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All You Need to Know About 5-HTP and Pregnancy

5-HTP is a popular supplement with a variety of health benefits. It is easy to add it to your daily routine, especially products like Dr. Emil Nutrition’s 5-HTP Plus. This supplement is relatively new, having gone through a recent resurgence in popularity. 

5-HTP is a safe supplement with few side effects. When you are pregnant, that will change. Food and supplements affect you differently when you are pregnant, and understanding how to reduce risk factors is an important part of having a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. In this article we will discuss:

  • What 5-HTP is and why it is a popular supplement
  • If 5-HTP is safe during pregnancy
  • How supplements affect pregnancy

What is 5-HTP?

A Bottle of Dr. Emil Nutrition's 5-HTP Plus
5-HTP is a popular supplement. However, keep in mind that there are no harmful effects of taking it out of your routine. Image courtesy of Dr. Emil Nutrition.

5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is a chemical the body makes from tryptophan. 5-HTP plays a role in the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and behavior. 5-HTP is not in any of the foods we eat but it is a natural part of the body. 

Its precursor, tryptophan, is found in certain proteins but eating extra foods with tryptophan does not have a significant impact on levels of 5-HTP in the body.

Why People Take it

5-HTP supplements help raise serotonin levels. Since serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, 5-HTP may positively affect your mood, appetite, and sleep. 5-HTP supplements may help treat a variety of conditions relating to low serotonin levels, including: 

  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines and Other Headaches
  • Obesity

A 5-HTP supplement can provide relief for these conditions. 5-HTP has fewer side effects than other medicines used to combat some of these conditions, but more research is needed to be certain that 5-HTP is effective. Preliminary research is promising, but the results are not conclusive. 

Side Effects

The most common side effects of 5-HTP include nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea. It may also cause skin rashes, muscle pain or weakness, and even loss of interest in sex. 

Besides the ones mentioned above, there are also other adverse side effects that may be associated with taking 5-HTP. For instance, in 1989 researchers found a contaminant called Peak X in tryptophan supplements. They traced an outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome. EMS is a disorder that causes inflammation in various parts of the body like muscles, skin, and lungs. EMS causes a buildup of white blood cells in the body that can cause additional complications.

The FDA pulled all tryptophan supplements off of the market. In rare cases, Peak X has shown up in certain 5-HTP supplements but in very low quantities. There are no reported cases of EMS developing from taking a 5-HTP supplement, but you should talk to your health care provider before adding this supplement to your daily routine. 

Is 5-HTP Safe During Pregnancy?

A Pregnant Woman Sitting on an Outdoor Bench
Taking any supplement is unnecessarily risky during pregnancy. While you are pregnant, it is important to take a moment and consider how to maintain a healthy diet. Image courtesy of Livestrong.

There is a lot of research surrounding how to build healthy habits during pregnancy. In general, cutting out unnecessary parts of your routine, like 5-HTP supplements, other supplements, and certain foods, decreases the risk of complications during pregnancy. 

Lack of Research

There is not enough research around 5-HTP and pregnancy to know for certain whether it is safe or unsafe to consume while pregnant. It is possibly unsafe to consume 5-HTP while pregnant. Although research is not conclusive, it is not worth taking the risk. 

If you are taking 5-HTP to help with symptoms of depression, you must tell your doctor if you experience depression while pregnant. Depression during pregnancy can pose health risks to your baby during and after birth. 

Support groups and therapy are safe treatment options for depression during pregnancy, and in severe cases, medication can be prescribed. If you are taking a 5-HTP supplement and are worried about removing it from your routine, contact your doctor and they can help you get a plan in place. 

An Unnecessary Risk

There are many advisories and warnings about what parts of your lifestyle should change if you are pregnant. Pregnancy is very complicated, and it is crucial to minimize risk factors where you can. 

Taking a 5-HTP supplement has its benefits, but we recommend you stop taking 5-HTP if you are pregnant. If you are worried about losing its benefits, talk to your doctor about other ways to safely and healthily manage the symptoms without taking 5-HTP.

Supplements and Pregnancy

A Pregnant Woman Cutting Vegetables
Supplements provide a variety of benefits, but when you are pregnant, find a healthy diet to get the nutrients you need. Image courtesy of Very Well Family.

5-HTP is not the only supplement that is unsafe during pregnancy. We do not recommend taking any supplement during pregnancy unless you have discussed it beforehand with your doctor. 

Too much is still unknown about how supplements affect the body. As with 5-HTP, it is better to be safe than sorry when considering supplements. 

Besides pregnancy, many doctors and other medical professionals have also advised that taking 5-HTP supplements while you’re breastfeeding can be possibly unsafe for you and your baby. Generally, breastfeeding may make you feel tired and sleepy due to several reasons, including poor sleep quality, being preoccupied with your baby, using prescription medication, anemia, and the release of hormones like prolactin and oxytocin. 

Because of this, you might consider taking 5-HTP supplements to help treat insomnia and other related conditions. Unfortunately, consuming 5-HTP may not be good for breastfeeding mothers.

As such, it’s best to look for other ways to minimize the post-partum fatigue associated with breastfeeding. For example, you can ask someone to help you with the household chores. If your baby is old enough to eat healthy baby food, you can make their mealtime much easier with nutritious baby foods from Serenity Kids and other similar providers. Consequently, you can avoid taking 5-HTP just to treat the post-partum fatigue associated with breastfeeding.

Amino Acids in the Body

5-HTP is an amino acid supplement. Amino acids play a tremendous role in your body’s function. It is important to include enough protein in your diet during pregnancy to provide enough amino acids to your growing baby. While your need for protein grows during pregnancy, the typical diet provides enough protein. This means taking 5-HTP may be unnecessary if you already get enough protein and amino acids from your typical diet plan. 

Too Much is Dangerous

Amino acids are consumed every day, but the amount you consume from a healthy diet is much less than the amount found in an amino acid supplement like 5-HTP. If your doctor allows you to take 5-HTP during your pregnancy, make sure to know the right dosage and other instructions. This way, you can minimize the risk of overdose and other adverse side effects. Consuming an abnormally large amount of one amino acid can negatively affect you and your child during pregnancy. In case of an overdose, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program, especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.