7 beverages you should drink while pregnant and 7 beverages you should avoid

There are so many things to remember during pregnancy. It can be complicated trying to keep track of how much exercise you're supposed to be getting, staying on top of your numerous doctor appointments, figuring out which kinds of medications and supplements you should or shouldn't be taking, deciding what to eat each day, and even learning what to drink — or, perhaps more importantly, what not to drink over the course of nine months.

For every piece of guidance you've received about something seemingly as simple as drinking fruit juice to a glass of milk, you've likely had an array of contradicting opinions. Your close friends and family have probably already offered up tons of unsolicited — though likely well-meaning — advice about what worked for them during their respective pregnancies. It can get super confusing knowing who to trust and, while we advise you to consult your doctor before making any changes, science has shown us what is — and isn't — safe to drink during pregnancy. Here's everything you should know.

Drink: Water

Pregnancy aside, one of the most important things you should be drinking each and every day is water. However, if you are pregnant, drinking water becomes even more important than before. "The best choice when it comes to a drink for pregnant women is water," Natalie B. Allen, a registered dietitian and clinical instructor of dietetics at Missouri State University, told The List. This is because, as the expert explained, "The amniotic fluid needs to be replenished and water helps the baby in many ways." Water keeps your cells well-hydrated and just generally helps your body be as healthy as it can.

According to Healthline, pregnant women should drink about ten cups — 80 ounces — of water every single day. This is really only eight ounces more than is recommended for women who are not pregnant, but if you weren't an avid water-drinker prior to becoming pregnant, this might be more than you're used to. If you plan to breastfeed after giving birth, upping your water intake to the recommended level while pregnant will help prepare you for another increase. According to Healthline, breastfeeding women need to consume about 13 cups (104 ounces). So, drink up!

Avoid: Untested tap water

There is one caveat to this whole upping your water intake business. Depending on the age of your home or apartment, your tap water may be passing through lead pipes. Consuming lead-laden water is not good for anyone, but pregnant women need to be even more cautious.

In an article for WebMD, Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant, highlighted some of the risks. High levels of lead can cause low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays. You might think turning to bottled water to be your safest bet, but Ward explained that's not always true. Instead, having your tap water tested is advisable. But, try not to worry if the test comes back showing trace amounts of lead.

Although ideally it would be great to remove all of the lead pipes in your home, water filtration systems have proven to be both effective at removing lead and — good news! — they're cost-effective. The Environmental Working Group advises purchasing a carbon-based filter that attaches directly to your faucet as "many pitcher filters are not certified to remove lead and do not work as well for this purpose."

Drink: Pasteurized and fortified orange juice

Safe drinking water is the best thing you can drink while pregnant, but — let's be honest — sometimes you want something that's, you know, not water. Orange juice has been found to be a great choice for pregnant women. Be sure to choose an OJ that's been fortified with calcium as this is vital for bone health, registered dietitian Natalie B. Allen told The List. The citrusy beverage also contains potassium, which can help lower high blood pressure, a potentially dangerous condition in pregnant women.

Orange juice also works well when taken with your prenatal vitamin. The expert explained, "The Vitamin C in the juice will enhance iron absorption and orange juice also contains folate, which is important in neurological fetal development." Washing down your prenatal vitamin with orange juice is good for another reason. Medical News Today revealed that iron supplements can cause nausea. The Vitamin C in the juice not only enhances the absorption, as Allen explained, but also helps reduce queasiness. Before you run out to buy all the OJ, you should make sure to choose one that is pasteurized as this will minimize the risk of any harmful food pathogens.

Avoid: Fresh-squeezed fruit juices

You shouldn't have to search too hard to find orange juice that's been pasteurized. More than likely, any of the orange juice you find at the supermarket will have gone through the pasteurization process. This means that the juice was heated to a high temperature to kill any lurking bacteria and then cooled, making it safe to drink. Still, it's important to locate the word "pasteurized" on the label before purchasing.

You should also be wary of any juices — including orange — or ciders labeled "fresh-squeezed." While these beverages taste great, "fresh-squeezed" indicates that the beverage is unpasteurized. This means it can potentially be contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant, explained in an article for WebMD.

Your safest bet is to only purchase pasteurized juice and cider. It's also wise to check with your friends, family members, and even the restaurants that you visit to make sure all are serving pasteurized juices too. Otherwise, you may just want to avoid fresh-squeezed juice and cider altogether.

