For many women, caffeine is an important part of their day. Who doesn’t start their morning with a fresh cup of Joe or enjoy a little chocolate pick-me-up in the afternoon?
If you’ve found out that you are pregnant, there’s probably a lot going through your brain. Once you’ve answered the biggest questions of pregnancy, there may be another small — but equally important — question you’re now asking:
Do I really have to quit drinking caffeine while pregnant?
Traditional medical advice has always suggested that expectant mothers stay away from potentially harmful substances for their babies. For years, this has included alcohol, drugs, certain foods and, yes, caffeine. But, you may be surprised to learn that conventional wisdom regarding caffeine while pregnant has gotten an update — and you may not have to pack away your coffeepot for the next nine months.
Why Do Doctors Recommend Limiting Caffeine While Pregnant?
Before we go into detail on the acceptable caffeine intake while pregnant, it’s important to understand that the American Pregnancy Association advises that pregnant women avoid caffeine as much as possible during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As an expectant mother, you want to avoid as many risks and potential complications as possible during your pregnancy, and avoiding caffeine altogether can play a huge role in that.
But, you may be wondering: If I drink coffee every day without any adverse health effects, why do I have to stop having caffeine while pregnant?
Caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic. This means that it increases your blood pressure and heart rate while also increasing the frequency of urination. If not managed properly, these side effects can cause problems for your developing baby.
Like with anything else you eat or drink, caffeine travels through your bloodstream and crosses through the placenta to your baby. While your body can handle the effects of caffeine, your baby’s metabolism will not yet be developed enough to fully metabolize caffeine. This means that, when you drink caffeine while pregnant, the substance can potentially cause changes in your baby’s sleep pattern or normal movement pattern, as well as lead to heart arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm.
Caffeine has been shown to cause birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery and more reproductive problems when tested on animals. While no conclusive tests have been done on humans having caffeine while pregnant, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
For more information on how drinking caffeine while pregnant may affect your baby, please speak with your obstetrician.
What is an Appropriate Caffeine Intake While Pregnant?
For the past few decades, doctors have often recommended that expectant mothers consume as little caffeine as possible — preferably none at all — during their pregnancies. But, experts today are now debating the effects of small amounts of caffeine on a pregnant woman and her baby.
Remember: Only your personal doctor can tell you whether having caffeine when you’re pregnant is a good idea in your situation. The information below is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice. Consume caffeine at your own risk during pregnancy.
Today, experts will tell you that moderate levels of caffeine have not been found to have a negative effect on pregnancy. But, what exactly is a “moderate” caffeine intake while pregnant? It will depend upon your personal health history and medical background, but most experts say 150 mg to 300 mg a day of caffeine is a “safe” amount for expectant mothers.
This number may not mean much to you at first. Think about this: in general, about 200 mg of caffeine can be found in one-and-a-half 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
But, we all know that caffeine can be found in more places than just coffee — so how do you know how much caffeine you are consuming during your pregnancy?
The first thing you want to do if you are thinking about drinking caffeine while pregnant is look at the nutrition facts for the product you are consuming — whether it’s coffee, soda, chocolate, or something else. Nutritional facts should include the amount of caffeine per serving size.
If you do not know your caffeine intake while pregnant, here are some average caffeine levels for popular drinks and products:
- Brewed coffee, 8 ounce: 95-165 mg
- Brewed decaf coffee, 8 ounce: 2-5 mg
- Latte, 8 ounce: 63-126 mg
- Espresso, 1 ounce: 47-64 mg
- 12-ounce soda: 37 mg
- Baker’s chocolate, 1 ounce: 26 mg
- Green or black tea, 6 ounce: 40 mg
- Excedrin (per capsule): 65 mg
It’s important that you monitor your average daily intake of caffeine during your pregnancy as a part of maintaining a healthy diet. Every aspect of your diet is important when you are pregnant; everything that you consume will eventually reach your baby. If you can, try to abstain from drinking caffeine while pregnant but, if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up — we’re all human and have our vices. Unless you’re throwing back five cups of coffee a day, your baby should be fine! In the meantime, try to focus on having the healthiest pregnancy possible, and consider checking out pregnancy-safe alternatives to caffeine to get you through the next nine months.