Biotin has been glamourized (no pun intended) as the beauty vitamin, important only for growing long hair and nails. For many women, biotin has long been part of their daily routine and pregnancy makes them wonder whether it’s best to stick to prenatal only or if biotin supplements are safe to carry on taking.
Biotin is safe to take and eat from food sources while you are pregnant. Many prenatal vitamins even include biotin, since it is essential for your baby’s growth and there is some evidence that pregnancy is a risk factor for biotin deficiencies.
Beauty and brains, biotin has it all. The benefits and functions of biotin go far beyond aesthetics. I’ll break down why adequate biotin is important during pregnancy, as well as places to look for it in your diet and the supplement aisle if you choose.
Is Biotin Safe While Pregnant?
Biotin is another one of the vitamins in the B-vitamin family and is otherwise known as vitamin B7. Its status as a vitamin means that it is essential and must be eaten in foods/supplements since the body cannot produce it on its own. Biotin is probably best known as being the “hair, nails, and skin” vitamin.
This is partially true, as biotin is an essential factor in the metabolism of foods into energy, and deficiencies can lead to symptoms such as thinning hair and brittle nails (source: StatPearls, American Pregnancy Association).
During pregnancy, biotin not only helps convert the foods you eat into usable energy for you and your baby but also helps embryonic growth and development overall. Needless to say, biotin is definitely essential while pregnant (source: American Pregnancy Association)!
The rapid growth and development of a baby that takes place during pregnancy can be a risk for developing biotin deficiency. Getting enough biotin from both foods and supplements is not only safe and beneficial for you and your baby, but essential. For this reason, biotin is likely already in your daily prenatal vitamin.
Most folks eating a standard western-style diet do get enough vitamin B7 to meet their daily needs, even without a supplement (source: NIH). There are many different foods that are naturally good sources of biotin, as well as ways to supplement. I’ll dive more into both of these more below.
How Much Biotin Should Pregnant Women Take, or Need?
Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development for your baby, along with many changes to your own body (you are creating new life, after all). All of these changes and growth mean a higher demand from your body for certain nutrients.
The adequate intake (AI) for biotin is no different between pregnant and non-pregnant women, but deficiency is slightly more common during pregnancy. All adult women need 30 mcg of biotin daily, and up to 35 mcg daily during lactation such as when pumping, nursing, or hand expressing (source: NIH).
Research has shown that bodily biotin levels decrease as pregnancy progresses, and up to 50% of pregnant women may have a mild biotin deficiency (sources: Harvard Health, Journal of Nutrition, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Though knowing that pregnancy can lead to low levels of this essential nutrient may be worrying, rest assured that there are many, many ways to ensure you are getting enough vitamin B7 daily. Keep reading to learn more about supplements, as well as high-biotin foods to add to your diet.
Should Pregnant Women Take Biotin Supplements or Pills?
During pregnancy and when trying to conceive, taking a daily prenatal vitamin is highly recommended to ensure that baby is getting all of the necessary nutrients they need from the moment of conception. Prenatal supplements are carefully designed to provide optimal amounts of each nutrient, including biotin.
Most high-quality prenatal vitamin supplements already contain a minimum of 30 micrograms (mcg) of biotin per serving, which provides 100% of the daily AI. Combine this with a balanced diet, and there is no need to add an additional biotin supplement on top.
Of course, it is always wise to check the label on your prenatal vitamin to ensure that it is providing an adequate amount of biotin, as recipes do vary between brands.
Can Too Much Biotin Cause Miscarriage?
Knowing that most prenatal vitamins already contain adequate amounts of biotin, many women who have continued to take their additional daily biotin supplements worry that this combination might be giving them too much biotin.
Luckily, B-vitamins such as biotin are water-soluble. This means they easily dissolve into the water in your body. The body is not able to store large amounts of these vitamins, so any excesses are eliminated when you use the restroom.
Because the body doesn’t hang on to extra biotin for long and there is no evidence that too much biotin is toxic, there is no upper limit (UL)- otherwise known as the highest amount that is safe to consume daily (source: NIH).
Similarly, high levels of biotin are not connected to miscarriage or any other pregnancy complication. On the flip side, low levels of biotin have been associated with babies born small for their gestational age (SGA) as well as preterm delivery (source: Journal of Medical Investigation).
So while too much biotin is likely not a health risk to you or your growing baby, taking additional biotin beyond that from a balanced diet and your complete prenatal vitamin is also unlikely to provide much additional benefit.
How to Get More Biotin (B7) In Your Pregnancy Diet
Many common pantry staples and pregnancy-safe foods are good sources of biotin. Some examples include:
- 1 cooked egg = 10 mcg
- 3 ounces cooked pork or beef = 3.8 mcg
- ½ cup sweet potato = 2.4 mcg
- 3 ounces salmon = 5 mcg
- ¼ cup nuts or seeds = 1.5-2.5 mcg
Many lists of high biotin foods are topped by beef liver. With over 30 mcg of biotin per 3 oz cooked serving, it is no wonder why. This is the one high-biotin food that should be avoided while pregnant due to its high vitamin A content which can be toxic!
An important note: raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that tightly binds to biotin and blocks the body from absorbing using the vitamin. Cooking eggs/egg whites changes the shape of the avidin protein so that it cannot block biotin absorption.
Aside from the risk of foodborne illness that comes with eating raw, unpasteurized eggs, routinely eating raw egg whites can lead to biotin deficiency (source: NIH).
As with all foods, be sure to follow food safety guidelines when selecting and preparing dishes to avoid foodborne illnesses.
What About Biotin Products and Shampoos When Pregnant?
Similar to beauty-focused biotin supplements and gummies, biotin shampoos promising shiny hair and other topical biotin products have flooded the market.
While a percentage of ingredients from topical beauty products do get absorbed by the skin, the amount of usable biotin is not enough to prevent deficiency or lead to excesses.
There is also very little evidence showing that these shampoos even deliver on their promises. In terms of biotin content, if your favorite shampoo or beauty product contains biotin there is nothing unsafe about continuing to use it throughout your pregnancy.
Can Biotin Help You Get Pregnant or Improve Fertility?
We know biotin is essential, not just for a growing baby but for everyone. Due to its connection to embryonic development, many women who are trying to conceive wonder if this vitamin has an effect on fertility.
There are some limited studies, mostly done in animals, that show biotin deficiency might be associated with a decrease in fertility- both in males and females (sources: Animal Reproductive Science, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry). Currently, there is not any research to show this also translates to humans.
Despite the lack of human-based research when it comes to biotin and fertility, if you are planning a pregnancy you will likely already be taking supplemental biotin. As I mentioned above, prenatal supplements typically contain around 30 mcg of biotin.
Because prenatal supplements are recommended for anyone planning a pregnancy or trying to conceive, this means you will already be getting adequate biotin to avoid deficiency.
It is important to mention that taking biotin from supplements can interfere with pregnancy tests. Both at home and professional (ie: at your medical provider’s office or clinic) pregnancy tests rely on the hormone hCG, which is produced during pregnancy.
Taking biotin supplements can cause blood tests to show falsely low levels of hCG. This might result in a ‘false negative’ result when you are really pregnant! At-home tests can also be affected. Biotin can cause the control line on the test to disappear and make you think you have a faulty test (source: UT Southwestern Medical Center).
There is no doubt that biotin, otherwise known as vitamin B7, is essential, both during pregnancy and when not. Food sources are plentiful, but supplementing can be helpful while pregnant. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical guidance on when to reach for a supplement (and what kind).