What Are the Health Effects of Drinking Energy Drinks During Pregnancy?

Being pregnant can be exhausting. During the first trimester, one of the main symptoms is utter fatigue; during the third trimester, lugging around the extra baby weight will leave any soon-to-be mama dragging. It's tempting to reach for an energy drink to perk yourself up, but the amount of caffeine, sugar and sodium in each can should make you think twice.

Stick to healthier beverages during pregnancy. Credit: g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Effect of Excess Caffeine

It's tough to give up caffeine during pregnancy, but you should at least limit yourself for the health of your baby. According to a survey from Consumer Reports, an energy drink can contain up to 242 milligrams of caffeine per serving, compared to 100 milligrams per 8 ounces of regular coffee. The American Pregnancy Association says that caffeine can cross the placenta to your baby, who cannot fully metabolize the compound, and interfere with her sleep patterns. However, no studies have been done on humans to determine if caffeine causes birth defects, the association notes. Moderate levels of caffeine are deemed safe for pregnant women, although what's considered "moderate" varies from 150 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day.

Sugar High

As with caffeine, the amount of sugar in each energy drink varies by brand; however, it's comparable to a sugary soda, with one brand providing 37 grams of sugar in every 12 ounces. Despite the misconception that pregnancy is a time during which a woman can eat or drink whatever she wants without worrying about gaining weight, women should watch their intake of added sugars to avoid excess weight gain, reports MedlinePlus. This excess sugar can be particularly problematic for women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and must manage their insulin levels. Some energy drinks use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most artificial sweeteners are safe to use during pregnancy -- with the exception of saccharin -- but you should speak with your doctor before consuming them in significant amounts.

Effects of Sodium

Generally speaking, the average pregnant woman doesn't need to restrict her sodium intake, according to Dr. Laura Riley of "Parents" magazine. However, during the latter stages of pregnancy, a pregnant woman might start to retain fluid because of sodium consumption, making cutting back a good idea for both her comfort and her health. One 12-ounce can of one brand of energy drink contains more than 300 milligrams of sodium, making eliminating energy drinks an easy way to cut back. Instead, drink plenty of water to flush out excess sodium and make those swollen ankles go down.

Boost Your Energy

Rather than rely on energy drinks to keep up your strength during pregnancy, focus on consuming nutritious foods. Your body needs about 300 extra calories a day while you're pregnant, and failing to eat enough can easily leave you dragging. What to Expect, a pregnancy website, recommends getting enough protein -- around 75 grams a day -- to provide you with natural energy; options include lean meats and poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, cheese, milk and eggs. Complex carbohydrates help pep you up, too, so pair your protein with whole-grain crackers and breads as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. If you're anemic, the lack of iron in your body could be keeping you fatigued, so eat plenty of iron-fortified cereals, spinach and lean meats.

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