limited amount of data on the safety of vitamin-C during pregnancy. In 2015, Cochrane Review investigated the effect of vitamin C on pregnancy and birth outcome. This study included 29 randomized control trials and 24,300 pregnant women. 15/29 trials provided 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day, and other trials provided a range of vitamin C doses per day. In most trials, a vitamin C supplement was given in the second trimester. The results of this study are not very conclusive or somewhat mixed. Vitamin C improved outcomes in some cases, but not in others. However, in one trial in this study, the risk of abdominal pain increased in the women who received vitamin C and vitamin E as a supplement (1).
Overall, this study suggests that vitamin C supplements alone or in combination with other supplements may not harm you. Still, the benefits of taking supplements do not outweigh the risk during pregnancy.
This study did not evaluate the effectiveness of vitamin C in warding off cold and flu viruses. Actually, there isn’t any research study evaluating its effect on the immune system during pregnancy.
Is it Safe to take Emergen-C during Breastfeeding?
Taking 1,000mg of vitamin C (the amount found on Emergen-C) during breastfeeding is comparatively safer than pregnancy. According to the Drugs and Lactation Database, taking 1,000mg of vitamin C may increase vitamin C levels in your breast milk but will not affect you and your baby because vitamin C is regulated in breast milk. Even with a high oral dose, there is only a moderate increase in vitamin C concentration in breast milk.
However, it would be best if you were cautious about taking higher doses of vitamin C while breastfeeding. According to Kellymom, a high amount of vitamin C could increase your milk supply. So, if you already have an overproduction of breastmilk causing baby to latch and unlatch or bite during nursing, stay away from taking vitamin C.
Safety of Other Ingredients of Emergen-C while Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Let’s look at the concertation and safety of each of the ingredients of Emergen-C individually.
Vitamin C – 1,000 mg
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for pregnant and breastfeeding women over 18 is 85mg/day and 120mg/day, respectively, with a tolerable upper intake level of 2000 mg. Vitamin C level in Emergen-C is way above the RDA for pregnant and breastfeeding women, so you need to talk to your doctor before taking Emergen-C, even for a short duration. You are also getting vitamin C from your diet and prenatal or postnatal vitamin you are taking. You do not want to consume more than 2,000mg of vitamin C per day to avoid the side effects.
Calcium – 50mg
Recommended daily amount during pregnancy is 1,000mg per day.
Except for vitamin B6, Emergen-C has a relatively low amount of niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, B12, folate, and pantothenic acid compared to their RDA during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Vitamin B6 in Emergen-C is seven-time higher than the RDA of 1.3mg for adults. So, frequent intake of B6 should be avoided as it can lead to severe health implications such as nerve damage, heartburn, irritated skin, nausea.
Phosphorus – 38mg
The Recommended daily amount of phosphorus is 700mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Magnesium – 53mg
The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 350mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Chromium – 10mg
The recommended daily amount of chromium is 30mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Zinc – 2mg
The recommended daily amount of zinc is 12mg a day during pregnancy, and the maximum daily allowance for breastfeeding is 40mg a day. It would be best if you stuck to daily recommended amounts because too much zinc can cause problems for breastfeeding babies.
Manganese – .5mg
The recommended daily amount of manganese is 2mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Sodium – 65mg
The recommended daily amount of sodium is 1,500mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consider the amount of salt you consume in your food and other supplements.
Potassium – 200mg
The recommended daily amount of potassium is 2,900mg a day during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Check the label for other ingredients such as added sugar, preservatives, and flavor to make sure you are not sensitive to any of it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Is Emergen-C effective in Preventing Cold or Flu During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
If you find yourself reaching for Emergen-C when you have a tickle in your throat, you are certainly not alone. Specifically, when you already have a weakened immune system during pregnancy or breastfeeding, drinking a fizzy Emergen-C drink is the easiest and delicious option when everybody around you is coughing.
However, there is very little data on its effectiveness in preventing cold-and-flu. There are zero published clinical trials on Emergen-C. The majority of studies have looked at the effectiveness of vitamin C, the main ingredient of Emergen C.
A Cochrane review published in 2013 found that 1,000mg of vitamin C per day seems to help prevent cold in physically active people – marathon runners or skiers. But the other studies didn’t see the same results in general populations. This study also showed that vitamin C supplements taken during cold episodes could reduce the duration of a cold by about one day(2).
