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Chia Seeds During Pregnancy: Should You Eat Them?

Many experts consider chia seeds generally safe for pregnant women when eaten in moderation. In addition, a nutritional analysis of chia seeds reveals that these tiny powerhouse seeds are loaded with a whole host of nutrients that are good for pregnant women. On the other hand, some experts point out that little research has been conducted on the effects of chia seeds on pregnant women and their unborn babies, plus a high intake of chia seeds has been shown to cause side effects in some people. To learn more about what is known about the health benefits and safety of chia seeds during pregnancy, read on.

Why Chia Seeds Are Often Considered a Good Food for Pregnant Women

Chia Seeds in Pregnancy

Although chia seeds may seem like a relatively new food to most of us, these nutrient-packed seeds have actually been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Already as early as 3500 BC, the Aztecs and Mayans, who were well aware of the nutritional value of chia seeds, were growing the chia plant Salvia hispanica in their gardens. Given that chia seeds have a long history of use as a food, it is not surprising that many experts consider chia seeds safe for pregnant women when eaten in moderation.

What's more, chia seeds are loaded with a whole host of nutrients that are good for pregnant women. They contain high levels of calcium and iron, both of which are important minerals during pregnancy. Calcium is needed to support the growth of your baby's bones, while iron, in combination with minerals like sodium and potassium, helps increase your blood volume during pregnancy [1].

In addition, chia seeds contain plenty of protein. Experts typically recommend getting 75 to 100 grams of protein per day from a variety of healthy protein-rich foods. Protein has a positive effect on the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain, plus it helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy. Protein also helps increase blood supply. [1]

Finally, chia seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with 100 grams of chia seeds providing about 18 grams of omega-3 fatty acids [2]. Pregnant women are thought to have an increased need for these essential fatty acids compared with women who are not pregnant [3].

The omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are believed to be particularly important for pregnant women and their unborn babies. DHA appears to be particularly important for fetal development of the brain and retina during the third trimester of pregnancy, and EPA may play an important role in DHA transplacental transport and intracellular absorption [4].

It is worth noting, however, that the omega-3 in chia seeds is neither DHA nor EPA. Like other plant-based sources of of omega-3, chia seeds contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which can be converted into DHA and EPA in the body. Unfortunately, however, the human body is not very good at converting ALA to DHA and EPA. The range of conversion of ALA to EPA has been reported to be between 0.2% and 9%, and the conversion to DHA has been found to be even lower. That said, some authors have suggested that women of childbearing age may be able to convert up to 21% of their dietary ALA to EPA. [5].

But ALA also has health benefits that are independent of its role as precursor to DHA and EPA. In one study, high blood levels of ALA during early pregnancy were associated with a longer duration of gestation and greater birth weight [6]. In another study, ALA-rich chia seed oil increased the EPA content of red blood cell phospholipids as well as the DHA content of breast milk in pregnant and nursing women [7].

Side Effects and Other Safety Concerns

Studies examining the effects of chia seeds or their safety during pregnancy are scarce [8], which is why some experts may advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to stay on the safe side and avoid the use of chia seeds until more research has been done. What's more, consumption of chia seeds has been associated with some side effects, constipation being one of the best known potential side effects of chia seeds. However, while it is true that chia seeds can cause constipation in some people, they can sometimes also help relieve constipation!

Whether chia seeds cause or relive constipation often depends on how you prepare and eat them. To reduce the risk of constipation, slowly add chia seeds to your diet, increasing the amount as your body gets used to the new food. When you eat chia seeds, it is also important to consume a lot of water at the same time. Chia seeds absorb moisture like a sponge, and in order to compensate for the moisture chia seeds have sucked up, you will need to drink more water. Due to their fluid-absorbing capabilities, you may also want to soak them in water before use.

Finally, while opinions differ as to whether pregnant women should eat chia seeds, there seems to be a consensus that chia sprouts, like other sprouts, are not safe for pregnant women unless you cook them thoroughly [9]. Raw or undercooked sprouts are among the most common food sources of E. coli and Salmonella, two types of bacteria that are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies.


To sum up, chia seeds have a long history of use as a food, and they contain a variety of nutrients that may offer health benefits for pregnant women. On the other hand, research specifically exploring the effects of chia seeds and their safety during pregnancy is limited. Therefore, before adding chia seeds to your diet, talk to your doctor or prenatal care provider first, and if you do decide to chia seeds during your pregnancy, only do so in moderation.