During pregnancy, many women are justifiably concerned about the potential effects of pharmaceutical medications. For women with painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, naturopathic supplements such as glucosamine may seem like a safe and viable alternative to prescription drugs and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, there is only limited evidence of glucosamine's safety during pregnancy. Although preliminary evidence is encouraging, glucosamine should only be used during pregnancy under the guidance of a qualified prenatal health care provider.
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Glucosamine appears to be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, a chronic condition marked by moderate to severe joint pain. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, glucosamine appears to be particularly useful in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Additionally, glucosamine supplements may ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma. However, there is less evidence to support these uses.
Evidence of Safety
Only one well-designed study has investigated glucosamine's safety for pregnant women. The 2007 clinical trial, published by the "Journal of Women's Health" examined glucosamine's effects on 54 pregnancies. The authors of the study documented 50 live births, which included two sets of twins. There were also four miscarriages, one stillbirth and one medically necessary abortion. The babies had average birth weights and there was no increased risk of pre-term labor. No birth defects were documented. The authors of the study believed that the miscarriages and stillbirth were unrelated to glucosamine use, so the study suggests that glucosamine is generally safe for use in pregnant women.
Although preliminary evidence is very encouraging, it is important to note that no large-scale studies have investigated glucosamine's overall safety for pregnant women. More trials would be needed to fully confirm the results of the 2007 clinical trial. The National Institutes of Health advises pregnant mothers to avoid glucosamine supplements, noting a lack of evidence to prove their safety.
Although the use of glucosamine during pregnancy remains controversial, some prenatal health care providers may recommend the product when drug-free methods fail to relieve osteoporosis symptoms. Most pharmaceutical treatments for osteoarthritis are unsafe for use during pregnancy. For example, Mayo Clinic reports that NSAID drugs — such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen — can cause bleeding during pregnancy, as well as life-threatening problems in the newborn baby. Narcotics such as morphine and Demerol are also contraindicated during pregnancy. Midwives and holistic obstetricians may regard glucosamine as a safer intervention than these potentially dangerous drugs.
Possible Side Effects
Supplements containing glucosamine can cause mild side effects in both pregnant and non-pregnant people. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the most common side effects of glucosamine include heartburn, nausea, gas and upset stomach. Gastrointestinal complaints are common during pregnancy, and glucosamine may exacerbate these discomforts. Other possible side effects include bloating, diarrhea and mild abdominal pain. Consult your health care provider if you experience persistent side effects form glucosamine.