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Drinks for pregnant women: What can you drink while pregnant, and what should you avoid?

From kombucha to coffee, we break down the research and speak to a nutritionist to uncover the healthiest drinks to enjoy during pregnancy, as well as what drinks should be limited or avoided altogether.

If you’ve been researching your pregnancy diet plan, you’ve probably come across lists of the foods you should and shouldn’t be including in your shopping cart. But the advice on what you should and shouldn’t drink during pregnancy can seem just as complicated. So, what are some good examples of healthy drinks for pregnant women, and what drinks do experts recommend you should avoid during pregnancy? 

When considering what to drink while pregnant, and what to avoid, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. For example, what can you drink besides water during your pregnancy? Can you still enjoy your morning coffee? And is it time to say goodbye to soda and energy drinks (for the next nine months at least)?

We all know the importance of keeping hydrated to maintain our health, and this is especially true during pregnancy. To help you navigate the somewhat confusing advice about the best drinks for pregnant women, we’ve dug through the research and quizzed registered nutritionist, Marcela Fiuza, to bring you the ultimate guide on what to drink while pregnant. You can also download an app like Flo to help you track your pregnancy week by week and uncover lots of information on keeping yourself healthy throughout pregnancy.

What is safe to drink during pregnancy?

Water

When it comes to the question of what is safe to drink during pregnancy, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that water is number one on the list. We all know that it’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day, whether we’re pregnant or not. Our bodies are made up of around 55% to 65% water, and they don’t produce enough water to maintain this amount on their own, so we need to drink enough fluids to keep ourselves hydrated. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to how much water we should drink on any given day.

“The amount of water we need to drink varies from person to person,” says Fiuza. “As a general rule, pregnant women should drink eight to 12 cups of water every day.” This number is likely to rise as you progress throughout your pregnancy, with Fiuza explaining that the extra weight and energy intake will increase how much water you need. So the amount of water you need to drink while pregnant will increase from your first trimester to your second and third.

You might be wondering, why do you need to drink so much water during pregnancy? Well, it turns out this magical element has all kinds of benefits for both you and your baby. “It’s important to stay well hydrated as water helps form the amniotic fluid around the fetus, aids digestion, helps nutrients circulate in the body, and helps the body eliminate waste products,” explains Fiuza.

Handily, our body will also give us signals if we need to drink more water. For example, simply being thirsty is one of many indicators that it could be time to reach for a glass of water. “This is your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink,” says Fiuza. What are some other signals that you could be dehydrated?Monitoring the color of your urine is another great way to check if you are drinking enough,” she adds. “If it is a clear or pale straw color, it indicates you are well hydrated. If it is dark yellow, you are likely somewhat dehydrated.”

Tap water

The quality of the tap water in public water supply systems in the US is regulated by specific state agencies, so you can rest assured that the water in your tap is generally safe to drink during pregnancy. Tap water that is clear and odorless is usually safe to drink, but if you live outside of the US and aren’t sure whether your tap water is safe, you can check with your local council or government. As an added bonus, drinking water from the tap generally contains fluoride, which can be beneficial for the development of bones and teeth in your baby. 

However, if the water is cloudy or has an unusual taste or smell, it could be a good idea to get your water tested and switch to bottled water or use a water filtration system in the meantime.

Pasteurized milk

Good news — pasteurized milk is also a safe drink for pregnant women to consume, and it has a ton of nutritional benefits, too. Namely, milk contains calcium, a mineral that can help your baby to develop strong and healthy bones and teeth, with the added bonus of helping to keep your own bones and teeth healthy and strong, too. (6) Drinking milk also helps you reach your recommended daily amount of calcium, with pregnant women aged 19 and older advised to have 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and those aged 18 and under advised to have 1,300 mg per day. There is no specific best time to drink milk during pregnancy, although you might find it comforting around bedtime, especially if you’re experiencing pregnancy insomnia.

Carbonated water/soda water/sparkling water/seltzer

There is one fizzy fluid that is potentially beneficial to drink during your first trimester. “Carbonated water is safe to drink during pregnancy, and some pregnant people find that the bubbles can help with nausea in the first trimester,” Fiuza says. Carbonated water (which is the same as soda water, sparkling water, and seltzer) is simply water that has been pressurized to make it fizzy.

What drinks should you drink in moderation during pregnancy?

