People worldwide drink energy drinks to increase exercise performance and sharpen mental focus and alertness—and just because they like the taste. But should you consume energy drinks if you are pregnant?
Experts recommend avoiding energy drinks while pregnant because of the high caffeine content and other ingredients. In addition, most energy drink companies voluntarily post advisory statements on their labels, discouraging those who are pregnant and breastfeeding from consuming them.
This article explains the most common ingredients in energy drinks and why you should avoid them when pregnant.
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The Health Concerns
When pregnant, a placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. The nutrients in the food you eat get passed on to your baby, including ingredients in energy drinks.
While some research has been done on ingredients like caffeine, researchers don't know all of the effects of the ingredients in energy drinks. Because different energy drinks contain different cocktails of ingredients in varying amounts, it would be near impossible to weigh in on every energy drink product individually (not to mention difficult to test ethically). However, experts generally agree that energy drinks of all kinds are not safe during pregnancy.
In studies where pregnant mice were given a small amount of energy drink daily during their pregnancy, newborn mice had oxidative stress (when free radicals lead to cell and tissue damage), tissue injury, and anxiety.
While the study was conducted on animals, researchers concluded that consuming energy drinks during pregnancy and lactation could negatively impact humans, as well.
High Levels of Caffeine
The American Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics considers energy drinks to be any beverage that contains a stimulant or vitamins intended to increase energy. Due to the known risks of high levels of caffeine during pregnancy and unknown dangers of other ingredients, they advise avoiding energy drinks during pregnancy.
"Energy drinks are not recommended during pregnancy as they may contain high levels of caffeine, and other ingredients not recommended for pregnant women," says Emily Mitchell, MS, RD, CSSD, CDE, CLT, who was formerly Center for Fetal Medicine's in-house dietitian and nutritionist. "Energy drinks are also not regulated by the FDA as they fall into the category of food supplements. Supplements are not regulated and may contain ingredients that are not listed in the label."
Pregnant People Should Avoid Caffeine, Research Suggests
Numerous studies have tested cardiovascular responses in people who drink sugar-sweetened energy drinks. However, the results of these studies vary, depending on the type of energy drink and measurement tools used.
Some studies have documented increased systolic blood pressure and increased heartbeat after energy drink consumption. A 2015 review of adverse health events related to energy drinks found that more than 50% of case reports were related to cardiovascular responses.
Although the studies were not conducted on pregnant people, cardiovascular responses are concerning during pregnancy, and therefore, it is wise to avoid stimulants, like energy drinks when pregnant.
Experts advise against energy drinks during pregnancy because they generally contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, and they may cause stress and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Energy Drinks vs. Sports Drinks
Energy drinks are commonly displayed next to sports drinks in grocery and convenience stores. However, it is essential not to confuse energy drinks with sports drinks.
For hydration and electrolyte balance
High levels of caffeine
For increased energy and alertness
Can make dehydration worse
It's always important to be label savvy and read labels of all beverages before consuming.
Which Ingredients Are Problematic?
The ingredients in energy drinks vary depending on the manufacturer. In addition, many energy drinks contain a combination of ingredients that create an energy blend. The problem with these concoctions is that it is tough to determine which ingredients can cause adverse symptoms. Therefore, carefully reading labels is important, even when not pregnant.
One of the main concerns in energy drinks during pregnancy is the amount of caffeine. For example, a 16-ounce energy drink may contain between 70 and 240 mg of caffeine. For comparison, a 12-ounce can of cola contains about 35 mg of caffeine, and a 6-ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 mg.
Energy shots are condensed forms of energy drinks sold in 2 to 2.5 oz. containers. Caffeine is a primary ingredient and ranges from 113 to 200 mg in every shot.
Caffeine overdose can cause seizures, psychosis, and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).
"Too much caffeine can raise blood pressure and heart rate. It affects the nervous system and can cause irritability, nervousness, and sleeplessness," says Mitchell. "The evidence of caffeine use in pregnancy is not conclusive, so it's best to limit."
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends limiting daily caffeine consumption to 200 mg or less during pregnancy. That's the equivalent of about 12 ounces of home-brewed coffee.
Highly concentrated or pure caffeine products are different from energy drinks. They come in liquid or powdered form, and when mismeasured, can be toxic and even deadly.
Some energy drinks contain non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are zero- or low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar. They help to add sweetness without adding calories and sugar.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of some nonnutritive sweeteners, including:
- Acesulfame-K (brand names include Sunett and Sweet One)
- Aspartame (brand names include NutraSweet and Equal)
- Neotame (brand name Newtame)
- Saccharin (brand name Sweet and Low)
- Sucralose (brand name Splenda)
- Stevia (brand names include Truvia and Pure Via)
Doctors consider most artificial sweeteners safe in moderation during pregnancy except for saccharin, which should be avoided when pregnant. That's because saccharin is carcinogenic (may cause cancer) and crosses the placenta.
