Is It Safe to Drink Energy Drinks During Pregnancy?

Why Energy Drinks are Not Recommended During Pregnancy

Woman shopping for energy drinks in the supermarket
Young777 / Getty Images

People worldwide drink energy drinks to increase exercise performance and sharpen mental focus and alertness—and just because they like the taste. But should you consume energy drinks if you are pregnant?

Experts recommend avoiding energy drinks while pregnant because of the high caffeine content and other ingredients. In addition, most energy drink companies voluntarily post advisory statements on their labels, discouraging those who are pregnant and breastfeeding from consuming them.

This article explains the most common ingredients in energy drinks and why you should avoid them when pregnant.

Loading shell for quizzesApp1 vue props component in Globe.

The Health Concerns

When pregnant, a placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. The nutrients in the food you eat get passed on to your baby, including ingredients in energy drinks.

While some research has been done on ingredients like caffeine, researchers don't know all of the effects of the ingredients in energy drinks. Because different energy drinks contain different cocktails of ingredients in varying amounts, it would be near impossible to weigh in on every energy drink product individually (not to mention difficult to test ethically). However, experts generally agree that energy drinks of all kinds are not safe during pregnancy.

Stress

In studies where pregnant mice were given a small amount of energy drink daily during their pregnancy, newborn mice had oxidative stress (when free radicals lead to cell and tissue damage), tissue injury, and anxiety.

While the study was conducted on animals, researchers concluded that consuming energy drinks during pregnancy and lactation could negatively impact humans, as well.

High Levels of Caffeine

The American Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics considers energy drinks to be any beverage that contains a stimulant or vitamins intended to increase energy. Due to the known risks of high levels of caffeine during pregnancy and unknown dangers of other ingredients, they advise avoiding energy drinks during pregnancy.

"Energy drinks are not recommended during pregnancy as they may contain high levels of caffeine, and other ingredients not recommended for pregnant women," says Emily Mitchell, MS, RD, CSSD, CDE, CLT, who was formerly Center for Fetal Medicine's in-house dietitian and nutritionist. "Energy drinks are also not regulated by the FDA as they fall into the category of food supplements. Supplements are not regulated and may contain ingredients that are not listed in the label."

Cardiovascular Responses

Numerous studies have tested cardiovascular responses in people who drink sugar-sweetened energy drinks. However, the results of these studies vary, depending on the type of energy drink and measurement tools used.

Some studies have documented increased systolic blood pressure and increased heartbeat after energy drink consumption. A 2015 review of adverse health events related to energy drinks found that more than 50% of case reports were related to cardiovascular responses.

Although the studies were not conducted on pregnant people, cardiovascular responses are concerning during pregnancy, and therefore, it is wise to avoid stimulants, like energy drinks when pregnant.

Recap

Experts advise against energy drinks during pregnancy because they generally contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, and they may cause stress and increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Energy Drinks vs. Sports Drinks

Energy drinks are commonly displayed next to sports drinks in grocery and convenience stores. However, it is essential not to confuse energy drinks with sports drinks.

Sports Drinks
  • No caffeine

  • For hydration and electrolyte balance

  • Prevents dehydration

Energy Drinks
  • High levels of caffeine

  • For increased energy and alertness

  • Can make dehydration worse

It's always important to be label savvy and read labels of all beverages before consuming.

Which Ingredients Are Problematic?

The ingredients in energy drinks vary depending on the manufacturer. In addition, many energy drinks contain a combination of ingredients that create an energy blend. The problem with these concoctions is that it is tough to determine which ingredients can cause adverse symptoms. Therefore, carefully reading labels is important, even when not pregnant.

Caffeine

One of the main concerns in energy drinks during pregnancy is the amount of caffeine. For example, a 16-ounce energy drink may contain between 70 and 240 mg of caffeine. For comparison, a 12-ounce can of cola contains about 35 mg of caffeine, and a 6-ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 mg.

Energy Shots

Energy shots are condensed forms of energy drinks sold in 2 to 2.5 oz. containers. Caffeine is a primary ingredient and ranges from 113 to 200 mg in every shot. 

Caffeine overdose can cause seizures, psychosis, and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).

"Too much caffeine can raise blood pressure and heart rate. It affects the nervous system and can cause irritability, nervousness, and sleeplessness," says Mitchell. "The evidence of caffeine use in pregnancy is not conclusive, so it's best to limit."

