Soda, pop, or coke. No matter what you call it, nothing quite compares to the first refreshing sip on a hot afternoon or after a long day. Ginger ale is even known as a home remedy for morning sickness.
However, this popular drink has gotten its fair share of bad press in recent years.
With this in mind, is soda safe to continue drinking during pregnancy, or should it stay stashed away in your pantry until after baby?
Soda is safe to enjoy when pregnant, in moderation. You should keep in mind overall hydration, added sugar, and caffeine intake when drinking soda during pregnancy.
Calorie-free, neon-colored fruity flavors, with or without caffeine- oh my! Soda comes in nearly endless varieties.
Some soda ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners and caffeine have nutrition considerations to take into account when expecting.
I’ll dive into the safety of these ingredients, different types of sodas, and their considerations during pregnancy to help keep you and baby safe and healthy.
This article is an overview of different soda types including soda water, diet soda, and non-caffeinated versions.
Craving Soda During Pregnancy
Soda is a common pregnancy craving. There’s no reason to be alarmed if all you can think about while you’re expecting is a cool can of soda.
The reason why we crave certain foods during pregnancy is still largely unknown.
Given that pregnancy hormones can alter your sense of taste and smell, it’s not surprising that some foods may start to feel extra appealing -or unappealing (source: Ecology of Food and Nutrition). Cravings are suspected to be impacted by culture too. For example, studies noted that almost 50% of American women crave chocolate on menstruation onset, but women from other ethnic backgrounds, were less likely to crave it (source: PlosOne). So, if you liked soda before you were pregnant, it makes sense to start craving it.
Soda is generally safe during pregnancy, however, it should be consumed in moderation due to the high sugar content. Many sodas also contain caffeine, which should be limited during pregnancy.
You might find that sparkling water or iced tea can help manage these cravings. There are also sugar-free sodas like Zevia, which are sweetened with stevia. Stevia is safe during pregnancy, so this may be a healthier option too.
Is Soda Bad For You When You’re Pregnant?
Soda has come to be a pretty general term for fizzy drinks, but they’re not all created equal.
How “bad” soda is during pregnancy depends on its ingredients, including sugar, caffeine and other considerations, and how much of it you drink.
Sweetened, carbonated sodas have been the topic of much research lately, including the effects of soda drinking on pregnancy and babies.
No matter how often you reach for a bottle of the fizzy stuff, it’s important to know the effects sodas can have on your health and safety.
I’ll discuss both soda water, also known as club soda, and the more common sweetened soda drinks separately below.
Can Drinking Soda Cause Miscarriage?
As an expecting mother, there may be no more terrifying topic than the loss of a pregnancy, but what, if any, impact does soda have?
There are lots of potential causes for a miscarriage, and soda may play a small role.
A study published in 2018 found that mothers who consumed >400 mg of caffeine daily were at increased risk for miscarriage (Source: European Journal of Nutrition).
Soda was one of the beverages studied and while the caffeine in soda contributed to a higher risk of miscarriage, the researchers found that soda itself was not a risk factor.
This means that if you are planning a pregnancy or are expecting, limiting caffeine is the most important consideration when it comes to soda.
Caffeine in Soda When You’re Pregnant
Most women are familiar with the advice to limit their caffeine intake while pregnant and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a limit of 300 mg caffeine daily for pregnant women (source: WHO).
The caffeine in soda also means these sodas won’t hydrate you as effectively, because the caffeine causes you to pee more.
For women with pregnancy-related incontinence, a greater need to use the restroom might be a compelling reason to opt for non-caffeinated versions.
Sodas vary in their caffeine content, so it’s important to read the label to understand how much caffeine you might be drinking.
Below are some common sodas and their caffeine contents per 12 oz (355 mL). More details on caffeine-free sodas are found below.
|Caffeine (mg/12 oz)
|Barq’s root beer
|Mountain Dew- original
As you can see, most soda drinks can contain a hefty amount of caffeine, and it can mount up if you drink it often.
Bear in mind that special soda types like energy drinks can be even higher in caffeine, and we cover the safety of energy drinks during pregnancy here.
Is Caffeine-Free Soda Safe During Pregnancy?
As I talked about earlier, caffeine should be limited during pregnancy.
Luckily for women with a craving for sodas during pregnancy, many popular sodas are either naturally caffeine-free or are sold in a non-caffeinated version, making it easier to abide by the WHO guidelines.
Caffeine-free sodas, like most root beers, ginger ale, and other light-colored sodas, can be a better choice than caffeinated varieties for women who have already had a caffeinated beverage in the day.
While caffeine-free sodas are handy when it comes to decreasing caffeine intake, added sugars or other sweeteners will still be part of the ingredients lists in caffeine-free sodas.
Though caffeine isn’t a consideration for these beverages, it’s still best to drink caffeine-free sodas in moderation due to the sweeteners or sugar, which is discussed more below.
Sugar in Soda and Its Effect During Pregnancy
Another thing to consider when it comes to soda drinking during pregnancy is sugar.
“Regular” soda is considered to be a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) because the primary sweetener is usually a type of sugar.
Numerous studies over the years say that mothers who drink SSBs during their pregnancy are more likely to have a preterm birth, give birth to a low-birth-weight infant, suffer from preeclampsia, and develop gestational diabetes (source: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society).
In addition, drinking SSBs during pregnancy has been associated with the child going on to carry excess weight later on in their childhood (source: Pediatrics).
