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Pregnancy triggers a lot of changes for women, not just physically but from a lifestyle perspective as well. Everybody knows alcohol and cigarettes are out when you’re expecting but did you know pâté, unpasteurized milk, and sushi products are also off the menu. Coffee is another substance that comes with warnings during pregnancy but caffeine lovers will be pleased to know a cup or two a day poses no significant risk.
In this article, we take a closer look at some common misconceptions about drinking coffee while pregnant and find out how much caffeine is safe when you’re expecting.
Can Pregnant Women Drink Coffee?
In a word, yes. But there are limits. It’s worth noting that while the majority of ob-gyns and midwives believe drinking coffee during pregnancy is safe, a small percentage of studies suggest even minimal amounts of caffeine adversely affect birth weight.
This is why it’s important to do your own research, speak directly to healthcare professionals and make a decision on caffeine consumption that suits you.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the widely held medical consensus is that 200mg of caffeine or less per day is unlikely to cause harm to an unborn baby provided its mother is in good health and adhering to other recommendations for nicotine and alcohol. This is a low level of caffeine consumption.
How Much Caffeine Is Safe During Pregnancy?
The recommended limit on coffee for pregnant women is 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. Larger amounts of caffeine, particularly on a regular basis, have been linked to developmental problems so expectant mothers are advised to stay within this limit by tracking their consumption levels as they eat and drink.
It’s easy to forget that caffeine doesn’t just exist in coffee. It’s also present in tea, many carbonated drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate products as well. They all count toward your daily consumption so if you are drinking a small coffee every day, make sure no other substances in your diet are tipping you over the limit.
The amount of caffeine in coffee products can vary quite a bit which is why you should read labels and ask baristas for information when you’re unsure. The majority of coffee products contain between 70 and 140 milligrams per eight-ounce cup. This puts one regular-sized cup well under the recommended pregnancy coffee limit.
The variety of bean and type of roast affects how much caffeine is in the cup so if you have a favorite blend, find out how much it contains. If you drink the same drink every day, you’ll always be sure about your pregnant coffee intake.
See also: 20 Tips-for-Breastfeeding-a-Newborn
Effects of Caffeine During Pregnancy
Is it ok to drink coffee while pregnant? Yes but in low amounts. Is coffee bad for pregnant women? Well, not everybody agrees but it’s important to remember that coffee-like cheeseburgers, chocolate cake, and fizzy soft drinks – should always be treated with care whether you’re pregnant or not.
Caffeine does have a discernible effect on the body and on developing babies because it is a stimulant. The effects of coffee don’t necessarily change when a woman is pregnant but tolerance is lower because her body is already working at full capacity and her baby’s organs are small and vulnerable.
The only way to guarantee no caffeine enters your baby’s bloodstream is to exclusively drink decaf coffee when pregnant and avoid foods that contain caffeine.
Caffeine crosses the amniotic fluid and enters an unborn baby’s bloodstream where small amounts can be safely metabolized. Metabolization takes much longer for them than for a grown adult which is why drinking coffee pregnant comes with precautions and consumption limits.
A lot of women want to know: can I drink coffee while pregnant, first, second or third? Interestingly, the body’s ability to metabolize caffeine does change as pregnancy progresses becoming slower and less efficient as it approaches full term.
However, the 200mg limit accounts for the whole pregnancy. Drinking this amount of caffeine (or less) per day is considered safe whether you’re in the first, second or third trimester.
If you consume too much coffee during pregnancy, your baby may struggle to process the caffeine. This can lead to a dangerously accelerated heartbeat, high blood pressure, and a low birth weight if the problem persists. Additional risks include developmental issues, premature birth, and in some extreme cases miscarriage.
Unintentionally consuming more than 200mg of caffeine in one day once or twice during pregnancy is unlikely to cause permanent damage. However, if you do drink too much, you should abstain for at least 2 to 3 days and consider switching to decaf coffee for pregnant women to avoid it happening again.
Which Foods and Beverages Contain Caffeine?
Coffee is the most caffeine-rich substance we encounter on a daily basis but you’ll also find caffeine in tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications such as allergy remedies and all-in-one flu treatments.
Now you understand why coffee is bad for pregnancy in large amounts, you can use your awareness to check labels, read food packets and make informed choices about your diet.
