#childsafety | Safety, Side Effects & More


Whether you’re exhausted from spending the night tossing and turning trying to get comfortable with your growing bump, or you’re just craving an ice cold Coke, chances are you’ve wondered if it’s safe to drink a soda while you’re pregnant.

After all, there’s a long list of ‘no’s’ when it comes to what you can and can’t eat or drink when you’re expecting. And sodas often contain caffeine, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

So before you crack open a can, here’s everything we know about the safety of drinking soda while you’re pregnant.

What the research says

Most studies suggest that moderate amounts of caffeine (less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day) won’t harm your pregnancy, but the research isn’t definitive.

That’s because while doctors have known for many, many years that caffeine crosses the placenta, its effects on your pregnancy and your growing baby are less clear.

Many studies on the association between caffeine and its risks, such as miscarriage, have been somewhat limited. Some had small sample sizes, while others had data that was subject to recall bias: Many subjects were interviewed about their habits (rather than observed).

Other research didn’t take into account other factors (aside from caffeine) that may have increased risk of miscarriage.

And bear in mind that “miscarriage” doesn’t have a standard definition in terms of how far along you are, though it’s usually considered to be a first trimester pregnancy loss.

The data has also sometimes been contradictory.

For example, one fairly large 2008 study didn’t find any association between caffeine consumption and miscarriage, no matter how much was consumed.

But another that same yeardid find an increased risk of miscarriage with higher levels of caffeine consumption when pregnant people had 200 mg per day or more.

Meanwhile, several studies that examined the relationship between caffeine intake and preterm birth, including one in 2007, didn’t find that moderate caffeine intake raised the risk of preterm birth.

Plus, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there’s no conclusive evidence that caffeine decreases uterine blood flow, fetal oxygen amounts, or birth weight.

That’s why the ACOG’s current guidelines for pregnant people states that they can have a moderate amount of caffeine, as long as it’s 200 mg or less per day.

For context, a 12-ounce can of coke has about 35 mg of caffeine and a 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew has about 54 mg.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that research is ongoing and the ACOG’s guidelines could change.

For example, in August 2020, some experts called for a change after a new analysis of existing research found that any caffeine consumption could raise the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, or childhood acute leukemia.

But do keep in mind that literature reviews aren’t the strongest sources of data to draw conclusions from.

So, at the end of the day, it’s up to you if you want to drink caffeinated soda during your pregnancy.

Some people prefer to play it extra cautious and skip coffee and soda. But if you want to indulge once in a while in small amounts, it’s likely not going to harm your pregnancy.

Just make sure to keep your total caffeine intake to less than 200 mg — and don’t forget to count all sources, like green tea, chocolate, and coffee.

Consider how caffeine affects your body, too

Caffeine is a stimulant, so while it might help you stay awake on a day when you feel particularly tired, it can also raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

As your pregnancy progresses, your body might not break down the caffeine as quickly, so it could make sleeping more difficult, give you heartburn, or make you feel jittery.

So if you’re finding caffeine is affecting you more than it used to before your pregnancy — and making you uncomfortable — you might consider avoiding it.

What the research says

In general, full-sugar sodas aren’t great: They’re pretty much all chemicals and calories, with no nutritional value. So, they can make you feel full, while providing no benefits to you or your growing baby.

Sugary drinks, including soda, should also be avoided if you have gestational diabetes or may have a higher risk of developing it.

That’s because gestational diabetes can cause complications for both you and your baby. Your baby could grow too large, increasing the risk of a difficult delivery. Plus, bigger babies can have a hard time regulating their blood sugar after birth.

Gestational diabetes also increases your risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy and puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes after giving birth.

