June 16, 2024

It’s another one of those things you (almost) forget when you hold your little one for the first time: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common during pregnancy.

Your growing uterus and roller coaster hormones lead to a relaxed and fuller bladder, which makes getting a UTI easier.

Cranberry juice is a traditional natural remedy for UTIs — but is it safe for you and your baby during pregnancy? And will it help treat or prevent a UTI while you’re pregnant? Or maybe you just enjoy drinking this tart berry juice for its flavor!

Here’s what you need to know about drinking cranberry juice when you’re pregnant.

Research has shown that drinking cranberry juice during pregnancy is safe for you and your little one.

You can safely drink cranberry juice in all trimesters of pregnancy.

As an herbal remedy, cranberries are linked to UTIs because they may help prevent bacteria from sticking to the sides of the bladder and urinary tract. This is important because if bacteria can’t find a suitable place to live, they can’t grow too much.

However, drinking cranberry juice can’t treat or stop a UTI once you have an infection, even if you don’t have symptoms.

You must get medical treatment for a UTI during pregnancy. Not getting the right treatment for a UTI can lead to serious complications if you’re pregnant.

Cranberry juice has been researched for treating UTIs during pregnancy, though not extensively.

For example, one older 2008 pilot study compared the effects of cranberry juice with a placebo in preventing UTIs in 188 pregnant women who were less than 16 weeks along.

The researchers found that participants who drank at least 240 milliliters (a little over 1 cup) of cranberry juice every day had a 57 percent reduction in bacteria in their urine and reported 41 percent fewer UTIs.

A larger study in 2013 that included more than 68,000 women found that 919 of them had used cranberries while pregnant.

All those who used cranberries were healthy, and there was no risk to them or their babies due to drinking cranberry juice or other cranberry products.

Cranberries and cranberry juice can give you plenty of other health and nutritional benefits. These bright red berries are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols that may be brain-boosting and heart-healthy.

Like other berries, whole cranberries are high in fiber. However, the juice doesn’t contain any fiber.

Cranberries are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, like:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K1
  • copper
  • manganese

One study (in non-pregnant people) also found that adding cranberry supplements to acid reflux treatment helped reduce the bacteria H. pylori in the stomach. This type of infection can lead to stomach ulcers.

Talk with your doctor if you think you have a UTI.

It’s important to treat a UTI during pregnancy even if you don’t have any symptoms. This is because any kind of bacterial infection in the bladder can increase the risk of a kidney infection during pregnancy.

In fact, up to 30 percent of pregnant people with bacteria in their urine develop a kidney infection in later trimesters if it’s not treated. This can be very serious.

Your doctor might recommend a short course of antibiotics to treat a UTI. Cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs, but it won’t treat them.

Most cranberry juices also have large amounts of sugar added — they’re mixed with other kinds of juice to sweeten.

Check the sugar content of your cranberry juice. Balancing how much sugar you eat (or drink) is especially important during pregnancy to prevent and treat gestational diabetes. (Though gestational diabetes isn’t always preventable.)

Look for pure, unsweetened cranberry juice without added sweeteners.

If it’s too sour or bitter for you, sweeten with natural stevia or monk fruit sweeteners. You can also add pure, unsweetened cranberry juice to fruit and vegetable smoothies.

A small study in 2015 suggests that taking cranberry capsules may have the same effect on UTIs during pregnancy as drinking lots of cranberry juice.

Still, more research is needed and you should take precautions when taking any supplements while pregnant.

Although cranberry capsules and other natural supplements are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they’re not strictly regulated like medications are, meaning they may not always be safe and effective.

This is why it’s important to choose high quality supplements that are third-party tested for purity. You’ll also want to speak with your doctor before starting a new supplement.

You may want to just avoid taking cranberry supplements — including capsules and powdered forms — while you’re pregnant, unless they’re an exact brand and type recommended by your doctor. You may not know exactly how much cranberry extract they contain or what else is in them.

You can safely drink cranberry juice while you’re pregnant. It’s safe for you and your baby, and may even help prevent a UTI.

It can also keep bacteria overgrowth down there in check. However, you can’t treat a UTI with cranberry juice.

If you do have bacteria in your urine (even without symptoms) or you have a UTI, antibiotics are the first line of treatment. Without treatment, a bacterial infection in the bladder can lead to serious complications including a kidney infection.

Go to all your pregnancy check-ups and tell your doctor about any UTI symptoms you might have, right away.

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