Creatine during pregnancy – a scientist’s story

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

There are times when a researcher’s personal and professional worlds collide. One of those times came late last year for Dr Stacey Ellery, who researches the use of creatine during pregnancy.

Dr Stacey Ellery's personal and professional worlds collide as she researchers further into whether taking creatine during pregnancy improves a healthier outcome for conceiving and delivering a healthy baby.
Dr Stacey Ellery and 10 month old son Archie
Picture | Ian Currie

As a researcher, Dr Ellery was well aware of the theory that supplementing the mother’s natural creatine intake improves the likelihood of conceiving and delivering a healthy baby. But when she was starting a family, the academic became personal.

The health of her unborn baby was her primary concern, so Dr Ellery turned to science to help decide whether creatine supplementation during pregnancy was the right choice.

“There is growing evidence that creatine may be essential for energy production in a range of reproductive tissues, as well as for the growing and developing baby,” she said. 

Can creatine protect the newborn brain? 

But the potential benefits go beyond growing a healthy baby, to what can happen if things don’t go smoothly. 

“There is evidence that increasing fetal levels of creatine before birth may help minimise injury to the baby when there are complications during labour that reduce oxygen delivery to the baby,” she said.

“We are finalising our preclinical studies on whether increased fetal creatine reserves can protect the newborn brain from complications around birth, and whether creatine may be an essential supplement for babies born preterm, who are vulnerable to brain injuries.

This research has focused on protecting the newborn brain and reducing the risk of lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy.” 

Creatine facts

  • Creatine supplies and helps to renew energy for our cells. 

  • Half our daily creatine requirement comes from fish, meat and dairy products. Our bodies make the other half naturally.

  • During pregnancy, creatine is transferred from mother to developing baby through the placenta.

Creatine during pregnancy – a scientist chooses

Knowing that creatine could potentially help bring about a healthy baby and a safer delivery, the last box that needed to be ticked was safety – and that’s a topic in which Dr Ellery is an expert.

Her research has so far found no evidence of death or serious adverse effects due to creatine, and no record of milder side effects, such as an upset stomach. 

“I was comfortable with the safety data, but I knew we still have work to do,” she said.

In consultation with her obstetrician, Dr Ellery chose to take a five-gram creatine supplement a couple of times a week and she tried to regularly eat creatine-rich foods, mainly fish and red meat. 

“I was fortunate to conceive relatively quickly and had a very straightforward pregnancy,” she said. “As a scientist, I know there’s absolutely no way to tell whether creatine helped. But the experience definitely cemented my resolve to find out, through continuing our research.”

And the research is heading in several different directions.

“Finally, we are seeking funding to answer how important creatine is for prospective mums and dads around the time of conception, including in IVF, as this area remains largely unexplored,” she said.

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