Being pregnant is not only a beautiful experience but also a scary one. On the one hand, you have a life growing inside you – one that you cannot help but love with every heartbeat. Every kick, stretch and scan brings you closer.
Then, on the other hand, is the dark side that most people would rather avoid. And no, this is not about the mood swings or unwarranted advice from people out there. It is about your diet. From the first moment your doctor realizes you are pregnant, the list of dos and don’ts begins.
From not eating raw food to resting more to exercising less and getting fewer tasks at work, the list is endless. And when the fatigue gets to you, it is quite natural to think of getting an energy drink.
That brings about the question, is it safe to drink energy drinks while pregnant? Drinking energy drinks while pregnant or when nursing a baby is not advisable. Some ingredients in energy drinks such as caffeine can have adverse effects on the baby. Even energy drink companies work to dissuade pregnant women from consuming their products. You will see this notice on the cans, the notices apply to pregnant and lactating women.
In this article we will further discuss the ingredients and effects.
How energy drinks can affect your pregnancy
Understanding the effects of energy drinks during pregnancy comes down to understanding what’s happening inside you during gestation. During pregnancy, a placenta grows in your womb and supplies the baby with food and oxygen using the umbilical cord. That’s a vital attachment between mother and child.
It means that anything you eat will eventually find its way to the baby using this system. That’s why people talk about eating for two because you are. The baby cannot fend for itself and will thus rely on anything you consume. Eating healthy is, therefore, crucial at this stage as it affects two lives.
So, when you consume an energy drink, the ingredients pass on to your baby. Now, here is the thing. There is a lot of research on the effects of energy drink ingredients, with emphasis on caffeine and sugar.
However, the information available is not enough to tell the effects of these components in the long term. Also, energy drinks contain varying ingredients, other than the caffeine and sugar. Thus, testing the impact of all these variants can be an uphill task.
From studies, researchers deduced that energy drinks are likely to affect newborns. As such, they pose a significant health problem and should get treated as such. That’s why your doctor will advise you to seek other ways to boost your energy levels than take an energy drink.
They would much rather you slept all day than risk your health and that of the baby. The same goes for energy drink manufacturers who clearly label their drinks as being unsuitable for pregnant or lactating women.
You should also note that few regulations surround energy drinks. Manufacturers can, therefore, add ingredients to these beverages without including them in the label. Thus, you may not know what you are consuming and can suffer adverse effects as a result.
The safety of some of these components during pregnancy is unknown, and thus consuming them is risky. Some are known to cause problems in pregnancy, such as ginseng.
I must say as a caffeine dependent lifeform that survives on only red bull – being pregnant and not being able to have an energy drink Is awful 😞
I’m exhausted. 😴😴😴
— C.E.HOE (@PaigeChristieUK) November 4, 2020
Ingredients in energy drinks that can affect pregnancy
You will see that the focus lies on the energy drink ingredients when we talk about the health effects of energy drinks. What you consume will affect you based on what it contains.
If you take plain water, you will feel refreshed. But what happens when you take sugared water? The effects change. And what would have hydrated you can end up making you feel dehydrated. The change in results owes to the variation in the ingredients.
With energy drinks, ingredients are not standard as you would expect of other drinks.
Manufacturers use what appeals most to them and gives their consumers the most results. Even flavors differ in these drinks. There have even been claims that some of these energy drinks contain bull sperm! Can you believe that? It turns out that it is a lie, but it points to how much people don’t know what is in these drinks. And that is pretty scary, more so during pregnancy.
Let us look at some of the ingredients common in energy drinks and their likely effects. Note that this list is not exhaustive as there are many hidden components in these drinks as of now.
Effects of caffeine during pregnancy
Without this stimulant, these beverages would not have their desired effects. What does caffeine do? It creates a flight or fight mode in your body by making the system behave like it is in danger. You end up with an increased heart rate and more alertness owing to the release of adrenaline.
Your body acts like it would when reacting to an emergency, and you thus feel more alert. That’s why people take one cup of coffee in the morning and start feeling more productive.