Mineral water

It makes sense that mineral water might seem like the best option to drink during pregnancy, but surprisingly, that may not be the case.

“Mineral water is generally safe, but it shouldn’t be your main source of water daily,” advises Fiuza. “Some mineral waters can be high in sodium, which, in excess, can lead to swelling and impact blood pressure regulation.” You heard it here first.

Tonic water

Tonic water is another surprising one you may want to reconsider drinking during pregnancy. This is due to the fact that it contains quinine, the ingredient that gives it that uniquely bitter taste. While Fiuza is clear that “There is no official advice on the safety of quinine in tonic water in pregnancy,” she adds that “There are reports of ‘withdrawal symptoms’ in newborns from mothers who had drunk large quantities of tonic water (more than one liter a day) during pregnancy.” The withdrawal symptoms included nervous tremors observed 24 hours after the baby was born, with quinine detected in the baby’s urine. It took two months for the symptoms to vanish completely.

With this in mind, Fiuza recommends that “It is therefore sensible to stick to moderate intake only.” She adds that “If you have already consumed tonic water while pregnant, there is no need to worry, as it is unlikely to cause any harm to your baby.” It’s also worth keeping in mind that some other carbonated drinks might contain quinine, such as flavored waters. If you’re unsure, check the label or ingredients list.

Water from plastic bottles

In today’s world, it can be tricky to avoid food and drink that comes in plastic packaging. This is especially true for water, which is often sold in plastic bottles in stores across the world. But when it comes to safe drinks for pregnant women, do you need to be concerned about drinking water from a plastic bottle?

Bisphenol-A or BPA is an industrial chemical found in many plastic food containers, such as water bottles,” explains Fiuza. “Many people worry about their BPA exposure as there have been concerns that high-level exposure to this chemical during pregnancy can be associated with miscarriage, birth defects, low birth weight, and childhood health problems. More research is needed to confirm these links.” This information can feel slightly confusing (just us?). If you’ve been drinking water from plastic bottles, don’t panic. As Fiuza says, this link isn’t confirmed, and not all plastic bottles contain BPA in the first place. However, she adds that “It is a good idea to try and limit exposure while pregnant, for example, by choosing glass bottles instead of plastic bottles.”

Juices and smoothies

When considering what to drink while pregnant, you might also be wondering, what kind of juice is good to drink during pregnancy? We know there are many health benefits to eating our five fruits and vegetables a day, and it’s recommended that pregnant women try to consume 85 mg of vitamin C per day (or 80 mg per day if you’re younger than 19). So drinking juices and smoothies packed with citrus fruits, such as oranges, could be beneficial during pregnancy.

However, while juices and smoothies are deemed healthy drinks for pregnant women, they should be enjoyed in moderation, recommends Fiuza. “Drinking too much can exceed the recommended amounts for calories and/or sugar,” she explains. “It’s better to eat whole fruit rather than fruit juices and smoothies, as whole foods contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are important for a healthy pregnancy.”

Sweetened carbonated drinks

The next common question around drinks for pregnant women is whether you can still enjoy carbonated drinks, such as soda and energy drinks. It’s recommended that you try to drink these in moderation if you can, with Fiuza explaining that this is because “They often contain sugars, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals and have no nutritional value.” If you’re experiencing nausea during pregnancy and find it helpful to drink ginger ale, that’s absolutely fine, as long as you try to drink it in small amounts. 

While we’ve previously mentioned that carbonated water is safe to drink during pregnancy, Fiuza notes, however, that “commercial flavored waters can also be high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals.” So if you’re craving flavored water, Fiuza adds that you can “create your own by adding lemon, ginger, cucumber, or mint.” But to make this a healthy drink during pregnancy, you’re recommended to only drink herbs in moderation, as discussed above.

What drinks should you limit during pregnancy?

Coffee

You might also be surprised to hear that, yes, you can drink coffee while pregnant — great news for those of us who rely on our morning caffeine fix to get the day started. But while you don’t need to banish caffeine from your diet completely, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does recommend cutting your consumption down to a moderate intake during pregnancy, sticking to less than 200 mg a day. 

