Stevia During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Can Pregnant Women Use Stevia?
Although most FDA-approved sugar substitutes (also known as artificial sweeteners) are generally accepted as safe for the general population – including pregnant women, there is not enough data to establish the safety of stevia during pregnancy. Therefore, many healthcare providers recommend that pregnant women stay on the safe side and avoid using this sugar substitute.
On the other hand, there are some resources that advocate the use of stevia for pregnant women due to its potential health benefits. Some resources claim that stevia can help prevent some health problems associated with pregnancy such as overweight, obesity and gestational diabetes. Pregnancy entails a marked increased in appetite, however some expectant moms end up consuming more than what they actually need. Usually, healthcare providers recommend that pregnant women reduce their intake of carbohydrate while increasing consumption of more nutritive foods. A good way of cutting carbohydrate from the diet is substituting regular tabletop sugar with calorie-, carbohydrate-free artificial sweeteners such as stevia.
However, since stevia is relatively new in the US and has not been fully studied in pregnant women, it may be wise for you to consult your healthcare provider regarding its safety and impact on your pregnancy particularly on the unborn child. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise you on which food products and sweeteners can be safely consumed during pregnancy.
Can Breastfeeding Women Use Stevia?
There are contrasting views as to the safety of stevia for lactating women. Some healthcare providers consider it safe while others suggest avoiding stevia throughout pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, breastfeeding women are advised to consult their healthcare provider about use of this sugar substitute. Your healthcare provider is in the best position to give you recommendations.
An animal study published in 2008 suggests that stevioside (a derivative of stevia) can cause DNA mutation in rats, but has failed to show any increase in tumor growth. Meanwhile, some studies done with rebaudioside or Reb-A (another derivative of stevia) suggest that the compound does not affect blood sugar levels. These findings support claims that stevia can help fight diabetes in pregnancy. On the other hand, more well-controlled and independently-funded studies on Reb-A are needed to evaluate whether it can cause cancer or not. In addition, more studies are required to see if stevia is excreted into the breast milk as well as the amount of stevia contained in the human milk and its potential effects on the breastfed infant.
If you are unsure or want to be safe, it is best to avoid using stevia while breastfeeding.