The researchers didn’t adjust their results to accommodate the fact that more than 12% of pregnancies result in preterm birth and didn’t point fingers at any one sweetener. However, these results remained unchanged even when age, weight status, other dietary habits, and other major variables were factored in. The study also found that sugar-sweetened beverage intake was not independently associated with preterm birth when the same outside factors were taken into consideration.
Based on this study and previous animal studies, the researchers hypothesize that the results are related to the breakdown of artificial sweeteners as follows: aspartame –> methanol –> formaldehyde (yikes!) –> formic acid. Large amounts of formic acid may have a toxic effect on a woman’s uterus, and ultimately explain the link between diet drinks and preterm birth.
The FDA believes it is safe for women who consume saccharin (Sweet n’ Low), sucralose (Splenda) or acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One), but not aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) pre-pregnancy to continue in moderation while with child. Either way, many experts agree that it’s better to take the safe route when it comes to keeping your unborn child healthy.
Try to avoid artificial sweeteners, and if you simply cannot do without the fizzy drinks, opt for smaller amounts of sugar sweetened beverages on occasion. Moderation is important, though: after all, studies have shown that all (artificially or sugar) sweetened beverages have been linked to elevated blood pressure, type-2 diabetes risk, and obese weight status, all of which can lead to more unwanted pregnancy complications.