With all these effects, you can see why energy drink manufacturers want this component in their drinks. And they use different sources to get it including guarana and coffee beans, among others.
A standard energy drink will have up to 80 mg of caffeine, while others can have up to 160 mg. Note that these amounts could be higher, given the lack of regulations on information disclosure. A healthy adult can handle up to 400 mg.
That means that they can take about two or three cans of energy drinks each day without any effects. But as a pregnant woman, you can only take 200 mg caffeine or less.
Anything more than this can have devastating effects on the body. And this is assuming that you are otherwise healthy with no underlying health conditions or caffeine sensitivities.
This stimulant has been known to have adverse effects on consumers when taken in large doses. So, if you exceed the recommended daily limit, effects such as seizures and psychosis can follow. Additionally, you can suffer an elevation in heart rate and blood pressure.
Moreover, some people experience sleeplessness and irritability, coupled with heightened anxiety. While pregnant, you should experience calm for most of the days, for your good and that of the baby. Thus, these effects are not desirable.
There have been cases where people have died owing to caffeine toxicity. That can happen where one exceeds the daily limit by a significant amount.
It helps to note that investigations into the use of caffeine in pregnancy are not conclusive. If you look up this topic, you will find that most people are on the edge when it comes to caffeine consumption.
The best approach is thus to limit consumption and keep it at 200 mg or less. And this consumption should be after you get the go-ahead from your doctor.
Effects of artificial Sweeteners during pregnancy
People often avoid sugary drinks as they wish to steer clear of unhealthy weight gain. Taking table sugar is known to cause a myriad of problems, among them insulin resistance. Thus, artificial sweeteners have fast penetrated the market as the health-conscious grab onto them. But what are these?
They also go by the name non-nutritive sweeteners, and they contain zero or low calories. Compared to table sugar, these are the go-to for anyone who wishes to avoid unhealthy weight gain.
And yes, they are as sweet as or even sweeter than the natural sugars. For this reason, energy drink manufacturers use little amounts to create the desired effect. Many of these sweeteners have approval from the FDA, making them suitable for use in energy drinks.
These include stevia, neotame, and sucralose, among others.
Are they safe? If this question has crossed your mind, you should know that scientists are also grappling with the same. The thing is that there is limited research on their long-term effects.
There is even more limited information on their impact on pregnant people. From what is available, these sweeteners could have carcinogenic as well as other adverse effects when used in the long term.
Given the grayness of this area, you should steer clear of these sweeteners.
Table sugar consumption during pregnancy
Generally, men should have as much as 37.5 grams of sugar each day while women stick to 25 g. These amounts point to a few teaspoons of sugar per day, in line with the daily recommendations.
But that is not the case when it comes to energy drinks, which have copious amounts of sugar. One energy drink can have as many as 50 g of sugar. That would mean you would double your recommended intake in one swig. And that is dangerous.
Why should you avoid sugar? Adding unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy adds to health risks during labor. And your doctor will always advise you to watch what you eat, lest this happens.
It gets worse when you have gestational diabetes. This condition applies to pregnant women who have not had diabetes before.
It often comes about in the second trimester and goes away after the birth of the baby. You should note that once you have this condition, it can come about again in the next pregnancy.
Thus, consuming energy drinks during pregnancy is not advisable, whether or not you have diabetes. There is always the chance of developing this condition or worsening it. And you would not want any of these situations. So, high sugar consumption is a no during pregnancy.
Effects of taurine during pregnancy
If you look up concerns regarding this ingredient, you will be in awe. Some people have gone ahead to claim that energy drink manufacturers use bull sperm in their drinks. How funny is that? Well, it turns out that it is a rumor. But what is taurine?
Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that is naturally present in the body. It works in the regulation of water and minerals in the blood and promoting neurological development. Most of the time, your body has enough of this amino acid for optimal functioning.
But you can always get more from consuming foods such as dairy and meat. In some cases, you may have a deficiency that calls for supplements of the same. Even infant formulas contain taurine.
