I decided to work on increasing my body’s levels of magnesium during my last pregnancy after reading about all the benefits. I attribute (in part) many of the great things about this pregnancy and birth to my elevated magnesium levels. I think my babies are particularly adept at sucking the magnesium out of my body for their own adorable uses. So I am a believer in eating well (babies can use what you eat much easier than what they mine from you) and supplementing during pregnancy.
Possible benefits to you of proper magnesium levels during pregnancy:
- reduced or eliminated leg cramps!!!
- reduced or eliminated morning sickness!!!
- (you see I am very excited about these)
- reduced physical and emotional stress!!!
- helps avoid premature labor (it’s what they give to stop labor)
- regulation of blood sugar
- regulation of mood swings (see above)
- regulation of blood pressure
- reduced risk of pre-eclampsia
- many more possible benefits for you and the baby
- And…studies show it may increase pain tolerance.
Can’t say fairer than that.
Signs you may be deficient already:
- muscle problems, including cramping and charlie horses
- high blood pressure
- memory loss, especially poor short term
- poor attention
- chronic fatigue
- low stress tolerance
- menstrual cramps, premenstrual mood changes
- night sweats
- loss of bladder control
- sluggish colon, constipation
- migraine headaches
- cold hands or feet
- back pain, chronic, especially low
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- crawling sensations on the skin
- thyroid issues
If you have two or three of these symptoms and eat a typical American diet, you’re probably magnesium deficient. According to the internet and my nutrition/herb/supplement expert friends, most of us are. Especially if you have five or more of these symptoms, magnesium supplementation is a good idea.
Magnesium in Your Diet:
You can increase your body’s magnesium levels by eating more dark green stuff, including:
- sea vegetables
- nettle tea
Other delicious things with lots of magnesium are:
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
Because it is difficult for many people to eat enough magnesium to make up for this very common deficiency, magnesium supplements are often in order. Magnesium, especially in supplements, is not absorbed well in the digestive tract, especially if you are already deficient or you have poor intestinal flora. It can also cause digestive problems in the form of loose stools…ahem..diarrhea. If you are supplementing orally, with a vitamin or powder, start with half the dose and see how your body reacts. For both these reasons, it is often considered better to let your skin drink the magnesium. You may want to do both.
Eat Magnesium: This includes pills as well as a very popular product called Natural Calm. Natural Calm is a delicious powder that you mix with a little water. I loved taking it right before bed to ward off pregnancy leg-cramps. It really worked! I had trouble with cramping in my calves and charlie horses during all my pregnancies, but with the Natural Calm it was almost nothing. Try it!
Soak Up Magnesium: The other option is to let your skin soak up the magnesium. This is generally seen as a more efficient way of getting extra magnesium. Your skin does a better job metabolizing it, and you avoid undesirable side-effects from the digestive processes. There are three ways to do this: lotion, oil, and baths.
Lotion: You can make your own magnesium lotion to use. If you enjoy that kind of thing, flinging goo around the kitchen, and whatnot, it’s a decent way. You can add your own essential oils and all. I made some. It needed to be kept in the fridge and then scraped out of the jar as it became quite solid at that temperature. It was also still very oily so when I remembered to put it on and had time to let it dry/soak in before putting on and ruining my clothes, I did so. This allowed for a number of amusing mornings where I chased toddlers in my underwear, shiny and slick from the lotion. It was quite a picture. (Note I did not provide one.) You can also purchase magnesium lotions on etsy from people who do enjoy flinging goo around their kitchens. But I opted for the bath because the whole oily body thing was just not my scene. Choose your own adventure.
Oil: It is relatively easy to find magnesium oil for use on the skin. There are a number of good choices on Amazon. It is applies like lotion and has the same effects as noted above.
Bath/Soak: I enjoyed a magnesium bath regularly during my pregnancy. It is not the kind of thing I could indulge in otherwise as it is quite expensive. You purchase magnesium flakes (I used Ancient Minerals) and just dissolve them in the warm -not hot- bath. It’s a $10 bath, so make the most of it. You can also use epsom salts (much cheaper) but it’s not absorbed as well (different kind of magnesium). Here is a luxurious sounding magnesium bath recipe.
Check this out for more on transdermal magnesium and baths for pregnant women.
Power It Up with Vitamin B6: According to the University of Maryland, it’s a good idea to take a vitamin B complex, or make sure you’re getting sufficient B6 in your diet. They say levels of B6, in particular, determine how much magnesium will be absorbed into your cells. Don’t waste that $10 bath, make sure your B6 intake is sufficient.
Daily: 1/3-1/2 tsp Natural Calm in water, typically before bed
Once or twice a month: Magnesium bath with Ancient Minerals magnesium flakes
Daily consumption of spinach or kale as well as seeds.
At 36 weeks: Cease all supplementation to avoid muscle relaxant effects on the uterus. This is just what my midwife recommended, though I have read elsewhere that cutting it off could lead to induction of labor, or more labor-like cramps.
(I kept eating mag rich foods, though.)
“Additional magnesium appeared to benefit the fetus during labour. Significantly fewer showed fetal heart rate irregularities, meconium-stained liquor and partogram abnormalities. The supplemented group also had fewer late stillbirths either before or during labour.”
Harrison, S Fawcus, E Jordaan Magnesium supplementation and perinatal hypoxia: outcome of a parallel group randomised trial in pregnancy BJOG (OnlineEarly Articles). doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01409.x