Q. I am 25-weeks pregnant and I have a major caffeine problem. I drink soda four to five times a day. I would like to know if soda is harmful to my unborn baby, and if it is, what harm does it do?
A. As a general guideline for foods and drinks during pregnancy, if it isn't good for mother, it isn't good for the baby. Most sodas have a nutritional double fault -- too much sugar and too much caffeine -- not to mention artificial colors and flavors. The sugar/caffeine combination sends bodies and minds on an uncomfortable, and unhealthy, biochemical roller coaster ride. Here's the scoop on soda:
The repeated ups and downs don't just make you feel bad -- it has a definite impact on your baby. A steady insulin level is important for your baby's optimal growth. When you do drink sodas, drink them with meals containing protein, fat, and fiber, which slow the absorption of the sugars into your bloodstream.
Don't be misled by that common sugar substitute, high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is just as bad for your body. In fact, recent research suggests that beverages with high fructose corn syrup are prime contributors to the epidemic of childhood and adult obesity. And don't think that you are making a smarter decision by drinking diet sodas. Artificial sweeteners have never convincingly been proven safe during pregnancy. Plus, diet sodas still contain caffeine.
There are other side effects of caffeine that pregnant women should watch out for. Excess caffeine during the day can interfere with the quality of your sleep -- sleep that you certainly need while pregnant. And beverages with caffeine have a diuretic effect, which may contribute to dehydration, constipation, and extra trips to the bathroom during the night.
I definitely recommend you wean yourself off caffeine-containing sodas while pregnant. Just don't buy them -- out of sight is out of stomach. When you have to drive to get a caffeine-containing drink, you'll think twice. Try a comforting cup of warm water instead. It's calorie-free and junk-food-free. You owe it to your health -- and that of your baby -- to have as pure a diet as possible during your pregnancy.