Taurine in energy drinks is available in the amounts of grams. It works in combination with caffeine and B vitamins to release energy and increase mental alertness. Additionally, it speeds up recovery time after working out and aids in the alleviation of many conditions.
A good example would be congestive heart failure. Doctors use taurine supplements to alleviate heart problems. The same goes for hepatitis.
But should you consume taurine while pregnant? The answer is no. There is limited information as to the effects of this ingredient when used in pregnancy. There is a further limitation regarding its use in combination with energy drinks.
Thus, it could be a risky undertaking and is best avoided. If you have a taurine deficiency, your doctor will figure out what is best for you. And that will not involve taking energy drinks to make up for the difference.
When you are pregnant, people will come to you with all sorts of solutions. From their grandmothers’ recipes to what they heard on the news, the solutions will keep coming. And among these, there will be many herbal supplements involved.
People now want to embrace what is natural, and they are looking to the earth for solutions. And ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, is one such means.
This supplement has been in use for centuries on end, with many positive effects accruing from this. And it comes as no surprise that people would think of using it in energy drinks. After all, these drinks are supplements. But should you be taking it during the pregnancy?
The answer is no. As is the case with most ingredients in energy drinks, the investigations into this ingredient are in the early stages. It is more so regarding its effects in the long term, both to mother and child.
Its short term effects do not help matters. They include sleeplessness, digestive issues, and headaches, among others.
Additionally, it negatively impacts blood sugar and blood pressure. Thus, if you have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, this supplement can be a problem. Whether in energy drinks or natural form, you should not use it.
Manufacturers will use almost anything said to boost energy levels in their drinks. Thus, the use of this polyhydroxy acid comes as no surprise. It has both moisturizing and antioxidant benefits and is said to improve metabolism. But should you use it? No, and for two good reasons.
For one, there are questions as to whether it influences energy levels. Thus, its supposed effects may not exist. And secondly, the impact of this acid in the long term is not clear. That goes for during and after pregnancy. It is not worth the risk.
Is guarana safe during pregnancy?
There are many sources of caffeine. Most people know about coffee, tea, and other such sources they often consume. But what if someone told you that there is an even stronger source out there? And went ahead and told you that energy drink manufacturers now use it in their drinks? Well, this source is none other than guarana, which is plant-sourced.
Now, the thing with guarana is that manufacturers may not state that it forms part of the drink’s components. You may see the caffeine content as 100 mg and think that it is accurate.
But guarana is quite potent with up to 50 mg of caffeine per gram. So, if a manufacturer adds one or two grams and does not state this, you would be in for quite the ride.
This ingredient works in increasing athletic performance as well as mental alertness. When used in combination with taurine, it makes one more productive by improving mental focus.
As a caffeine source, it pretty much has the same effects as coffee in large amounts – only that guarana is much stronger. Thus, you can expect the same results when taken in large doses.
And with guarana, it is pretty easy to end up going over the daily limits. Given that you have to monitor the caffeine you consume, it is best to steer clear of this stimulant.
Here comes another ingredient common in energy drinks across the globe. It comes from the leaves of the ginkgo tree and is quite common in China. People believe it can help improve memory. Some studies link its use with the combination of caffeine in increased short-term memory retention. But that does not mean you can use it while pregnant.
Studies into its use in the long-term are not conclusive. But it has shown to have pretty adverse effects in the short term. These include skin reactions, upset stomachs, dizziness, headaches, and other such problems.
In some cases, it has caused an increase in palpitations, which can be problematic to someone with high blood pressure. Then there is the issue of constipation. As a pregnant woman, you have probably had a rough time dealing with changes in bowel movements. Do you want to add a trigger to all that? Staying away from this herb would work in your favor.
This ingredient comes from lysine and methionine and is thus a derivative. Manufacturers add it to their drinks in the hope of improving athletic performance. This addition is on the basis that this component works in sparing muscle glycogen, thus resulting in added productivity.
But is this true? According to some studies, there is no relation between this ingredient and added physical performance. Therefore, taking it will not produce the desired results. It helps to note that it naturally occurs in animal products, and you can consume it from the same.