While the effects of drinking SSBs on pregnancy outcome and the health of the baby may seem alarming, the negative effects were only seen when the mother drank SSBs regularly, or more than 5 servings per week.
With this is mind, reserving sodas for an occasional treat and enjoying in moderation is safest for mom and baby.
Is Diet Soda Safe When Pregnant?
Knowing that you need to avoid high doses of sugary soda, you may have wondered if diet sodas are safer during pregnancy.
Low-calorie, diet, and “zero” sodas are all sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners.
These sweeteners can be both natural, such as stevia, or artificial, like aspartame. Natural or artificial, none of these sweeteners provide calories, hence the name “non-nutritive sweeteners.”
Diet sodas are often thought of as the healthier alternative to regular sodas since there’s no sugar, but that’s not necessarily true.
Non-nutritive sweeteners haven’t been studied much when it comes to pregnancy, especially as they are a relatively new thing.
However, even in non-pregnant people, the sweeteners can cause a change in how sugars are used by the body, how much insulin is made, and fat storage, all vital responsibilities of the body during pregnancy (source: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
While they’re generally regarded as safe, because we don’t know how non-nutritive sweeteners might affect pregnant women and their babies long term, it’s best to consume them in moderation when expecting.
How Much Soda Is Safe When Pregnant?
Given how sodas can have an excess of added sugars and contribute caffeine, how much is too much?
There’s no hard and fast rule on how often is too often.
Therefore in order to keep caffeine intake low and limit consumption of added sugars and sweeteners, moderation is key and it is best to drink no more than 4-5 servings of soda weekly – in other words, it’s best not to drink it every day, or in large amounts.
If you’re craving soda but want to decrease the amount of soda you drink, choose cans instead of bottles, as these are often a smaller size with the same fizzy kick.
If you’re searching for an alternative option, give either seltzers or a mixture of 100% juice and soda a try.
Both of these options offer flavor and can satisfy a craving for carbonation without risks of caffeine or excess added sugars.
We also have an article on ten drinks pregnant women can enjoy besides water, if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Can I Drink Coke Whilst Pregnant?
Like other varieties of soda, you can drink Coke in moderation during pregnancy, though it’s probably best to try to switch to healthier drinks if you can.
There’s nothing different or special about the ingredients in Coke that you need to look out for.
Treat Coke exactly the same way you would other sodas – in other words, the information in this article also applies directly to Coke, too, especially with regard to caffeine and sugar content.
Is Diet Coke Safer During Pregnancy?
Like the original recipe Coke, you can drink Diet Coke or Coke Zero during pregnancy, but in moderation.
As we’ve already discussed in this article, Diet Coke will still contain sweeteners, even though it doesn’t have as much sugar.
However, Diet Coke contains MORE caffeine than regular Coke, so you’ll need to bear this in mind if you’re drinking it instead of the original recipe Coke during pregnancy.
A 12oz can of regular Coke has 34mg caffeine, whereas Diet Coke has 46mg (source: Coca-Cola Company).
Coke Zero has the same amount of caffeine – 34mg per 12oz serving – as regular Coke.
Although it’s also advertised as having no calories or sugar, it still has sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium. This is deemed safe by the FDA, but there are very few studies on these sweeteners in pregnancy.
For all the above reasons, yes, you can drink Diet Coke and Coke Zero during pregnancy, but it’s best in moderation.
Can I Drink Sprite During Pregnancy?
Sprite is fine to drink during pregnancy, in moderation. One advantage over similar drinks like Coke is that Sprite is caffeine-free.
However, Sprite’s main ingredients after water are high-fructose corn syrup (or sugar, in some countries) and flavorings, none of which are particularly beneficial during pregnancy.
One 12oz can of Sprite contains 38g of sugars, which also puts it into the same SSB (sugar-sweetened beverage) category as most other sodas.
As previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of SSBs during pregnancy.
The same caution about sugary sodas also applies to Sprite – if you want to drink Sprite from time to time, you can, but it’s best in small amounts and even better to choose healthier drinks throughout your pregnancy.
Can Soda Help with Pregnancy Nausea?
Soda such as ginger ale or Coke is sometimes anecdotally recommended as a good way to combat morning sickness or pregnancy-related nausea.
There isn’t much science to support this, and it’s more a case of what works for each person individually (source: WebMD).
There is one theory that the carbonation in fizzy drinks may help to reduce the acidity in the stomach, but this is unproven (source: WSJ).
Another common misconception is that flat Coke or flat soda might help nausea. However, a recent review of the medical literature surrounding this revealed that there was no clear evidence of it helping (source: NYT).
The conclusion? If sipping Coke or soda – whether it’s flat or fizzy – makes you feel better than by all means, use it in moderation to combat nausea. However, be aware that what works for one person may not work for another.
If you’re suffering from nausea or morning sickness and want some more ideas on what works, we also have an extensive article on food that can fight nausea, too.
Soda Water / Plain Soda / Club Soda During Pregnancy
Soda water, plain soda, and club soda all refer to unsweetened carbonated water, and not the sweetened beverages discussed above.
We know hydration is important during pregnancy, but does soda water count?
Because these drinks are really just plain water with carbon dioxide (the same kind of carbon dioxide that you breathe out) added to create bubbles, they hydrate you just as well as plain still water (source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center).
Even versions with added flavors, such as lemon, provide the same hydration.
Flavored or plain, soda waters are perfectly safe and a fun alternative for hydration during pregnancy, but soda – the sweetened flavored beverage, is best consumed in moderation.
For more on the safety of beverages when pregnant, you might like: