Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe for Pregnant Women?

Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe for Pregnant Women?

Pregnancy brings with lots of joys for the parents-to-be and along with it a lot of dos and don’ts. A lot of women take artificial sweeteners if they suffer from blood sugar or in order to lose weight. But is it safe for women to take them during pregnancy? Let’s find out.

What Are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes which add sweetness to a food or beverage and fewer calories than that of sugar. These synthetically produced sugar substitutes are called artificial sweeteners.

What Are the Benefits of Artificial Sweetener for Pregnant Ladies?

Use of artificial sweeteners has the following benefits for pregnant ladies.

  • During pregnancy, women gain excess weight. Therefore, by taking artificial sweeteners, pregnant women reduce the chances of getting obese by cutting out the calories of sugar.
  • If a woman suffers from gestational diabetes, artificial sweeteners help to manage it by keeping the insulin levels and blood sugar levels in check.
  • Women with a craving for something sweet during pregnancy can eat sweet dishes prepared using artificial sugar without the fear of taking in too much sugar or gaining too much weight.
  • They are as good as regular sugar sans the calories.
  • Dental health, a problem for many during pregnancy is under control when pregnant women take artificial sweeteners.

When Do Doctors Recommend Artificial Sweeteners in Pregnancy?

There are a few circumstances under which doctors may recommend artificial sweeteners during pregnancy:

  • The doctor may prescribe artificial sweeteners when a woman may have gained excess weight during pregnancy.
  • At times women suffer from gestational diabetes which if not managed at the onset can pose a risk on the mother as well as the foetus.
  • At times, some women suffer from blood sugar problems even before their pregnancy. Such women are asked by the doctor to take artificial sweeteners instead of sugar so that the blood sugar level does not get aggravated.

What Should Be the Ideal Per Day Intake?

Since taking too much of anything is bad, the same can be said for artificial sweeteners. pregnant women should not take more than 2-4 serving of any food or drink which has been made with an artificial sweetener.

Which Sugar Alternatives Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Sugar alternatives are a great way to avoid glucose in their diet. Listed below are six such sugar substitutes which have been deemed to be safe during pregnancy.

1. Rebaudioside A (Stevia)

It is a common non-nutritive sweetener which is usually used in soft drinks and all types of juice. It is made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and is non-caloric. It is said to be safe during pregnancy.

2. Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett)

This sweetener is used in cakes, desserts, gelatins, puddings and beverages. It is safe during pregnancy but should be taken in moderation.

3. Aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet)

It is the commonest among all artificial sweeteners and can be used in food and drinks. Aspartame is said to be non-toxic to the mother and the baby in the womb. However, it should be taken in moderation and women with a condition of phenylketonuria should avoid it totally.

4. Sucralose (Splenda)

It is a common sweetener and researches have shown no signs of malformation on the fetus or ill effect on the fetus even when taken in high doses during pregnancy.

5. Xylitol

It is a sugar alcohol which is extracted out of plants. It is used in chewing gum, toothpaste and lozenges mostly. It is almost half the calories of sugar. It prevents tooth decay and promotes oral health. However, it should be taken in moderation during pregnancy.

6. Polyols

They are naturally occurring compounds that are manufactured commercially. They are said to be safe but should be taken in moderation.

Woman drinking tea with sweetener

Which Sugar Alternatives Are Unsafe While Pregnant?

Some sugar alternatives are safe in a few ways and unsafe by a few. Like stevia while pregnant is absolutely safe and the stevia pregnancy side effects are the same as that of Splenda. However, these effects occur only in few of them, which mean there will always be a difference of opinion as to what is good or bad.

Listed below are some of the artificial sweeteners to avoid during pregnancy.

1. Sorbitol

Unlike many other artificial sweeteners, Sorbitol is a nutritive sweetener. However, pregnant women taking sorbitol may suffer from unpleasant episodes of gas, and in case of high dosage, it can cause loose motion and dehydration. It also leads to weight gain during pregnancy since it has more calories and comparatively less sweetness than the other sugar substitutes.

2. Mannitol

Although it is a nutritive sweetener which is good during pregnancy, the body cannot absorb it well making it uneasy on the stomach.

3. Lactose

It is not an unsafe alternative for all pregnant women but people with lactose intolerance should avoid it.

4. Cyclamate

It has been banned since it is said to cause cancer. It is high in toxicity which may cause harm to the foetus and therefore should not be taken during pregnancy.

5. Saccharin

Although the artificial sweetener has been deemed safe by organisations, it may be so according to many. Saccharin is said to reach the baby in the womb through the placenta and remains accumulated in there for a long time. This poses a risk on the foetus. It is also said to cause bladder cancer if consumed for a long time.

Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners in Pregnancy

Here are few of the side effects of artificial sweeteners in pregnancy.

  • Sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners consists of chemical compounds instead of natural sugar which increases your hunger. Therefore, you may have a tendency to gain excess weight.
  • The side-effects of artificial sweeteners can cause health issues like headaches, dizziness, stomach cramps, loose motion, bladder cancer, brain tumour etc.
  • Some artificial sweeteners like saccharin if taken in excess may cause foetus malformations and birth defects.
  • Artificial sweeteners are mostly non-nutritive which means it gives no nutrition to the mother or the foetus.
  • It may also cause gas problems and bowel problems in some people.

Precautionary Tips

while you may be tempted to substitute sugar in everything with an artificial sweetener, here are some precautionsyou must exercise while using artificial sweeteners.

  • During pregnancy, one needs to be very cautious as to what one takes in since it may affect the foetus. Therefore, the foremost thing that one must do before starting on an artificial sweetener in pregnancy is consulting a doctor.
  • Always consume artificial sweeteners in moderation. Too much of it may cause health issues or affect the foetus.
  • Pregnant women with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) should not take Aspartame since it stops the breaking up of phenylalanine in their diet.

There has been a conflict of opinions on whether using artificial sweetener during pregnancy is safe or not. Some consider it to be safe while some do not. However, consuming it in moderation during pregnancy is the key which everyone will agree to.

Also Read: Is It Safe To Eat Excessive Sweets during Pregnancy?