The limit for otherwise healthy adults stands at 5 grams per day. Taking more than this leads to complications such as diarrhea. Using this ingredient in pregnancy is not advisable, given that little information exists regarding its long-term effects.
Have you ever wondered what people use in weight loss products? You will come across people saying that they took a pill or drank some concoction and shed weight. And these products can be quite appealing once you see someone post their results.
Yohimbe is often found in such weight loss products. But that is not without some serious side effects you should consider. These include anxiety and mood disorders in healthy adults, among other impacts.
It does not help that this ingredient has not undergone adequate studies as to its effects on pregnant women. You should thus avoid consuming it.
Where you wish to shed a few pounds during pregnancy, or maintain a given weight, talk to your doctor. They can suggest healthy ways to do this.
B vitamins play essential roles in the body and should thus be part of your diet. They metabolize fat, proteins, and carbs, and they also work in energy conversion.
But should you be using energy drinks to meet your daily vitamin needs? The answer is no. The levels of vitamins used in energy drinks may be more than you need daily. And consuming these drinks in high amounts over a long time can cause some severe complications.
A woman ended up in the hospital from taking 5 energy drinks every day for three weeks. She ended up suffering from non-viral hepatitis. And all that from consuming energy drinks with high niacin levels! So, while vitamins may work in promoting your health, they can also work against you.
What are the negative impacts of taking too many vitamins? You have probably not come across anyone warning you when it comes to these. If anything, most people tell you to eat fruits and veggies and keep up with your water intake.
Most people do not take enough vitamins, and coming across an overdose of these is unlikely. But it happens. You see, B vitamins are water-soluble. That means that you can excrete what is in excess through urine. And that works in your favor. But in some cases, you may have too many vitamins that the system cannot handle the excess.
Effects of energy drinks on you and your baby
So far, we have covered the ingredients in energy drinks and their likely effects. But how does all this come together? Let us take a closer look at the impacts these drinks could have on you and your baby.
During pregnancy, your body goes through several changes and thus requires adequate rest. After all, you have someone growing inside you. And this person depends on you for everything from breathing to excretion. That can take a toll on your body, hence the frequent fatigue.
You thus need to rest a lot during the night and day. But is this possible when you have an energy drink? The answer is no. Energy drinks work in keeping people alert about their surroundings and making them more productive.
That’s why they are common with people who spend long hours at work. These people need an energy boost to keep them from nodding off while at work. But as a pregnant woman, this effect will work against you.
The high caffeine content will be such that you can hardly sleep when the time comes. One day of inadequate sleep might not hurt you, but if the sleeplessness continues, it is risky.
The baby can get stressed, and this can lead to many other complications during pregnancy. Stress is not suitable for you or the baby, and the doctor will tell you as much.
If the fatigue keeps you from working or doing other things, you should talk to your doctor. They can recommend bed rest or find other solutions to the problem.
We earlier covered taurine’s uses in the body as well as its role in regulating nutrients in the body. While this works great for you, it can work against the body. This amino acid can keep some nutrients from reaching the baby as they should.
As a result, the attachment you have with your baby would not serve its purpose. Babies need a range of nutrients to develop fully while in the womb. And when they face such a deprivation, the pregnancy can face adverse effects.
Before reaching for an energy drink, you should consider the chances of this taking place. Is it worth the risk?
Stress from energy drinks
Being stressed in pregnancy is unadvisable. If you consult the doctor, they will ask you how you are feeling. You may think that these questions are mundane, but there is more to them than you would think.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. That’s why the doctor may ask that you work less and distance yourself from stressful situations.
Stress can cause the baby some complications and can even lead to miscarriages. And taking energy drinks can contribute to this stress. These drinks have high caffeine content. Caffeine has been shown to induce unpleasant effects in consumers, among them anxiety and stress.
It gets worse if you were already stressed before taking the energy drink. The drink will work in amplifying the situation and making it feel worse.