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends limiting daily caffeine consumption to 200 mg or less during pregnancy. That's the equivalent of about 12 ounces of home-brewed coffee.

Concentrated Caffeine

Highly concentrated or pure caffeine products are different from energy drinks. They come in liquid or powdered form, and when mismeasured, can be toxic and even deadly.

Artificial Sweeteners

Some energy drinks contain non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are zero- or low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar. They help to add sweetness without adding calories and sugar.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of some nonnutritive sweeteners, including:

  • Acesulfame-K (brand names include Sunett and Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (brand names include NutraSweet and Equal)
  • Neotame (brand name Newtame)
  • Saccharin (brand name Sweet and Low)
  • Sucralose (brand name Splenda)
  • Stevia (brand names include Truvia and Pure Via)

Doctors consider most artificial sweeteners safe in moderation during pregnancy except for saccharin, which should be avoided when pregnant. That's because saccharin is carcinogenic (may cause cancer) and crosses the placenta.

Sugar

If energy drinks don't contain artificial sweeteners, they use sugar. Too much dietary sugar can contribute to excessive weight gain.

In addition, excess sugar can be a problem for those with gestational diabetes since this condition requires monitoring carbohydrate intake and limiting simple sugars to prevent large swings in blood sugar.

Taurine

Some energy drinks contain taurine. This essential amino acid is naturally found in animal-based foods (such as meat and dairy) and supports neurological development.

Though safe when consumed in food that naturally contains it, little is known about the effects of taurine during pregnancy in supplement form and when combined with energy drinks. However, taking a single amino acid, like taurine, as a supplement can affect metabolism and tax your kidneys meaning that it's best to avoid taurine supplements during pregnancy.

Ginseng

Ginseng is an Asian herbal supplement that has been used for thousands of years. Long-term safety is unknown; however, some animal studies indicate that it may cause birth defects.

Side effects of ginseng include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Breast pain
  • Digestive symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual problems

As a result, experts recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding people avoid taking ginseng.

Glucuronolactone

Glucuronolactone is derived from gluconic acid. Manufacturers primarily use it in food as a pickling, leavening, and curing agent. The FDA considers it generally recognized as safe when used as intended and at levels that meet good manufacturing practices.

There are limited human studies, but research has shown that common food additives in energy drinks, including glucuronolactone, can have a toxic effect on rats. Considering that it is not well studied in pregnancy, it is probably best to avoid it when pregnant.

Guarana

Guarana is a source of plant-derived caffeine. The guarana plant contains four times the amount of caffeine as coffee beans. It is often added to energy drinks for its stimulant effects.

Due to the potent caffeine, those who are pregnant should avoid consuming guarana.

Ginkgo Biloba

This herb comes from the leaves of the ginkgo tree and has been used in China for centuries. Some claim that it can improve memory, however, research has not substantiated these claims.

Side effects include:

  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Headache

Since studies in pregnancy are limited, it is prudent to avoid this product.

L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is derived from an amino acid and plays a role in energy production. It is often added to energy drinks to improve athletic performance though most studies have shown no effect on physical performance.

Taking more than 3 grams per day can result in side effects, including:

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • "Fishy" smelling body odor
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Muscle weakness and seizures may occur more rarely in people with preexisting conditions. As with any supplement, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before taking L-carnitine, especially if you are pregnant.

Yohimbe

Yohimbe comes from the bark of an evergreen tree native to Africa. It is commonly used in weight loss products and energy drinks. Proponents suggest it can help increase athletic performance, but there is not enough research to support these claims.

Heart attacks and seizures have been associated with yohimbe. In addition to these severe side effects, yohimbe may also cause the following:

  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach problems
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)

It may be unsafe to take during pregnancy, so it is best to avoid it.

B Vitamins

B vitamins help your body use the energy from food. However, the dose of B vitamins used in energy drinks may exceed recommended daily intakes. In addition, while manufacturers claim the vitamins enhance performance, there is a lack of research to support these claims.

B vitamins are water-soluble. That means if you take too much, you will excrete it in your urine. But adverse effects associated with high doses of B vitamins can occur. They include:

  • Flushing (burning, itching, redness on the face, arms, and chest)
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Nerve damage
  • Increased risk of hip fractures in older adults

Since energy drinks may contain higher than recommended doses of B vitamins, it's best to avoid them during pregnancy.

