Niacin During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on May 5, 2012


Niacin is a naturally occurring B vitamin which is found in many food products and is also synthetically produced.  It plays crucial role in various body processes and in pregnant women, niacin contributes to the unborn child’s brain development. Since the average diet is thought to be abundant with niacin, pregnant and breastfeeding women do not usually require supplementation.

The effects of high doses of niacin on a developing fetus are not fully understood. In laboratory tests conducted on animals, an increased risk of birth defects was observed in pregnant subjects. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, discuss the benefits and possible side effects of niacin with your doctor to decide if this treatment option is right for you.  Niacin can be passed to your infant through breast milk so nursing mothers should consult their physician before taking the medication or making the decision to breastfeed.

Can Pregnant Women Take Niacin?

Although niacin supplements are generally considered safe during pregnancy, it is not entirely clear whether large doses of this vitamin (particularly niacin dosage used for treatment of high cholesterol levels) are safe for pregnant women.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies oral niacin under Pregnancy Category C which means that it has not been fully studied on pregnant humans and animals. Since there are no adequate studies to determine the possible effects of niacin (at high doses) on pregnancy and the unborn child; caution is advised when using this drug. On the other hand, doses not exceeding the recommended dietary allowance for pregnant women are considered safe.

It is generally advised that women taking high doses of niacin for treatment of high “bad cholesterol” level should stop taking the vitamin throughout pregnancy. Meanwhile, women taking niacin for high triglycerides may need to continue taking the vitamin since pregnancy increases the risk of complications due to high triglycerides(such as pancreatitis). Discuss with your healthcare provider whether it is safe for you to continue taking the drug during pregnancy.

Can Breastfeeding Women Take Niacin?

In general, breastfeeding women can safely take low doses of niacin. However, it is not clear whether high doses of niacin (such as the niacin dose for treatment of high cholesterol and triglyceride levels) are safe or not. Breastfeeding women are advised to discuss with their healthcare provider the safety of this vitamin before initiating treatment.

Use of high doses of niacin has not been adequately studied in breastfeeding women. Therefore, its effects on lactation and the breastfed child remain unknown. More studies are needed to determine the safety of high dose-niacin for breastfeeding women and the infant. Basically, niacin dosage not exceeding the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for breastfeeding women or 35 mg/day is considered safe.

As much as possible, breastfeeding women are advised to consume niacin through dietary and natural sources. In case you think that supplementation is necessary, discuss with your doctor about use of niacin while breastfeeding.

Take note that every woman undergoes a different situation. Your healthcare provider is in the best position to evaluate your condition and give you necessary recommendations.