Everything You Should Avoid During Pregnancy
If energy drinks don't contain artificial sweeteners, they use sugar. Too much dietary sugar can contribute to excessive weight gain.
In addition, excess sugar can be a problem for those with gestational diabetes since this condition requires monitoring carbohydrate intake and limiting simple sugars to prevent large swings in blood sugar.
Some energy drinks contain taurine. This essential amino acid is naturally found in animal-based foods (such as meat and dairy) and supports neurological development.
Though safe when consumed in food that naturally contains it, little is known about the effects of taurine during pregnancy in supplement form and when combined with energy drinks. However, taking a single amino acid, like taurine, as a supplement can affect metabolism and tax your kidneys meaning that it's best to avoid taurine supplements during pregnancy.
Ginseng is an Asian herbal supplement that has been used for thousands of years. Long-term safety is unknown; however, some animal studies indicate that it may cause birth defects.
Side effects of ginseng include:
- Appetite loss
- Blood pressure fluctuations
- Breast pain
- Digestive symptoms
- Increased heart rate
- Menstrual problems
As a result, experts recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding people avoid taking ginseng.
Glucuronolactone is derived from gluconic acid. Manufacturers primarily use it in food as a pickling, leavening, and curing agent. The FDA considers it generally recognized as safe when used as intended and at levels that meet good manufacturing practices.
There are limited human studies, but research has shown that common food additives in energy drinks, including glucuronolactone, can have a toxic effect on rats. Considering that it is not well studied in pregnancy, it is probably best to avoid it when pregnant.
Guarana is a source of plant-derived caffeine. The guarana plant contains four times the amount of caffeine as coffee beans. It is often added to energy drinks for its stimulant effects.
Due to the potent caffeine, those who are pregnant should avoid consuming guarana.
This herb comes from the leaves of the ginkgo tree and has been used in China for centuries. Some claim that it can improve memory, however, research has not substantiated these claims.
Side effects include:
- Allergic skin reactions
- Gastrointestinal upset
Since studies in pregnancy are limited, it is prudent to avoid this product.
L-carnitine is derived from an amino acid and plays a role in energy production. It is often added to energy drinks to improve athletic performance though most studies have shown no effect on physical performance.
Taking more than 3 grams per day can result in side effects, including:
- Abdominal Cramps
- "Fishy" smelling body odor
Muscle weakness and seizures may occur more rarely in people with preexisting conditions. As with any supplement, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before taking L-carnitine, especially if you are pregnant.
Yohimbe comes from the bark of an evergreen tree native to Africa. It is commonly used in weight loss products and energy drinks. Proponents suggest it can help increase athletic performance, but there is not enough research to support these claims.
Heart attacks and seizures have been associated with yohimbe. In addition to these severe side effects, yohimbe may also cause the following:
- High blood pressure
- Stomach problems
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
It may be unsafe to take during pregnancy, so it is best to avoid it.
B vitamins help your body use the energy from food. However, the dose of B vitamins used in energy drinks may exceed recommended daily intakes. In addition, while manufacturers claim the vitamins enhance performance, there is a lack of research to support these claims.
B vitamins are water-soluble. That means if you take too much, you will excrete it in your urine. But adverse effects associated with high doses of B vitamins can occur. They include:
- Flushing (burning, itching, redness on the face, arms, and chest)
- Increased heartbeat
- Nerve damage
- Increased risk of hip fractures in older adults
Since energy drinks may contain higher than recommended doses of B vitamins, it's best to avoid them during pregnancy.
There Is No Universal Blend
All energy drinks are not created equal and do not contain the same ingredients. These differences can make understanding the effects of energy drinks as a category more difficult.
For example, one can of regular Redbull contains caffeine, taurine, sugar, and B vitamins, while Monster contains ginseng, carnitine, glucose, taurine, caffeine, guarana, inositol, glucuronolactone, and maltodextrin.
It's impossible to know the effects of the various ingredient blends and serving sizes, which also vary by brand. And because supplements, such as herbal blends, are not regulated by the FDA, it is not clear what these ingredients and combinations of ingredients can do to a pregnant body or fetus.
Energy drinks often contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants. Since you should limit caffeine, sugar, and artificial sweeteners and avoid certain herbs and additives during pregnancy, experts advise those who are pregnant to avoid energy drinks.
Can I Drink Them If I Am Breastfeeding?
It may be tempting to consume an energy drink to increase energy and alertness during the disrupted sleep schedules that often accompany the early stages of infancy and new parenthood. However, keep in mind that the caffeine in energy drinks can cross into your breast milk if you are breastfeeding.
Some infants can be sensitive to caffeine and may become irritable and experience sleep disturbances from the caffeine in breast milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting daily caffeine intake to 200–300 mg while breastfeeding, which is about two to three cups of coffee.
