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Is Cranberry Juice Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?

Is Cranberry Juice Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women have an increased risk of getting urinary tract infections, or UTI's, bacterial infections typically caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli). In several studies, cranberry juice and cranberry supplements have been shown to effectively prevent UTI's in the general female population, which raises an interesting question: is it safe for pregnant women to drink cranberry juice as a preventive treatment for recurrent UTI's? Numerous studies suggest that pregnant and breastfeeding women should shy away from certain medicinal foods, drinks, and supplements for the sake of their babies' safety, which more than justifies the question posed above.

What Does Research Say About Pregnant Women Using Cranberry?

In 2007, a group of researchers from Canada set out to identify and analyze all the medical literature that provided information about the safety and efficacy of cranberries during pregnancy and lactation. They found that the evidence supporting the use of cranberry in the prevention of urinary tract infections is strong and that cranberries are unlikely to cause adverse reactions in healthy people. They did point out, however, that there's a lack of research focused specifically on the safety of cranberry products in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and that there was no direct scientific evidence indicating that consumption of cranberry products during pregnancy is either safe or harmful to the mother or fetus. There seems to be one exception, though: people at a high risk for kidney stones, whether they are pregnant or not, are advised not to use concentrated cranberry products as concentrated cranberry supplements can cause a significant increase in the oxalate levels in urine.

Cranberry Juice and UTI's

One of the most widely documented health benefits of the cranberry is its ability to prevent urinary tract infections, or UTI's. However, the exact mechanisms by which cranberries help prevent UTIs are not known. One hypothesis suggests that proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins) in cranberry juice prevent UTI-causing bacteria from attaching to the uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract, and consequently the bacteria get flushed out with the urine.

1. Dugoua JJ, Seely D, Perri D, Mills E, Koren G. (2008). Safety and efficacy of cranberry (vaccinium macrocarpon) during pregnancy and lactation. The Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 15(1), e80-6.
2. Howell, A. B. et al (2005). A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity. Phytochemistry, 66, 2281-2291.
3. Schmidt DR, Sobota AE. An examination of the anti-adherence activity of cranberry juice on urinary and nonurinary bacterial isolates. Microbios 1988, 55:173-81.

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