At times touted as a superfood, pomegranates contain: vitamin K and calcium, both of which are necessary for keeping your bones healthy, folate, a nutrient that’s essential for proper spinal development in baby, iron, a common deficiency in pregnancy that can lead to problems if excessive blood loss occurs during birth, protein, and fiber, which can be very important for pregnant folks with digestive troubles. Pomegranates can also provide a quick burst of energy when you’re feeling draggy during long afternoons—or really any time of the day that pregnancy fatigue hits.
There’s also research that suggests that pomegranate juice could be beneficial during pregnancy. Most of that work has been led by Michael Nelson, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2012, his group tested the effect of pomegranate juice on placental cells in a dish in the lab and on pregnant people between 35- and 38-weeks’ gestation. In the lab, the placental cells showed less evidence of damage when they’d been exposed to pomegranate juice as compared to cells that were just exposed to sugar water. They showed that the action of a specific component of the pomegranate juice could account for some of the decreases in damage and cell death in the cells grown in the lab.
In that study, pregnant people were enrolled when they were between 35 and 38 weeks pregnant and assigned to drink either pomegranate juice or apple juice (one eight-ounce glass each day) until they gave birth. The researchers collected samples from the participants’ placentas: four people who drank pomegranate juice and eight who drank apple juice. Then they looked for evidence of stress in the cells of the placental tissue and found that the placentas of people who drank pomegranate juice were less damaged than those who drank the apple juice.
In a follow-up study published in the same journal in 2013, some of the same researchers showed more about how the pomegranate juice may exert its positive effects. In short, they suspect that one of the antioxidants in the juice may decrease cellular stress, allowing placental cells to live for longer.
Because placental aging and damage are some of the main causes of complications at the end of pregnancy, this work could mean that drinking pomegranate juice helps pregnant people avoid complications.
In a paper published in 2019 in PLOS One, Michael Nelson, Terri Inder, and colleagues conducted a randomized (meaning participants were randomly assigned to part of the trial), controlled (meaning there were some people who got the treatment and some who got a placebo) pilot trial to test how maternal intake of pomegranate juice could affect babies with intrauterine growth restriction, a condition where babies do not grow as much as they should in the womb.
In the 2019 study, which was sponsored by pomegranate juice company POM,s parents whose babies were diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction between 24 and 34 weeks of pregnancy either drank eight ounces of pomegranate juice or of a juice without antioxidants daily until their babies were born. Then the researchers looked at the babies’ brain structures using MRI scans and compared the babies whose moms drank pomegranate juice with the babies whose moms drank the other juice. They found that when the mothers drank pomegranate juice, babies brains appeared to have different structure and connectivity than the other babies’ brains. It’s not clear that one set of babies were healthier or did better than the other, but the researchers write that more research into the effects of pomegranate juice on babies diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction should be done.
So what does all of this mean for you? It might be clear that there’s not much that’s definitive about the benefits of pomegranate juice, but what we haven’t discussed are potential pitfalls, which are few. In general, it’s probably fine to have eight or so ounces of pomegranate juice each day while you’re pregnant. More than that and you risk drinking a lot of sugar, which might lead to other issues, but if you drink juice as part of a balanced diet and also drink plenty of water, it likely won’t hurt and might even help your baby.