The concept of 200 mg of caffeine can be hard to picture, so what exactly does 200 mg of caffeine look like? As well as coffee, caffeine can also be found in drinks such as tea, soda, hot chocolate, and even decaffeinated coffee, as well as foods such as chocolate, which is something to keep in mind if you’re experiencing pregnancy cravings. With this in mind, you can use the following estimates from Cleveland Clinic and the NHS as a rough guide on what is safe to drink (and eat) during pregnancy, although it’s worth noting that these amounts will vary depending on ingredients and how they’re prepared:

  • 1 cup of instant coffee: 100 mg
  • 1 cup of filter coffee: 140 mg
  • 1 cup of decaffeinated coffee: 12 mg
  • 1 cup of tea (including green tea): 75 mg
  • 1 can of cola: 40 mg 
  • 1 can of energy drink (250 ml): 80 mg
  • 1 bar of plain dark chocolate (50 g): less than 25 mg
  • 1 bar of plain milk chocolate (50 g): less than 10 mg

Tea and herbal tea

So what teas are safe to drink during pregnancy? Following the above advice about the amount of caffeine that it’s safe for pregnant women to drink, you can have around two and a half cups of tea, including green tea, per day during your pregnancy. Keep in mind that drinking three cups would tip you over the recommended amount, containing around 225 mg of caffeine.

Other herbal teas are also safe drinks for pregnant women to consume, as long as you do so in moderation. Current guidelines recommend pregnant women drink no more than four cups of herbal tea per day.

One study that analyzed the data around drinking herbal teas and infusions during pregnancy found that drinking a large quantity of herbs, such as raspberry leaf, chamomile, fennel, peppermint, and ginger, could be potentially unsafe for both mom and baby, although more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

What drinks should you avoid during pregnancy?

Milk that hasn’t been heat treated (pasteurized/sterilized)

We know that milk is generally a healthy drink for pregnant women, but how about milk that hasn’t been heat treated? The advice on this one is clear: raw milk is a drink to avoid during pregnancy. Raw milk can contain a number of harmful bacteria, which can lead to infection and serious consequences to the health of your baby,” explains Fiuza. One of the potential bacteria raw milk can include is listeria, which can cause miscarriage, illness, or potentially even death. 

Cows’ milk that’s sold in stores is generally pasteurized, but you can still find unpasteurized milk for sale from some farms and farmers’ markets. If you’re unsure, the label should tell you what kind of milk you’re purchasing.

Alcohol

It will come as no surprise to hear that alcohol is not a healthy drink for pregnant women and should be avoided during pregnancy. Research has shown that drinking alcohol during your pregnancy could result in long-term harm for your baby, with heavier drinking leading to an increased risk of harm. The research on the impact of drinking a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy is unclear, so the recommendation is to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy and while trying to conceive.

Kombucha

You may, however, be more surprised to hear that kombucha is also not recommended as a safe drink to have during pregnancy. “This is mainly due to its alcohol content,” explains Fiuza. “Also, kombucha is often not pasteurized and may contain bacteria that are harmful during pregnancy. Pasteurized kefir or yogurt with live cultures are great substitutes for kombucha during pregnancy if you want to add fermented foods and drinks to support gut health.”

Drinks for pregnant women: The takeaway

It’s clear there is a lot of advice to take in when it comes to considering what to drink while pregnant, as well as what drinks it might be best to limit or avoid altogether. We know how confusing it can be to sift through all the information and make a decision, so let’s recap what we’ve talked about so far. Healthy drinks that are safe to consume during pregnancy include water and pasteurized milk, but you don’t have to cut out all other types of drinks. Mineral water, tonic water, water from plastic bottles, juices, smoothies, and sweetened carbonated drinks are all safe to drink during pregnancy in moderation, while coffee and tea are safe as long as they’re limited. The drinks to categorically avoid during pregnancy include alcohol, unpasteurized milk, and kombucha.

We’ve also popped a handy guide below:

What is safe to drink during pregnancy?

  • Water
  • Tap water
  • Pasteurized milk
  • Carbonated water

What drinks should you drink in moderation during pregnancy?

  • Mineral water
  • Tonic water
  • Water from plastic bottles
  • Juices and smoothies
  • Sweetened carbonated drinks

What drinks should you limit during pregnancy?

  • Coffee
  • Tea and herbal tea

What drinks should you avoid during pregnancy?

  • Alcohol
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Kombucha

Most importantly, remember to keep hydrating throughout the day, and always speak to your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about the best and healthiest drinks for pregnant women to consume.

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