Experiencing a UTI (urinary tract infection) during pregnancy is common, but that doesn’t make them any less uncomfortable, even downright painful. Cranberry juice has long been touted as an easy home remedy to prevent UTIs, but does the juice lead to any adverse effects while pregnant?
Pasteurized cranberry juice is safe to drink during pregnancy. Here, we explore which juice is best, as well as the safety of fresh and dried cranberries, too. Cranberries are full of antioxidants, vitamin C, and can even help prevent pesky UTIs during pregnancy. However, it’s best to avoid cranberry pills when pregnant, as their safety is not verified.
Juice might be the most popular way most of us enjoy cranberry, but what about cranberry pills, dried cranberries, and even cranberry sauce – are those safe too?
Is It Safe to Drink Cranberry Juice When Pregnant?
All juices come with a few safety considerations, and cranberry juice is no exception.
Whether you drink pure cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktail (such as cran-apple), bacterial infection is the biggest safety risk. Pasteurization is the process of heating, in this case juice, to a high temperature in order to kill off bacteria (source: Michigan State Extension).
When you drink unpasteurized juice, you run the risk of getting ill as a result of harmful bacteria.
During pregnancy, it is best to steer clear of any juice that is not fully pasteurized. Most commercially available cranberry juices are pasteurized, especially cranberry juice mixes or juice cocktails. When shopping, be sure to read the product label and look for terms such as “pasteurized” or “heat-treated.”
In the US, all unpasteurized juices, aside from juice sold by the glass at restaurants, are required to display a warning label, alerting you that the product has not been pasteurized (source: FDA).
Note: juice cocktail is used in this article to refer to a mixture of juices, and not alcoholic cocktails.
In a unique, but very helpful turn, cranberry juice has been at the center of many pregnancy studies.
Overwhelmingly, research shows that cranberry juice is safe, including that babies born to mothers who eat cranberries or drink cranberry juice while pregnant are equally as healthy (source: BMC, Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Mount Sinai).
Cranberry juice does have a relatively high concentration of oxalate, which causes kidney stones in some folks. While an occasional glass of cranberry juice is likely not enough to form a stone, if you have a history of kidney stones discuss the risks with your medical provider before drinking cranberry juice regularly (source: Mount Sinai).
Is Cranberry Juice Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits
Cranberry juice might be the single most popular home remedy when it comes to preventing UTIs. And largely, scientific research shows that drinking cranberry juice does work, though these benefits are limited to 100% unsweetened cranberry juice (source: BMC, American Pregnancy Association).
Drinking cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs and associated physical symptoms, like a burning sensation during urination, but is not a cure. Be sure to take any medication you are provided by your healthcare provider for the treatment of a UTI.
The health benefits of cranberries go beyond just preventing UTIs, however.
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants (source: Wisconsin Cranberries, Mount Sinai). Both of these nutrients help to strengthen the immune system, which is weakened during pregnancy.
Similar to nearly all other fruit juices, the process of making cranberry juice strips the fruit of fiber. And while whole cranberries are also a good source of fiber, cranberry juice is lacking in this area. If you’re struggling with pregnancy-related constipation, whole dried or fresh cranberries are a better option.
Another consideration is sugar content. Juice is often thought of as a healthier alternative to sodas, however, juice drinks can contain just as much added sugars. 8 ounces of cran-apple juice cocktail contains 23 grams of added sugars, nearly identical to the 26 grams of added sugar in 8 ounces of Coca-Cola!
To reap the antioxidant and UTI-prevention benefits of cranberry juice, look for products labeled as 100% juice.
Cranberry juice does make quite a delicious and easy mocktail ingredient. The bitterness of the berries tone down the sweetness level, as the lack of alcohol leaves many mocktails to be quite sweet. For a fun, pregnancy-friendly cranberry mocktail stir together:
- 6 ounces ginger ale
- A splash of 100% unsweetened cranberry juice
- Juice from ½ of a lime
Recipe adapted from The Bettered Blondie
Are Cranberry Pills or Supplements Safe During Pregnancy?
Creating new life during pregnancy can also come with a lot of unintended health effects for the pregnant mother, including pesky UTIs. We’ve already talked about drinking cranberry juice to prevent and treat symptoms of UTIs, but do cranberry pills or supplements work as well?
Cranberry supplements are most often marketed for the prevention or treatment of UTIs and come in pill, extract, tablet, sachet, or gummy form. Azo Cranberry is the most common brand, but Hum, Olly, and even drug stores offer their own line of cranberry supplements for urinary health.
