Sea Moss (scientific name Chondrus crispus) is a red alga also commonly known as Irish Sea Moss and Red Seaweed. It grows in rocky tide pools and inlets and is typically harvested year-round off the coast of the Atlantic, such as in New England.
Sea Moss, like many algae, has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Additionally, it contains carrageenan, a natural thickener frequently used in food products and dishes.
Most recently, it has been regarded as a Super Food since gaining popularity with celebrities. Because it is packed full of nutrients and minerals and can be acquired in various forms, many people have begun to use it as a nutritional supplement.
But is taking sea moss while pregnant safe for the mother and baby? Generally, it is considered a safe supplement. However, since it has not been extensively researched, it is recommended pregnant women use it in moderation. And always, consult your physician before taking any supplement or changing your diet.
Things Pregnant Women Should Know About Sea Moss Before Taking It
Forms of Sea Moss
For your safety, always check to ensure you’re purchasing high-quality sea moss from a verified true sea moss source.
Capsules, Tablets, Powders, and Gummies
As with any supplement, it is important to carefully evaluate the product before purchasing and consuming it. Depending on the country, many supplements are not typically regulated. Therefore, it is important to only purchase brands that are tested by reputable third-party laboratories.
Additionally, since sea moss may be more expensive to produce, due to its location and climate requirements, some brands may replace or blend it with cheaper, look-alike algae that readily grow in warmer climates, making it easier to harvest.
Blending sea moss with other algae may change the nutritional value of the product and may render it unsafe for pregnant women.
Due to its neutral flavor, powder or gel sea moss may be added to drinks, such as smoothies, shakes, and juices.
Ready-made drinks with sea moss in them can be purchased in many health food stores.
Sea moss gel has been marketed as a food additive due to its thickening properties which can be used in a variety of dishes, such as sauces and soups.
Sea moss gel tends to be more concentrated than its fresh or dried form; therefore, keep serving size in mind when using it in recipes.
In its gel form, it can also be used as a beauty aid. Applied topically to the face and skin, it can ease issues such as acne and other skin conditions. Combined with other skin-soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera, honey, or charcoal, it can be used as a mask for added benefits.
Whole Sea Moss
Whole sea moss, or red seaweed, may be purchased from health food stores or online vendors.
It can be brewed into tea, or it can be made into a latte-style beverage.
Whole sea moss can also be made into a gel at home to use in a variety of dishes and drinks.
Benefits of Taking Sea Moss While Pregnant
Considered a superfood by many, sea moss contains 92 minerals and vitamins. While much research is still needed on it as a nutritional supplement, it is deemed safe to take during pregnancy in moderate amounts.
Sea moss contains Omega-3 fatty acids, chromium, magnesium, vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin A, Calcium, and vitamin B2, to name a few.
It is believed to improve gut health, help support the immune system, it may boost heart health, improve skin texture, and may help with morning sickness in pregnant women.
Additionally, many of the minerals and vitamins in sea moss are believed to have an important impact on your emotions, mental health, and diet.
Risks of Taking Sea Moss While Pregnant
Although it is generally thought to be a safe nutritional supplement, taking sea moss while pregnant should be done in moderation. The following is a list of risk factors to consider before adding sea moss to your diet.
While sea moss can be a great source of iodine, too much or too little can lead to health issues, especially in pregnant women.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the recommended daily iodine allowance for adult men and women is 150 micrograms. During pregnancy, women may need as much as 220 micrograms of iodine (290 micrograms for nursing women).
It is estimated that sea moss contains roughly 47 milligrams of iodine per gram.
Iodine is an essential part of proper thyroid function, which manages metabolism and growth. In pregnant women and infants, thyroid hormones contribute to healthy brain and bone development.
Furthermore, Iodine imbalance can lead to hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. Too much iodine can also lead to goiter or an enlarged thyroid gland. Complications from goiter may lead to surgical removal.
Consequently, inadequate levels of iodine during pregnancy can lead to serious risks for mom and baby.
Manganese is a trace mineral that helps the body form connective tissue, cartilage, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones.
Since it is moderately abundant, individuals are likely to get the necessary amounts through a regular diet.
However, sea moss consumption may lead to higher levels of manganese than recommended for pregnant women.
A study published in the Global Journal of Health Science found that high levels of manganese during the second trimester of pregnancy increase the chance of preterm delivery.
Excessive Levels of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is an important nutrient in vision, cellular division, immunity, and fetal organ and skeletal development.
Vitamin A can be found in a variety of foods such as spinach, dairy products and liver. Additionally, the human body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A; beta-carotene can be found in leafy green vegetables, carrots, and cantaloupe, making it an easily acquired nutrient.
It is recommended adult men consume 900 micrograms and adult women consume 700 micrograms a day. Sea moss contains 0.6 micrograms per 2 tablespoons (tbsp).
Overconsumption of vitamin A can lead to a variety of health issues, including bone thinning, liver damage, and birth defects.
It is also believed that too much vitamin A during the first trimester of pregnancy can lead to congenital malformations involving the central nervous and cardiovascular systems in the fetus.
Folic Acid versus Folate
Folic acid is necessary for the proper development of your baby’s central nervous system. It also prevents neural tube defects.
It is recommended women take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily (preferably up to 1,000 micrograms). Sea moss contains about 18.2 micrograms of folate per 2 tbsp.
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, whereas folic acid is the synthetic form. The human body can use folic acid more readily than folate. Additionally, only folic acid has been shown to prevent neural tube defects.
Therefore, although sea moss may be considered a superfood, it MUST NOT replace prenatal vitamins. It can, however, be used simultaneously.
Although research surrounding carrageenan is conflicting, there might be a connection between some unpleasant side effects, such as inflammation and digestive issues.
It may also slow blood clotting, increase bleeding, and exacerbate bleeding disorders in some people.
To be on the safe side, eat less processed foods, increase whole foods, and keep sea moss consumption moderate.
High Heavy Metal Levels
Just as other sea life, sea moss can absorb heavy metals, such as mercury from the ocean. This toxic metal can build up in your bloodstream and can be passed on to your unborn baby.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), mercury exposure to babies in the womb can have adverse effects on their growing brains and nervous systems. It can impact their “cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, fine motor skills, and visual spatial skills.”
All-in-all is it safe to take sea moss while pregnant?
Although sea moss has been used for hundreds of years as a health aid and food additive, it has recently gained popularity as a superfood due to its nutrients and minerals. While taking sea moss while pregnant is considered safe, it is best to consume it in moderation, as there may be important risks associated with excessive consumption of this supplement.
Additionally, sea moss should never replace prenatal vitamins and any change in diet should be discussed with your doctor.