Drink: Sports drinks with electrolytes

It might seem odd to see sports drinks appear on the "should drink" side of this list. Nevertheless, sports drinks with electrolytes can be safely consumed during pregnancy. "Some moms may experience leg cramps during pregnancy," Natalie B. Allen, a registered dietitian and clinical instructor of dietetics at Missouri State University, told The List. "If this happens, try a sports drink, as the electrolytes and fluid will help alleviate the cramp." Michigan Medicine explained that electrolytes are a combination of minerals (including magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium) that help "keep the body's balance of fluids at the proper level."

Even for pregnant women who do not experience leg cramps, sports drinks fortified with electrolytes are a good choice. Complete Women's Care, a team comprised of board-certified OBGYNs and certified nurse practitioners, claims that sports drinks — "such as Gatorade, Powerade" — are one of the best choices for upping your fluid intake. 

Avoid: Too many sugary beverages

Not all sports drinks are created equal. "Sports drinks often contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar, as well as electrolytes and minerals and sometimes protein, vitamins, or caffeine," wrote Michigan Medicine. Amos Grünebaum, an obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in high-risk pregnancies revealed that sugar is actually pretty safe during pregnancy. "Sugar can be consumed during pregnancy in moderation if you don't have Type I, Type II or gestational diabetes," he revealed in an article for BabyMed.

In good health, it's okay to consume sugar during pregnancy, but you may still want to consider monitoring how much you're drinking sugary beverages. That is, make sure you're not solely relying on sports drinks, or drinks with even higher amounts of sugar, to meet your fluid intake goal. Registered dietician Natalie B. Allen agrees that sugary beverages are not generally harmful to the baby, but she also pointed out that they're not all that nutritious either. Occasionally indulging in a sugary beverage is probably A-okay, but it's best to maintain balance and overdoing it throughout your pregnancy.

Drink: Pasteurized milk

Pasteurized milk is one of the best things an expecting mother can drink. "You can't beat dairy milk with its combination of protein, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals," registered dietician Natalie B. Allen told The List. "The baby's bones develop the most in the last trimester, so add a glass of milk daily, particularly as the pregnancy progresses." 

The United States Department of Agriculture advises pregnant women to consume three cups of dairy products per day — but that doesn't necessarily mean whole milk. Registered dietitian Julie Redfern revealed in an article on Baby Center that drinking nonfat or low-fat milk can help you avoid unwanted saturated fat.

Amazingly, even if you had symptoms of lactose intolerance before conceiving, you might find that you're able to tolerate cow's milk now that you're pregnant. "For many women, the ability to digest lactose improves during pregnancy, especially later in pregnancy," registered and licensed dietitian Katherine Zeratsky revealed to MayoClinic readers. This means "you might be able to drink milk and eat other dairy products without discomfort." For expecting mothers who wish to avoid drinking cow's milk, though, soy milk is a viable alternative. "Just be sure to choose brands that have added calcium," Redfern noted. 

Avoid: Raw milk

Although raw milk is seeing a bit of a movement, the United States Food and Drug Administration advises everyone to avoid consuming it. But, what exactly is raw milk anyway? According to the FDA, raw milk is "milk from cows, sheep, and goats — or any other animal — that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria." This means it can carry "dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and others that cause foodborne illness, often called 'food poisoning.'"

Though the bacteria found in raw milk isn't good for anyone, it can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. Listeria bacteria can cause an infection called listeriosis and, according to genetic counselor Sara Riordan, pregnant women are "particularly susceptible." Listeriosis can "be devastating and even deadly for unborn babies," Riordan explained.

While the government has banned the sale of raw milk in the United States, raw milk is legal in other parts of the world. You'll want to watch out for this while traveling abroad and, if someone does happen to offer you raw milk in the states, steer clear. It's not worth the risk.

Drink: herbal tea

"Herbal teas can help hydrate the body when women don't want to drink plain water," Amelia Hirota, a Rhode Island-based herbalist and acupuncturist, told Parents. Plus, they have plenty of added benefits.

Rooibos tea is full of antioxidants and is completely caffeine-free, making it a great choice for pregnant women. Ginger and peppermint teas can help reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), lemon balm tea has been found to have a calming effect on drinkers. Red raspberry leaf tea can even help you when it comes time to push. "Many midwives believe that drinking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy tones the uterine muscle, which may help make contractions more efficient," Hirota explained. The APA revealed that this tea has also been found to prevent expecting mothers from delivering too early or too late.

You shouldn't drink just any ol' herbal tea, though. According to the APA, herbal teas can be unsafe if they "are not made commercially," made with "excessive amounts of herbs (amounts larger than those found in common foods or drinks)", or "made with herbs that are known to be toxic."