If you continue being under stress for a long time, you could end up harming yourself or the baby. And that is something you need to be cautious about.
High Blood Pressure
What happens when you take an energy drink? Your heart pumps more blood through the body, and this elevates the blood pressure. If you have pre-existing health conditions or caffeine sensitivity, the likelihood of this is even higher.
The problem with increased blood pressure in the long term is that it can cause hypertension. This condition, when left unchecked, can have devastating effects on you and the baby.
Type 2 Diabetes
Energy drinks have a high sugar content that puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you consume an energy drink sweetened with table sugar, there is always a risk of this happening in the long-term.
When you take a lot of sugar, glucose levels increase. And that is not all. Taking high sugar amounts in the long term creates some form of insulin resistance. That means that the glucose levels can reach the baby, giving it more nutrients than it needs.
Over time, this can make the baby develop a condition known as macrosomia. In this condition, the baby becomes bigger than what is average. In the end, there may be several complications during birth, including the need for a caesarian section.
And that’s not all. You can end up with gestational diabetes if you have type 2 diabetes that you do not treat as needed. The latter condition is often recurrent and makes pregnancy quite hard.
Nausea from energy drinks
Most pregnant women experience nausea at some point during their pregnancy. If you have been through this, then you know how bad and uncomfortable it can be. What if you learned that taking energy drinks can give you uncontrolled nausea?
Well, it is possible when you consume more energy drinks than you should. But that is the thing. How can you know how many cans of this drink you can handle? Your limit may be one while another woman can handle up to three.
The results of taking more than you can handle are dealing with uncontrolled nausea that leads to frequent vomiting. As you do this, you dehydrate your body, and thus your baby. If you keep this up, you might require medical intervention as pregnancy complications could arise.
While the baby may not experience these aches, you will. Taking a lot of caffeine, such as that present in energy drinks, causes migraines and headaches.
For some people, these pains come when they quit caffeine. And for others, it happens when they take the stimulant. Either way, these pains are sure to affect how well you can rest or conduct other activities.
They can also contribute to stress, thus affecting the baby and complicating the pregnancy. It is, therefore, best that you consult a doctor when these pains arise.
Energy drinks during lactation
So you cannot take energy drinks during pregnancy. What about when you are nursing your baby? Is there some leeway in this case? The truth is that nursing can take a toll on you, as much as pregnancy.
The baby is still entirely dependent on you, and you have sleep schedules and diaper changes to deal with now. You have probably heard of how hard it is for new mums to adjust to this change in their lives. And you are likely to deal with sleep disruptions, fatigue, and many other problems.
When this happens, the idea of taking an energy drink may seem quite appealing. After all, it can make you more alert and give you the energy you need to take care of the baby. However, the attachment you have with your baby does not come to an end after labor.
While you may not feed the baby using the umbilical cord, you still attach to it through breastfeeding. If you are not breastfeeding, taking an energy drink would harm only you. But where breast milk is in play, you would pass on the energy drink ingredients to the baby.
And the baby can react to these ingredients, given that their systems cannot handle their potency. Take caffeine as an example. When babies consume this stimulant, they are likely to be fussy and irritable and display a sleep disruption in their schedule.
You can thus see that you would add to your problems, rather than take away from them. Consuming small amounts of caffeine will generally not hurt babies, but it is not advisable. So, with energy drinks, steering clear is necessary as these beverages have high caffeine content.
Anything you take will end up in the breast milk. You should thus use the same caution you used during pregnancy for your sake and that of the baby.
Also, taking energy shots will pretty much have the same effects as energy drinks. These shots have high caffeine levels and can have as many as 200 mg per shot. Taking these quantities during pregnancy is risky.
Using energy drinks in pregnancy or when nursing a baby is not advisable. These drinks range in their ingredients such that it is hard to tell what you have consumed.
Given the little information available regarding the impact of these ingredients in pregnant women, avoiding them works in your best interests. Where there is a need for supplementation, your doctor can walk you through the best options.
You should always remain safe by following general precautions when consuming any food. That said, all the best!