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Can I Use Sweetener During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women have to give up all kinds of food and drink for the duration of their pregnancy. For instance, you will likely wait until after the baby has arrived to return to your favorite sushi place for fresh salmon rolls and sake. When you’re staring down the list of treats you can’t have for nine months, it’s easy to wonder just how far the restrictions go. For instance, can you use sweetener during pregnancy?

If you have a sweet tooth, the idea of foregoing all types of sweetener can be a bummer. Fortunately, most natural sweeteners are recognized as safe for pregnant women, as long as they are enjoyed sparingly. As explained by the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women can safely consume sweeteners such as table sugar in small amounts. That said, if you have a condition such as diabetes or insulin resistance, then you should consult with your doctor to determine the best way to enjoy sweets while staying healthy.

And what about honey? As explained by the Mayo Clinic, parents are warned not to give infants under one any honey because it may increase the risk of infant botulism. Meanwhile, there is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether eating honey while pregnant is completely safe. You can discuss the health risks with a trusted physician or just abstain from honey for the time being. But in general, most natural sweeteners are OK in moderation.  

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Artificial sweeteners are another option for pregnant women. A case in point, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the consumption of sugar substitutes does not present apparent risks to pregnant women, although enjoying them in moderation is recommended. In fact, artificial sweeteners may present some benefits as well. According to the American Heart Association, low or no-calorie artificial sweeteners may be a good option to avoid the excess weight gain or metabolic changes that may be associated with natural sweeteners. However, not all artificial sweeteners are created equal. As explained by the American Pregnancy Association (APA), rebaudioside A (Stevia), acesulfame potassium (Sunett), aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet), and sucralose (Splenda) are generally considered safe for pregnant women to consume. On the other hand, as further noted by the APA, saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) may cross the placenta to fetal tissue, so its safety remains questionable. Lastly, the use of cyclamates is banned in the United States, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, although there is not sufficient data to determine its effects on pregnant women.

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If this feels like an overwhelming amount of information — maybe you just want a little Stevia with your afternoon tea, don’t worry. As with many things, the decision of whether to consume natural or artificial sweeteners during pregnancy is a judgement call best made with the help of a physician who is familiar with your own personal health history.