Amino acids play important roles within the body. If you have a deficiency in amino acids, there can be a disruption at the cellular level which can affect organ function and lead to serious health problems, especially during pregnancy. L-arginine is one of those amino acids that is important during pregnancy. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are both essential, non-essential, and conditionally essential amino acids, meaning some are made in the body, and some are not. Essential and conditionally essential amino acids are not made within the body, so it is important to provide the body with these through nutrition or supplementation (1).
In fact, L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid. This means that under certain circumstances it becomes essential. Pregnancy and fetal development is one example, but it is also needed in infancy, trauma, or critical illnesses. This is because arginine is vital for the development of white blood cells, also known as T-cells, that play important roles in immune response. This is why we have included it in Nourish+.
L-arginine plays many roles: it acts as a precursor to other amino acids, it is necessary for the production of nitric oxide, which is the molecule that is needed for certain functions like cellular communication, blood flow regulation, and mitochondrial function. It can be obtained through dietary protein like meat, nuts, dairy, fish, or soy products, or synthesized from the amino acids citrulline.
So what exactly does L-arginine do for a woman and her baby during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, embryonic and placental growth increases the demand for L-arginine. Some women may need to supplement with l-arginine especially if they are not intaking enough through their diet. This may be the case especially for women who struggle with severe nausea or vomiting, resulting in them not being able to consume enough of the right foods in their diet leading to protein malnutrition. Studies have shown that l-arginine supplementation during pregnancy in high-resource settings have shown to improve not only maternal, but fetal hemodynamics, improve birth outcomes including both longer gestation and birth weight, and preventing pre-eclampsia. (2)
L-arginine may also help with high blood pressure during pregnancy. High blood pressure is a complication some women go through during pregnancy which can pose a variety of risks to not only the mother but also the baby. It can decrease blood flow to the placenta, which means that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen or nutrients. With less oxygen and nutrients, the baby can have slow growth, be born premature, or have a low birth weight. According to this study, l-arginine has shown promising as an antihypertensive agent for gestational hypertension. (3)
While studies have shown to be promising for l-arginine during pregnancy, you should still refer to your doctor before adding in any supplementation.