Unlike cranberry juice which has been studied during pregnancy, we don’t have enough research to determine the safety of cranberry supplements while expecting (source: Drugs). Cranberry pills or supplements are therefore best avoided when pregnant. What’s more, cranberry pills, including Azo Cranberry, are considered dietary supplements and are not regulated by the FDA.
If you’re looking to cranberry products in order to ward off UTIs during pregnancy it is best to stick to eating cranberries and drinking pasteurized cranberry juices.
Does Cranberry Juice Cleanse Your System When Pregnant?
Many expecting women are on the search for a “natural” detox while pregnant, particularly if cranberry juice works for this purpose. While detoxes may seem like a healthy thing to do, they are not at all necessary. Your body already detoxifies itself- that’s the whole job of your kidneys and liver!
The antioxidants in cranberries and cranberry juice can help calm inflammation inside your body, but drinking a glass (or two or three) of cranberry juice won’t “detox” you any more than your own internal organs already can (source: Mayo Clinic). Eating a healthy diet and hydrating properly is a much better way to ‘detox’ when you’re pregnant.
Are Dried Cranberries Good During Pregnancy?
Dried cranberries, also affectionately known as the branded Craisins, are a tasty way to get more nutrition out of the fruit.
Since dried cranberries are whole berries, you not only get the vitamin C and antioxidant benefits, but also fiber. Cranberries do tend to be quite tart on their own, so many versions of dried cranberries are sweetened, though you can find varieties with less added sugar.
Just like cranberry juice, dried cranberries are safe to enjoy while pregnant. If you need to watch your added sugar or carbohydrate consumption for medical reasons, be sure to keep an eye on the serving size. Dried cranberries are compact, and a small handful goes a long way.
You can read more here about the best dried fruits you can choose during your pregnancy.
Is Cranberry Sauce OK During Pregnancy?
Cranberry sauce is a holiday dinner staple and many pregnant women worry about having to give up this part of their seasonal tradition. Luckily for cranberry sauce lovers, this dish can be totally pregnancy safe with a few considerations.
Canned/tinned cranberry sauce, both “chunky” and “jelly” styles, are safe to enjoy during pregnancy and do not require heating before serving. These items have already been heated during the canning process in order to stop bacteria from growing while on store shelves.
Fresh cranberry sauce can also be a safe part of your pregnancy diet. Fresh cranberry sauce sold in the deli section should be avoided. While the high acidity of cranberry sauce will help to inhibit bacteria from growing, deli items are still notorious for their risk of Listeria contamination.
Tough cranberry sauce is occasionally served warm, unless you choose to serve your cranberry sauce “steaming hot” at 165°F, the dish won’t be warm enough in order to kill off bacteria.
Homemade fresh cranberry sauce is the safest option, as you can ensure you’re taking the proper washing and sanitizing measures to keep your food safe.
If you’re reading this because cranberry sauce is on your Thanksgiving menu, you’ll definitely need our holiday guide to eating safely, too!
Can I Drink Cranberry Tea When Pregnant?
The uniquely juicy yet tart flavor of cranberry tea is enough to make just about anyone warm up on a cold day. But what is labeled as cranberry tea is sometimes cranberry leaf tea.
Traditionally, cranberry tea is made from actual berries and is considered a caffeine-free herbal tea. These teas may label the cranberry as “cranberry fiber” or “cranberry fruit,” both of which refer to the actual berry. Many cranberry teas blend together multiple fluids, including raspberry, apple, and pomegranate.
Cranberry leaf tea, on the other hand, uses the leaves and has been described as tasting more similar to black tea (source: Tea in the City). If not combined with a caffeinated tea lead, such as black or green tea, then it will also brew a non-caffeinated cup.
Unfortunately, there is very little information on the safety of cranberry leaf tea, but teas made from the berry follow the same guidelines for eating the berry and are safe to drink during pregnancy. Be sure to check the nutrition label on any tea you purchase to check for unintended ingredients and caffeine.
Overall, if you’re looking to prevent UTIs, drinking cranberry juice has been shown to be both safe and effective. Fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C are just a few other reasons cranberries can benefit your pregnancy diet. Choosing only pasteurized juices, homemade or canned/tinned cranberry sauce minimized risk of foodborne illness.
It’s best to skip cranberry pills during pregnancy, as we don’t yet have enough research to determine how cranberry supplements might affect your unborn baby.