One day may not sound like a lot, but it may make a big difference when you are pregnant and busy taking care of a baby. On the other hand, most women are not physically active during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so there is no guarantee that they will achieve the same results by taking higher vitamin c supplements.
How much Vitamin C can you take during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding without having side effects?
As mentioned earlier, recommended daily allowance of vitamin C during pregnancy and breastfeeding for women over 18 years of age is 85mg/day and 120 mg/day, respectively, with the upper limit of 2,000mg/day.
The upper limit of daily allowance is also similar to that of the manufacturer of Emergen-C. Taking a 2,000 mg/day dose for a short duration may not cause any severe side effects other than mild digestive issues. Going over the recommended allowance may cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdomen pain.
Also, long-term use of a high vitamin C dose may cause kidney stones or excess iron absorption.
If you decide to take Emrgen-C supplements for even a short duration of time during pregnancy or breastfeeding, make sure you consider your other vitamin C sources like prenatal vitamins and the food you eat to avoid any side effects.
Does Emergen-C increase Breast Milk Supply?
According to Kellymom, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins taken during breastfeeding usually increase breastmilk supply. Even when the mother raises her vitamin C intake, its breastmilk level does not rise beyond a certain point. There isn’t any evidence supporting the claim, but some anecdotal evidence suggests that taking vitamin C helps increase milk supply.
Certain moms who have taken a higher dose of vitamin C to prevent cold during breastfeeding have noted an increase in their milk supply, and for them, the only thing that changed in their daily diet was the addition of Emergen-C.
While this may look like an attractive and easy solution to increase your milk supply, the increase in milk supply is solely based on the demand and supply cycle. If you are looking to increase your milk supply, try these tried and tested milk booster tips instead.
How do you get rid of Cold and Flu when Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, anything that happens to you can affect your unborn child or your baby if you are breastfeeding. Because of that reason, many women are hesitant to take over-the-counter medication that they may have taken otherwise.
If you come down with a cold or flu during pregnancy or breastfeeding, you don’t have to rely on medication or Emergen-C to fight off the virus. There are other, completely safe natural remedies that you can try to reduce the cold and flu symptoms without affecting your baby. Here are several things that you want to do when you catch a cold during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of water
- Use nasal saline to loosen the mucus
- Use the steamer to help loosen congestion
- Gargle with warm salt water every 2 hours
- Eat comfort food like chicken soup
- Include onion, turmeric, garlic, ginger in your diet
- Drink ginger tea
Is 4000 mg of vitamin C too much during Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for pregnant and breastfeeding women over 18 is 85mg/day and 120mg/day, respectively, with a tolerable upper intake level of 2000 mg. Taking 4,000mg/day may not be safe to take as it may cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, abdomen pain. Higher doses of vitamin C taken for a longer duration may cause kidney stones or excess iron absorption.
How much vitamin C can the Body Absorb in 24 hours?
The tissue and plasma concentration of vitamin C is tightly controlled. Suppose you are taking your recommended dose of vitamin C, which is 85 mg/day or 120 mg/day for pregnant or breastfeeding women over 18 years of age, respectively. In that case, your body will absorb approximately 70%-90% of it in 24 hours. However, when taken at a dose of 1,000 mg/day or higher, only 50% of vitamin C gets absorbed, and unmetabolized vitamin C gets excreted in the urine (3).
Can you take Emergen-C during Pregnancy or Breastfeeding? – Conclusion
You may be tempted to load on vitamin C during pregnancy or breastfeeding when everybody is coughing around you or in a pandemic era that we all live in. But too much of any supplement may not be good. Occasional Emergen-C might be okay to take during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but it is always best to check with your doctor before adding extra vitamin C to your diet.
Also, there is no guarantee that it will help you reduce the duration of cold as its effectiveness and safety is not tested in pregnant women. And the manufacturer of Emergen-C also advises consulting the doctor before taking it when you are pregnant or nursing.
Lastly, it is best to avoid catching cold or flu during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Here are immune booster tips to prevent viral illnesses.
- Rumbold A, Ota E, Nagata C, Shahrook S, Crowther CA. Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD004072. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004072.pub3.
- Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4.
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