Are Artificial Sweeteners OK to Consume During Pregnancy?

I'm 4 months pregnant and sometimes enjoy food and drinks that are artificially sweetened. But could I be causing harm to my baby?

There has been some controversy and debate about the safety of artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame and saccharin, but most health care professionals believe they're safe when used in moderation.

One thing that is clear is that you should avoid aspartame if you have the hereditary disease phenylketonuria, or PKU, in which the body can't break down the compound phenylalanine, found in aspartame. The jury is still out on whether saccharin is safe to use during pregnancy. Although it crosses the placenta and can accumulate in fetal tissue, there's not enough evidence to prove that it is harmful to an unborn baby.

The bottom line is it's OK to have an occasional diet soda or sugar-free food. Still, it's wise to check product labels and try to limit anything with artificial sweeteners (especially saccharin), just to be on the safe side. And check with your doctor about the safety of specific sweeteners, including any that are new on the market.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009

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