There’s also research suggesting that too much sugar, especially from sugary sodas, can have an effect on your pregnancy and your baby’s development, even after birth:

  • A 2012 study found that drinking more than one sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drink a day could raise the risk of preterm birth.
  • Research from 2018 found that those who consumed a lot of sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened sodas, had babies who grew up to have poorer nonverbal problem-solving abilities and verbal memory.
  • Results from this 2017 study suggest that sugary drinks consumed in pregnancy could affect kids’ chances of developing asthma by age 8.
  • And another study suggested that drinking sugary drinks in the second trimester could affect children’s body fat in mid-childhood.

As a result, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on your sugar intake while pregnant and avoid sugary drinks like soda.

Saccharin (in Sweet ‘N Low) isn’t recommended because it crosses the placenta and there isn’t enough research to show how it affects a growing baby.

However, most artificial sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose (Splenda), are generally believed to be safe during pregnancy in moderation.

The only exception is if you have phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disease which affects your ability to process the amino acid phenylalanine, an ingredient in aspartame.

For pregnant people with this condition, it can raise the risk of birth defects.

Of course, there hasn’t been a lot of research on whether all artificial sweeteners cross the placenta or affect a baby’s development. But some existing research does indicate that they could have long-term effects.

A 2018 study suggested that diet sodas affected children’s motor, visual, and spatial abilities in early childhood and their verbal abilities in mid-childhood.

Just a note: This study involved self-reported data — and participants weren’t representative of the U.S. population either racially or economically.

Meanwhile, another study found that artificial sweeteners could give a child twice as great a chance of being overweight by the age of 1. But, again, this study may be problematic. Authors used infant BMI (body mass index), which isn’t necessarily the best indicator of infant size and health.

Maybe — but they’re still not recommended.

Diet and caffeine-free sodas contain a number of chemicals, and in general, it’s best to avoid chemicals wherever possible while you’re pregnant — especially since research is always ongoing.

For example, according to the FDA, some carbonated beverages might have low levels of benzene, which is a carcinogen.

Others have phosphoric and citric acids, two chemicals that are known to erode tooth enamel. Pregnant people already have an increased risk of cavities and gingivitis due to elevated hormones, so they might want to avoid these.

During pregnancy, it’s really important that you stay hydrated. Here’s what you can drink instead of soda:

Plain water

In general, it’s advised that you drink 8 to 12 cups of water per day, though the amount of water will increase each trimester as you add calories to your diet.

Be careful about drinking too many mineral waters though. They shouldn’t be consumed daily and many are high in sodium salts, which could cause swelling.

Seltzer or carbonated water

Both are safe during pregnancy — and the bubbles might even help with nausea, especially during the first trimester.

Flavored water

Commercially flavored waters are better than soda… though many still contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, or chemicals you probably want to cut back on.

But you can definitely create your own flavored waters by adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, ginger, or mint to a glass of water.

You can also buy a fruit infuser water bottle or pitcher and create your own berry-flavored water.

Smoothies

Not only can smoothies be refreshing, but they can also be a good way to up your nutritional intake, especially if you make them fresh each morning.

If you add Greek yogurt, they might also help soothe heartburn symptoms.

Just keep an eye on your sugar intake.

Milk

Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamins.

If you’re lactose intolerant (or vegan), you can also drink soy milk or other alternatives. It’s best if you choose ones that have added calcium if you want maximum benefits.

Some teas

Teas can be safe during pregnancy — just be sure to check the ingredients. Not all herbal teas are safe and some teas contain caffeine (so be sure to drink in moderation).

In general, though, these teas are considered safe:

During pregnancy, it’s generally considered OK to drink a soda once in a while.

However, you’ll want to make sure you don’t drink sodas too often because they contain caffeine, sugars, or artificial sweeteners. Too much caffeine and sugar may negatively affect your pregnancy — and research suggests there could be longer-term effects as well.

In addition, sodas can expose you and your growing baby needlessly to chemicals, while providing no nutritional value, and the research on artificial sweeteners is still ongoing.

That’s why many people skip sodas during pregnancy, opting instead for water, seltzers, teas, milk, or smoothies.



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