Avoid: Caffeinated tea and coffee

For some, it can be hard to picture going nine months without a cup of coffee or strong, black tea. Though, you don't actually have to give up caffeine in its entirety. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), moderate levels of caffeine — anywhere from 150 to 300 milligrams (about two 8-ounce cups of coffee) per day — have not been linked to any negative effects on pregnancy. However, it's important to remember that it's not just coffee and tea that contain caffeine. Chocolate, soda, and even some types of medicine contain the stimulant. It can be easy to go well over 300 milligrams without even realizing.

Of course, you may choose to play it safe and do without caffeine altogether. In fact, the APA says that "avoiding caffeine as much as possible is your safest course of action." This is partly because an unborn baby is incapable of metabolizing caffeine the way an adult can. "Even a small amount of caffeine can cause changes in your baby's sleep pattern or normal movement pattern in the later stages of pregnancy," the APA cautioned.

Drink: Smoothies

There may be few things more enjoyable than slurping down a giant, ice-cold smoothie — especially if you happen to be in your third trimester — in the heat of summer. Fortunately, smoothies are perfect for pregnant women. Parents reported that 70 percent of the women they surveyed admitted to making healthier diet choices when they became pregnant. However, only 37 percent were meeting the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and veggies per day. Some weren't big fans of the healthy foods prior to becoming pregnant, while others found their taste for it had changed during pregnancy. "I try to eat healthy, but vegetables do not sound good to me right now," expecting mother Sarah Prince of Salt Lake City told the publication. "I may have a few servings of fruit a day, but only one and sometimes zero servings of veggies."

Smoothies, however, are an easy and delicious way to consume more fruits and vegetables. "There's something about the combo of liquid and cold. Women tolerate smoothies better than, say, spinach omelets," registered dietitian nutritionist Tamara Melton explained. Just be sure to balance your smoothie with greens and not just fruit.

Avoid: Unpasteurized eggnog

While it may be your favorite way to partake in the holiday cheer, unpasteurized eggnog — especially of the homemade variety — should be avoided during pregnancy. You may not have paid much attention to the name before you were pregnant, but eggnog is, well, exactly what it sounds like. Egg yolks, whole milk, heavy cream, and sugar are the main ingredients of this sweet wintertime refreshment. Some recipes even call for whipped egg whites.

Due to the raw eggs, foodsafety.gov advises against unpasteurized and homemade varieties of the nog. Raw eggs can, as we all know, contain salmonella. Although literally no one would enjoy having salmonella, pregnant women should be especially cautious. In some instances, salmonella can lead to sepsis, a sometimes fatal blood infection. Rarely, salmonella can also cause miscarriages or preterm birth. 

However, you can definitely make safe-to-consume eggnog by cooking it to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you're more of a store-bought eggnog fan, you can buy one labeled "pasteurized" to avoid any risk of salmonella.

Drink: lemonade

If you're not pregnant during the winter months, lemonade or lemon water are refreshing and healthy beverages during pregnancy. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association (APA) says that just "sniffing" lemons can "help ease the feeling of nausea" associated with morning sickness. This is one reason why the APA is on board with expecting mothers drinking lemonade.

Lemonade is also mostly water and, as Eleana Kaidanian, a registered dietitian, told BabyCenter, "Water is the best source of hydration." Though, some women who experience morning sickness have trouble drinking water without becoming nauseated. Infusing water with lemon or mixing up some lemonade will not only make the water more appealing, but as the APA revealed, the lemons themselves will work to reduce nausea. Of course, you'll just want to make sure you're not consuming lemonade with tons of added sugar and you'll want to make sure your lemonade contains, you know, real lemons.

It is true that fresh-squeezed lemons can pose the same risk as other fresh-squeezed juices. However, washing the outside of the lemons will get rid of any stubborn bacteria. Alternatively, you can boil your lemonade and then cool it prior to drinking.

Avoid: Alcohol

"I drank alcohol when I was pregnant and my baby turned out just fine." You may have heard this story, or a story like this, time and time again throughout your pregnancy. It's hard to know what to believe when it comes to alcohol consumption during pregnancy. So, what's the truth?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is clear. According to a 2015 report, "no amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe; there is no safe trimester to drink alcohol; all forms of alcohol, such as beer, wine, and liquor, pose similar risk; and binge drinking poses dose-related risk to the developing fetus." As of this writing, there is absolutely no level of drinking during pregnancy that has been deemed safe. While it may sound relaxing to unwind with a glass of rosé here or there, the risks —  from developmental disorders to birth defects — are "completely preventable" if you avoid any and all alcohol consumption during your pregnancy. Let's agree to pop the bubbly after baby is born.