Is it Harmful to Drink Soda While Pregnant?

There are a lot of reasons why you might get the urge to grab an ice-cold Diet Pepsi. Perhaps you’re just looking for refreshment on a hot day, or after a long night of restless sleep while adjusting to your growing bump, you are looking for a caffeine boost. But should you be drinking soda with a baby on the way?

There are obviously lots of things you shouldn’t be consuming when you’re expecting, such as alcohol and cigarettes. But will the caffeine, sugar or artificial sweeteners found in sodas harm while you’re pregnant? Here’s what the research says.

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Caffeine and Pregnancies

The good news is that according to most studies, consuming less than 200 mg of caffeine a day is apparently fine if you’re pregnant, but there is still more research to be done. For instance, it is a fact that a growing baby in the womb will also end up with caffeine in their system.

One study indicated that having 200 mg of caffeine or more per day did increase the risk of miscarriage. On the other hand, another study found that there was no link between caffeine consumption and miscarriage, regardless of how much the subjects consumed. Various studies were not able to conclude that caffeine deprives fetuses of oxygen nor does it seem to lower their birth weight. As a result, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently states that pregnant women can consume caffeine as long as it isn’t more than 200 mg per day. This amounts to around five 12-ounce cans of Pepsi or 4 cans of Mountain Dew.

But bear in mind that since the research is ongoing, the ACOG could change their guidelines in the future. For instance, there was some new analysis that suggested consuming any amount of caffeine could increase the odds of miscarriage, stillbirth, abnormally low birth weight, and even acute leukemia. The sources of data for this analysis didn’t appear to be strong enough to draw definitive conclusions. So ultimately, it’s your decision whether you want to drink caffeinated soda during your pregnancy.

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Some pregnant women feel that for the sake of caution, they’ll forgo coffee and soda until after they’ve delivered. Also remember that caffeine comes from other sources too, including chocolate and green tea.

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What about the effects of sugar on pregnancies?

Let’s be honest: whether you’re pregnant or not, drinking sugary sodas is never a great idea. They contain nothing but chemicals and empty calories with no nutritional benefits. When you’re pregnant, you would want to maximize the nutrition your growing baby is receiving. If you have gestational diabetes, you would want to avoid soda for your own health, never mind your child’s. You can develop high blood pressure and permanent Type 2 diabetes post-birth. It’s also possible that your baby could be born heavier than they should, which could result in health problems that affect them for the rest of their lives.

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What about artificial sweeteners?

Saccharin (like what’s found in Sweet ‘N Low) is a no-go because it definitely gets absorbed and there just aren’t enough studies to determine how it affects a fetus. Aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose (Splenda) all have a bad rap, but the FDA believes they are safe for otherwise healthy people. The exception is if you have phenylketonuria, in which your body is unable to properly process phenylalanine, an amino acid found in aspartame. There is also a study that suggests that diet sodas can hinder a child’s motor, visual, and spatial abilities. However, the data was self-reported and the sample was not random, and therefore it cannot be considered scientifically reliable.

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Is it best to stick to diet and/or caffeine-free soda then?

Perhaps, but it is still best to not drink any sodas at all. First, they contain several chemicals, and you really ought to avoid chemicals altogether when you have a baby on the way. For example, lots of sodas contain benzene, and although it tends to be in low amounts, it is nonetheless a cancer risk. In addition, phosphoric and citric acids can wreak havoc on your teeth, causing decay and gingivitis. It’s really not worth it in the long run.

Alternatives to soda

When you’re pregnant, it is essential that you stay hydrated. Here are some recommendations:

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Plain water

You should drink between 8 and 12 cups of water per day, although you should increase your water consumption even further each trimester. Ditch the mineral water though; it contains too much sodium, which in turn causes swelling.

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Seltzer or carbonated water

Both are perfectly fine. In fact, if you’re feeling nauseous due to your pregnancy the bubbles can even soothe your stomach.

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Flavored water

Although flavored waters are probably better for you than soda, you still have to worry about the added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and additives. The best solution would be to make flavored waters yourself using water, ginger, cucumber, mint, lemon, and other natural ingredients. Infusing your water with fresh berries is also natural and refreshing.

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The bottom line

Drinking an occasional soda while you’re pregnant probably won’t do you or your baby harm, but keep it to a minimum. You’re best off avoiding caffeine, sugars and artificial sweeteners for both short- and long-term health reasons.

Furthermore, there’s just no reason to expose your growing baby to a bunch of artificial chemicals. When they’re in your womb, you want to give them as much healthy nutrition as possible. The best way to do this is by ditching the soda and choosing water, homemade flavored water, seltzers, and green tea.