In addition, energy drinks often contain other herbal ingredients, which may interact with caffeine and other supplements you take, including vitamins. It's especially important to review labels and discuss diet with a healthcare provider when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Experts and energy drink manufacturers advise against consuming energy drinks while pregnant or breastfeeding. That's because ingredients like high levels of caffeine, herbs, and vitamins may not be safe during pregnancy and lactation. Read labels carefully and limit your daily caffeine intake to 200 mg while pregnant.
A Word From Verywell
Pregnancy and breastfeeding can result in low energy and sleeplessness, so it's understandable that parents look for solutions like energy drinks when they're feeling especially tired. However, the risks of energy drinks are greater than the benefits when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, so you should consider alternatives. When in doubt, talk to a healthcare provider.
Nutritional Tips During Pregnancy
Can energy drinks affect unborn baby? ›
Energy drinks may have a lot of sugar, too, and they may contain ingredients that may be harmful to your baby during pregnancy. Because we don't know a lot about all the ingredients in energy drinks, it's best not to have them when you're pregnant.What happens if I drink one energy drink while pregnant? ›
Experts advise against energy drinks during pregnancy because they generally contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, and they may cause stress and increased blood pressure and heart rate.What drinks can harm a fetus? ›
- Unpasteurized milk.
- Unpasteurized juices.
- Caffeinated beverages.
- Sugary sodas.
- Drinks with artificial sweeteners, like diet soda.
12 Homemade Energy Drinks You Can Have During Pregnancy
- Water. ...
- Lemon water. ...
- Coconut water. ...
- Buttermilk. ...
- Fresh pressed juices. ...
- Herbal tea. ...
- Vegetable juices. ...
- Dairy drinks.
The researchers noted that caffeine is believed to cause blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which could reduce the blood supply to the fetus and inhibit growth.Can I drink Monster when pregnant? ›
During pregnancy, all drinks with significant levels of caffeine such as coffee, cola and energy drinks should be avoided. It is best to switch to decaffeinated drinks or drinks without caffeine There is no known safe level of caffeine whilst you are pregnant.What can I take for energy while pregnant? ›
- Choose nutrient- and protein-rich foods, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, beans, chicken breast, or peanut butter.
- Avoid turning to sugary foods or energy drinks for a quick fix. ...
- Eat every four hours , beginning with a balanced breakfast. ...
- Limit caffeine.
Doctors and midwives do not recommend energy drinks to anyone during pregnancy. Energy drinks contain a lot of caffeine and many other ingredients that could be unsafe for pregnant people.Which sleeping position can cause miscarriage? ›
A 2019 review of medical studies suggests that sleeping on your back carries risks, but it doesn't seem to matter whether you sleep on your right or left side. These studies do have some flaws, though. Third trimester pregnancy loss is very uncommon. Therefore, there aren't many cases from which to draw conclusions.How much caffeine causes a miscarriage in the first trimester? ›
A woman is more likely to miscarry if she and her partner drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day during the weeks leading up to conception, according to a new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University, Columbus.
How long does caffeine stay in a fetus? ›
Caffeine readily crosses the placenta into the fetus and into amniotic fluid. The half-life of caffeine increases during pregnancy, reaching 11.5 – 18 hours by the end of pregnancy (2).What happens if you accidentally drink too much caffeine while pregnant? ›
In particular, high caffeine consumption while pregnant can cause increased fetal catecholamine levels, which could lead to increased fetal heart rate and placental vasoconstriction and impair fetal oxygenation. Therefore, caffeine intoxication in pregnant women should be treated immediately.Will 1 energy drink harm me? ›
Summary: Occasionally drinking one energy drink is unlikely to cause problems. To reduce potential harm, limit your consumption to 16 ounces (473 ml) daily and avoid all other caffeinated beverages.What happens if you drink one Red Bull while pregnant? ›
A single energy drink is unlikely to cause any problems. However, the evidence does suggest that too much caffeine can increase the chances of birth differences and other complications. One recent study found that pregnant women who regularly drank energy drinks were almost twice as likely to experience a stillbirth.What is the most harmful energy drink? ›
- 5-Hour Energy. At 200 mg of caffeine in a bottle of fewer than two ounces, 5-Hour Energy contains significantly more caffeine per ounce than other energy drinks. ...
- Monster. ...
- Redbull. ...
- Bang. ...
- Rockstar Xdurance.
A 16oz can of Bang energy contains 300mg, making it one of the most highly caffeinated energy drinks on the market.What can accidentally cause a miscarriage? ›
- Exposure to TORCH diseases.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Improper implantation of fertilized egg in your uterine lining.
- How old you are.
- Uterine abnormalities.
- Incompetent cervix (your cervix begins to open too early in pregnancy).