There is a common conception that all artificial sweeteners are dangerous during pregnancy. However, this is not the case – some have been determined to be safe during pregnancy. Let’s review each one individually:
Stevia (also called rebaudioside A):
Stevia comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and, consequently, it is popular as a natural alternative to the artificial sweetener. Stevia is relatively new in the market and it is currently used in many soft drinks and juices. The FDA assigned Stevia the “GRAS rating”: Generally Recognized As Safe.1,2
Sunett (also called acesulfame potassium):
This sweetener is usually added to puddings, soft drinks, frozen desserts and baked goods. Studies have found that Sunett does cross the placenta; however, these studies used amounts of Sunett much higher than those typically consumed by humans. Sunett is considered to be safe to use in moderation during pregnancy by the FDA.1,2
Equal or Nutrasweet (also called aspartame):
According to the FDA, aspartame is safe for consumption during both pregnancy and lactation; however, as with Stevia and Sunett, it should be consumed in moderate quantities. Equal or Nutrasweet can often be found in soft drinks, chewing gum, dairy products, breakfast cereals, desserts, and many other foods.
Splenda (also called sucralose):
This sweetener is actually made from sugar. However, it has no calories and it does not affect blood sugar levels. It is considered by the FDA to be safe for pregnant women to use. Splenda is usually added to baked goods, coffee and tea products, fats and oils, sweet sauces, non-alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, toppings, syrups, and fruit juices.1
Although polyols are compounds that occur naturally, they are also manufactured for commercial use. They include sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, and mannitol. Limited data exist on their safety during pregnancy. However, they are naturally present in both fetal and maternal samples of normal pregnancies. Consequently, it is likely that they are safe when used in moderation.
There are artificial sweeteners that are NOT recommended to be used during pregnancy. These include:
Sweet ‘N Low (also called saccharin):
Although the FDA does consider Sweet ‘N Low to be safe for the general population, studies have shown that saccharin can cross the placenta and may remain in fetal tissue. Therefore, its use in pregnant women is not recommended.1
Cyclamate is banned for consumption in the US. There isn’t enough data regarding its safety during pregnancy. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid this sweetener if you are pregnant and it is available to you.1
In summary, certain sweeteners are considered to be safe to consume during pregnancy; however, you should use them in moderation. If you find it hard to eat the extra calories required in the third trimester due to your stomach being squeezed a lot smaller, consider going for the more caloric options, such as sugar or honey, as your baby and your body need this additional energy.