Many women feel tired during pregnancy, and exhaustion is particularly common during the first trimester. You might have wondered if it’s safe to reach for your favorite energy drink during this time, or if it carries risks for you or your baby.
Energy drinks are not recommended for pregnant women, as they usually contain very high amounts of caffeine, sugar, and other additives. Caffeine can be harmful during pregnancy in very high doses, and consuming too much sugar during pregnancy may cause other health conditions such as diabetes.
In many countries, energy drinks carry warnings that they’re not suitable for pregnant women or those sensitive to caffeine.
In this article, I break down the reasons why you should avoid energy drinks when pregnant, and what you could do to boost your energy levels instead.
What Are The Risks of Drinking Energy Drinks When Pregnant?
The main reason that pregnant women are told to avoid energy drinks is that they are usually classed as dietary or sports supplements, and they contain a variety of ingredients that aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
The biggest concern about drinking energy drinks during pregnancy is the high amount of caffeine that they contain. Pregnant women should reduce their caffeine consumption to 200mg-300mg a day, depending on individual government guidelines (source: WHO).
Depending on the brand, some energy drinks can contain up to 300 milligrams of caffeine per single serving, taking you up to or above the maximum recommended caffeine level in just one drink (source: Center for Science).
Caffeine overdose caused by energy drinks is one of the most prevalent problems seen in Emergency rooms in the USA (source: Journal of Public Health). People are often unaware of just how much caffeine these drinks contain.
If you really want an energy drink, you could check the food label and stick to lower caffeine options. However, it’s better to avoid them altogether, as they also have other ingredients that could also be harmful in high amounts, like sugar, covered below:
Sugar and Sweeteners
Another reason to avoid energy drinks when you’re pregnant is that they’re usually high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. Even a drink labeled ‘sugar-free’ or ‘zero-calorie’ is likely to contain sweeteners.
An Irish study found that some energy drinks can contain up to 17 teaspoons (69g) sugar in a single 500ml can, and contain as much caffeine as two espresso shots (source: SafeFood EU).
Excess sugar or sweeteners should be avoided during pregnancy, particularly if you have any risk of diabetes (including gestational diabetes) or have any insulin resistance (source: APA).
Even if you don’t have diabetes, the sugar content in energy drinks can add up to many calories – and excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause many complications (source: Mayo Clinic).
Other Ingredients and Regulation
In many countries, energy drinks aren’t regulated in the same way as normal food or beverages, and it’s left down to the manufacturers to accurately state the ingredients on the nutrition label.
Many energy drinks contain added ingredients such as herbal or fruit extracts, or amino acids such as taurine. Scientific studies are limited on the pregnancy safety of many of these additives.
What’s more confusing is that some brands DO get classed as beverages rather than supplements, and some don’t. For example, in the USA, Monster Energy is classed as a regular beverage, yet other similar drinks are classed as dietary supplements (source: FIDJ Law).
The law across the European Union is more strict, and any energy drink containing high levels of caffeine not only has to state the caffeine content on the food label, but also print a warning that the drink is “not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women” (source: UNESDA).
This warning often appears on drinks produced in the USA and elsewhere, too.
To summarize, it’s best to avoid energy drinks during pregnancy. The two common ingredients – caffeine and sugar/sweeteners, aren’t beneficial to you or your baby and could be harmful in large amounts.
If you have had an energy drink before realizing, there’s no need to panic as no single ingredient has been found to be directly harmful in moderation. However, it’s best to limit or stop drinking energy drinks for the duration of your pregnancy.
Energy Drink Brands During Pregnancy
I know that when you’re pregnant it’s good to have specifics, so here are a few of the most popular energy drink brands, and how much caffeine and sugar they contain.
Bear in mind that none of these are recommended during pregnancy, and there is no ‘best energy drink’ for pregnant women because it’s safer to get an energy boost in other ways – some ideas and tips for this are given later in this article.
|Energy Drink Brand
|Monster Energy (Original) 500ml can
|Red Bull (Original) 8.4 fl oz can (250ml)
|VPX Bang! (Star Blast) 16 fl oz (473ml) can
|None, but contains the sweetener sucralose
|V8 Energy 8 fl oz can
|Rockstar Energy Original 16 fl oz can (473ml)
|5 Hour Energy Shot 1.93 fl oz (57ml)
|Not stated. Estimated to be around 215mgNone, but contains sweetener sucralose
What To Drink For Energy When Pregnant
After reading this article, you might be understandably disappointed that it’s not recommended to battle pregnancy fatigue by having energy drinks.
When you’re feeling exhausted and listless during pregnancy, there are other ways of getting an energy boost that is much better for you and your baby.
Other good advice applies, like taking more naps or practicing better sleep hygiene, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on drinks that can give you an energy boost – since you probably arrived here looking to see if energy drinks were okay.
Hydrate more – but it doesn’t have to be boring water.
Dehydration can sap your energy and leave you feeling tired (source: WebMD). Your fluid needs increase during pregnancy, so one of the first steps you can take to combat fatigue. For inspiration, check my article on ten drinks you can enjoy when pregnant, besides water.
Try to eat (or drink) protein and complex carbs – this will minimize any blood sugar spikes that can give you a ‘crash’ later and result in more tiredness (source: WebMD).
Good options during pregnancy include milk or smoothies that contain blitzed nuts or seeds, or other sources like peanut butter (source: Harvard Nutrition).
Choose lower sugar juices – if you want to drink juice to hydrate during pregnancy, opt for lower sugar options made from veg, include tomato or carrot juice. Check the label for added sugar or sweeteners, or make your own. Try to include the pulp to increase the fiber content, too.
Remember that extreme fatigue can be a sign of another problem during pregnancy, such as anemia (low iron levels). If you’re experiencing extreme tiredness often, or if it’s severe, it’s wise to check in with your health provider to make sure there are no underlying problems (source: NHS).
Can Energy Drinks Affect A Pregnancy Test?
None of the ingredients commonly found in energy drinks can directly affect a pregnancy test.
However, pregnancy tests rely on a sufficient concentration of a hormone called HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin).
This hormone is produced when the embryo implantation has occurred and can be detected in urine about 12-14 days after conception. Most at-home pregnancy tests give a positive result after the hormone level reaches around above 25 mIU/mL (source: APA).
So, what has this got to do with energy drinks and pregnancy tests? The only way an energy drink can affect a pregnancy test is if you drank a large can (e.g. one of the bigger 500ml servings). Caffeine is a diuretic and makes you pee more (source: PubMed). This might alter the concentration of HCG in your urine.
However, on the whole, if you follow the test instructions correctly (usually involving taking the pregnancy test in the morning, when HCG is typically more concentrated in your urine), then there’s little chance that energy drinks can interfere with a test.
If you suspect you may be pregnant, but keep getting negative tests, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or healthcare provider.
Can Energy Drinks Induce Labor?
Drinking too much caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of pre-term birth (source: APA). For this reason, caffeine – such as that found in energy drinks – has been touted as one of the methods to induce labor, though there is no scientific evidence that caffeine or energy drinks can induce labor.
There are various myths and techniques floating around the internet, from simply drinking caffeine (like in energy drinks) or squatting over a hot cup of coffee to get the labor process going – but none of these are recommended as a way to induce labor, and may do more harm than good.
Trying to induce labor is best left to your doctor or midwife. If you have any concerns, it’s wise to speak to them before trying any untested or home remedies to induce labor.
You might also be interested in:
- The ultimate pregnancy guide to decaf coffee and tea
- The caffeine levels in chocolate – how much chocolate can you eat when you’re pregnant? Find out here.
- Ten drinks you can enjoy when pregnant, besides water