Making sure you are getting adequate amounts of vital nutrients after you've given birth is essential. Learn about the importance of taking magnesium during the postpartum period.

 

By registered dietitian and fertility specialist Lauren Manaker

When a person thinks about postpartum nutrients, magnesium isn’t always top of mind. But this mineral can play an important role in your postpartum journey in many ways, and it is not a nutrient that should be ignored. 

If you are curious to learn why magnesium is such an incredibly important nutrient to consume during the postpartum stage, read on to get all of the details.

What’s magnesium anyway?

Before we dig into why magnesium is so important, understanding what magnesium actually is is a must.

Our bodies depend on us taking in both macronutrients and micronutrients to supply it with what it needs to function. Macronutrient-wise, we must consume carbohydrates, protein, and fat to fuel our bodies and allow it to produce energy, support muscle growth, and regulate hormones, among many other functions. 

When it comes to micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals that we get from food and supplements supports the body’s ability to carry on major functions like breaking down carbohydrates and allowing the heart muscle to beat. 

Magnesium is a micronutrient mineral that is naturally occurring in many foods that we eat. Since our bodies can not make magnesium on its own, we must consume enough to supply our bodies with this key mineral in order to perform the functions that it does so well — like helping convert food to energy, playing a role in repairing DNA and RNA, and regulating neurotransmitters. 

Some estimates suggest that as much as 30% of the population has magnesium deficiency.

For most healthy adults, adequate magnesium intake can help support their health by supporting healthy blood sugar levels, supporting bone health, and helping combat feelings of anxiety, along with many other positive roles in the human body. 

Benefits of taking magnesium during postpartum

The postpartum stage is a unique time where nutrition needs differ from any other time in your life. Between healing from delivery, managing sleepless nights, and supporting healthy breast milk if you are breastfeeding, your body has a lot to take care of after the baby is born. If you are taking a prenatal vitamin, you may already be getting enough of this mineral. 

So, why is magnesium so important during the postpartum period? Along with this mineral supporting your health in ways that it always has (like helping keep your bones strong), here are some unique ways that this key mineral helps a new mama during an exciting and challenging stage. The benefits of taking magnesium supplements include:

  • Hydration

When we think about maintaining hydration, many of us immediately think about including fluids in our diet. And while it is true that taking in liquids helps manage proper hydration, including electrolytes in your diet can play a key role in helping you prevent dehydration as well.

Magnesium is a key electrolyte that helps your body maintain proper fluid balance. And while proper fluid balance is important throughout your lifetime, it is especially important during the postpartum stage to support your body’s demands and to help support your milk supply. Proper hydration can also support healing, mood, and even energy levels. 

  • Postpartum preeclampsia

Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition that can happen to the birth mother after a baby is born, and is associated with high blood pressure and large amounts of protein in the urine. Untreated, this condition can lead to scary outcomes like stroke or even death.

Unfortunately, this condition can happen to anybody who delivers a baby up to six months after delivery, regardless of whether they had preeclampsia during pregnancy. 

And although this condition can’t be completely avoided, certain forms of magnesium may help prevent seizures associated with this risk factor. Your health care provider may provide this mineral via an IV if indicated.

  • Blood pressure

Thanks to the pain, drugs used, and the use of iV fluids during labor and delivery, it is not uncommon to experience elevated blood pressure after a baby is born.

Magnesium helps blood vessels relax. And more relaxed blood vessels may mean lower blood pressure. 

  • Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that affects approximately 10–15% of adult mothers, and is associated with negative thoughts, mood swings, and crying spells. And while data is mixed, some research suggests that magnesium is linked to a reduced risk of developing this condition. 

  • Sleep support

Quality sleep and having a newborn can sound like an oxymoron. And while we can’t promise that you will get eight solid hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep every night, we can tell you that taking magnesium supplements may help your body relax, supporting your ability to get some quality shut-eye. Taking magnesium before bedtime may help you take advantage of those rare quiet evening hours and help you fall asleep.

Magnesium and breastfeeding

For breastfeeding parents, ensuring certain nutrients are included in your diet has never been more important. And among DHA, choline, and other nutrients that are transferred via breast milk to the baby, magnesium is one that should be top-of-mind as well. For some, leaning on magnesium vs. melatonin is a solution. 

Why? For one, adequate magnesium intake may help support your milk supply. No, magnesium won’t literally make your body produce more milk, but since this mineral plays a role in helping your body relax, magnesium may indirectly help your breast milk flow a bit more freely thanks to your stress level being more in-check.

While breast milk concentrations of magnesium do not appear to be impacted by the maternal diet, it is still important to take in enough to support mom’s health, as if her intake is low, the baby’s needs will be prioritized, possibly at the expense of mom’s bone health and other factors. 

No data suggests that there is any risk associated with including magnesium supplements in your postpartum or lactation diet. As long as you are sticking to the RDA, including this supplement in your breastfeeding plan appears to be safe. Speak to your healthcare provider about your unique supplement needs.

Recommended magnesium dosage during postpartum

If you are taking magnesium supplements during postpartum, the amount of magnesium that you take depends on how much magnesium you are receiving in your diet. If your diet is rich in magnesium foods, your need for a supplement may be slim. Conversely, if you are not eating a balanced diet and you want the important benefits of this key mineral, you can supplement up to 320 mg every day. 

Foods that include magnesium

Finding foods that contain magnesium is not a hard challenge to overcome. Many plant-based foods are jam packed with this important mineral, and many people who eat a balanced and varied diet have no trouble meeting their needs. 

Foods that can help you meet your magnesium needs include:

  • Dark chocolate

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Walnuts

  • Avocado

  • Legumes

  • Tofu

  • Whole grains

  • Salmon

  • Bananas

  • Milk

Of course, supplementation is always an option for people who do not include magnesium foods in their diet regularly. Talk to your healthcare provider about your diet and supplementation.

Magnesium to support a postpartum journey

Among the vitamins and minerals out there, magnesium is one that should not be ignored during your postpartum journey. From helping you get restful sleep to supporting your bone health to even possibly helping you on your breastfeeding journey, adequate magnesium is certainly a goal to achieve during these precious postpartum months (and beyond). 

While we do believe that it is best to get your nutrients from food, we also understand that the task of keeping a new baby alive while healing from delivery and adjusting to your new role doesn’t necessarily allow for the time required to cook home cooked and balanced meals every day. If you are not meeting your magnesium needs via your diet, a magnesium supplement may be a wise addition to your plan of care. 

 

References

Li S, Tian H. [Oral low-dose magnesium gluconate preventing pregnancy induced hypertension]. Zhonghua Fu Chan Ke Za Zhi. 1997;32(10):613-615.
Bullarbo M, Mattson H, Broman AK, Ödman N, Nielsen TF. Magnesium Supplementation and Blood Pressure in Pregnancy: A Double-Blind Randomized Multicenter Study. J Pregnancy. 2018;2018:4843159. Published 2018 May 29. doi:10.1155/2018/4843159
Young GL, Jewell D. Interventions for leg cramps in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD000121. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000121
Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. Published 2017 Apr 26. doi:10.3390/nu9050429

 

Featured Image by William Fortunado