There Is No Universal Blend

All energy drinks are not created equal and do not contain the same ingredients. These differences can make understanding the effects of energy drinks as a category more difficult.

For example, one can of regular Redbull contains caffeine, taurine, sugar, and B vitamins, while Monster contains ginseng, carnitine, glucose, taurine, caffeine, guarana, inositol, glucuronolactone, and maltodextrin.

It's impossible to know the effects of the various ingredient blends and serving sizes, which also vary by brand. And because supplements, such as herbal blends, are not regulated by the FDA, it is not clear what these ingredients and combinations of ingredients can do to a pregnant body or fetus.

Recap

Energy drinks often contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants. Since you should limit caffeine, sugar, and artificial sweeteners and avoid certain herbs and additives during pregnancy, experts advise those who are pregnant to avoid energy drinks.

Can I Drink Them If I Am Breastfeeding?

It may be tempting to consume an energy drink to increase energy and alertness during the disrupted sleep schedules that often accompany the early stages of infancy and new parenthood. However, keep in mind that the caffeine in energy drinks can cross into your breast milk if you are breastfeeding.

Some infants can be sensitive to caffeine and may become irritable and experience sleep disturbances from the caffeine in breast milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting daily caffeine intake to 200–300 mg while breastfeeding, which is about two to three cups of coffee.

In addition, energy drinks often contain other herbal ingredients, which may interact with caffeine and other supplements you take, including vitamins. It's especially important to review labels and discuss diet with a healthcare provider when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Summary

Experts and energy drink manufacturers advise against consuming energy drinks while pregnant or breastfeeding. That's because ingredients like high levels of caffeine, herbs, and vitamins may not be safe during pregnancy and lactation. Read labels carefully and limit your daily caffeine intake to 200 mg while pregnant.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy and breastfeeding can result in low energy and sleeplessness, so it's understandable that parents look for solutions like energy drinks when they're feeling especially tired. However, the risks of energy drinks are greater than the benefits when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, so you should consider alternatives. When in doubt, talk to a healthcare provider.

Was this page helpful?
24 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Procter SB, Campbell CG. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(7):1099-103. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.05.005

  2. Al-Basher GI, Aljabal H, Almeer RS, Allam AA, Mahmoud AM. Perinatal exposure to energy drink induces oxidative damage in the liver, kidney and brain, and behavioral alterations in mice offspring. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:798-811. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.139

  3. Grasser EK, Miles-Chan JL, Charrière N, Loonam CR, Dulloo AG, Montani JP. Energy drinks and their impact on the cardiovascular system: Potential mechanisms. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(5):950-60. doi:10.3945/an.116.012526

  4. Ali F, Rehman H, Babayan Z, Stapleton D, Joshi DD. Energy drinks and their adverse health effects: A systematic review of the current evidence. Postgraduate Medicine. 2015;127(3):308-322. Doi: 10.1080/00325481.2015.1001712

  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Energy Drinks

  6. Cappelletti S, Piacentino D, Fineschi V, Frati P, Cipolloni L, Aromatario M. Caffeine-related deaths: Manner of deaths and categories at risk. Nutrients. 2018;10(5). doi:10.3390/nu10050611

  7. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. How much coffee can I drink while I'm pregnant?.

  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pure and highly concentrated caffeine.

  9. United States Department of Agriculture. Nutritive and non-nutritive sweetener resources.

  10. Bringham and Women's Hospital. Substances of concern during pregnancy.

  11. Bringam and Women's Hospital. Taurine.

  12. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Asian Ginseng.

  13. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sec. 184.1318 Glucono delta-lactone.

  14. Moustakas D, Mezzio M, Rodriguez BR, Constable MA, Mulligan ME, Voura EB. Guarana provides additional stimulation over caffeine alone in the planarian model. Holscher C, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(4):e0123310. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123310

  15. Brigham and Women's Hospital. Ginko Biloba.

  16. Linus Pauling Institute. L-Carnitine.

  17. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Carnitine.

  18. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yohimbe.

  19. Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin B6.

  20. Linus Pauling Institute. Niacin.

  21. Albertsons. Monster energy drink original green.

  22. Redbull. What's inside.

  23. Thorlton J, Ahmed A, Colby DA. Energy Drinks: Implications for the Breastfeeding Mother. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2016;41(3):179-85. doi:10.1097/NMC.0000000000000228

  24. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal diet.