Amount of Caffeine In Common Foods and Beverages
|Coffee||Generic||8 fl oz.||95-200 mg|
|Coffee||McDonalds||16 fl oz.||145 mg|
|Coffee||Peets||16 fl oz.||260 mg|
|Coffee||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||260-360 mg|
|Coffee||Dunkin'||14 fl oz.||210 mg|
|Caffé Americano||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||225 mg|
|Cold Brew Coffee||Dunkin'||14 fl oz.||260 mg|
|Iced Coffee||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||165 mg|
|Caffe Latte||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||150 mg|
|Espresso||Starbucks||1.5 fl oz.||64 mg|
|Capsules||Nespresso||1 capsule||60 mg|
|Coffee, Instant||Generic||8 fl oz.||75 mg|
|Decaf Coffee||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||25 mg|
|Decaf Coffee||Generic||8 fl oz.||2-15 mg|
|Chai Latte||Starbucks||16 fl oz.||95 mg|
|Black Tea||Generic||1 Tea Bag||55-95 mg|
|Green Tea||Generic||1 Tea Bag||45-95 mg|
|Decaf Black Tea||Generic||1 Tea Bag|
|Lemon Tea||Snapple||16 fl oz.||21 mg|
|Iced Lemon Tea||Lipton||17 fl oz.||21mg|
|Pepsi||12 fl oz.||38 mg|
|Diet Pepsi||12 fl oz.||36 mg|
|Pepsi Zero||12 fl oz.||69 mg|
|Coca-Cola||12 fl oz.||34 mg|
|Diet Coke||12 fl oz.||46 mg|
|Cherry Coke||12 fl oz.||34 mg|
|Mountain Dew||12 fl oz.||54 mg|
|Dr. Pepper||12 fl oz.||41 mg|
|Red Bull||8.5 fl oz.||80 mg|
|Mountain Dew Amp||16 fl oz.||142 mg|
|Monster Energy||16 fl oz.||160 mg|
|Rockstar Energy||16 fl oz.||160 mg|
|Starbucks Double Shot Energy||15 fl oz.||135 mg|
|Special Dark||Hershey's||1 Bar||20 mg|
|Milk Chocolate||Hershey's||1 Bar||9 mg|
|Coffee Ice Cream||Ben & Jerry's||2/3 cup||65 mg|
|Coffee Ice Cream||Dreyer's||2/3 cup||14 mg|
|Hot Cocoa Mix||Generic||8 fl oz.||1-3 mg|
|Chocolate Milk||Generic||8 fl oz.||5-8 mg|
Ways to Cut Back on Caffeine During Pregnancy
No matter how invested you are in your developing baby’s health, transitioning from multiple large coffees per day to just one or two small cups can be a major challenge. Caffeine is a highly addictive substance and diehard coffee fans may find it hard to adjust for the first few months. You may feel more fatigued than usual in the beginning but this will change as your brain’s dependency decreases.
Here are some things you can do to make the transition easier:
- Lower your caffeine intake gradually. If you’re seriously struggling with caffeine withdrawal in the first trimester, you don’t need to go from max amounts to a minimal amount right away. Consuming more than 200mg per day in the first trimester and gradually decreasing your intake week-on-week is still better than not decreasing your caffeine intake at all.
- Trick yourself by mixing more and more decaf into your regular coffee until the whole drink is decaffeinated. Or add less coffee and more milk. Brewing coffee and tea bags for less time is another good way to lower the amount of caffeine a drink contains.
- Switch to decaffeinated coffee. For many pregnant women, the placebo effect is powerful enough to keep them alert even if they’re only consuming trace amounts of caffeine. If you’re used to getting a jolt of energy from a cup of joe, drinking a decaf version might still give you a similar effect.
- Be extra careful with herbal teas. Most don’t contain caffeine but some herbal teas increase the risk of miscarriage. Check with your OB-GYN if you’re unsure.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q – Can you drink coffee while you’re pregnant?
A – You’ll find some conflicting opinions online and in medical journals but the widely held consensus is that small amounts of coffee are safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Because there are differences of opinion, with some studies claiming any amount of caffeine increases the risk of premature birth, expectant mothers are advised to consult their healthcare professionals about the risks.
Your level of risk (and tolerance for caffeine) may be different from somebody else’s because you have an underlying health condition or lifestyle factors that should be taken into account.
Q – How much coffee can pregnant women drink?
A – Whenever possible, limit your daily caffeine intake to 200mg or preferably lower. This is equivalent to two small cups (roughly) of generic coffee. Make sure to read food labels and menus because every variety of coffee has its own caffeine content. The variety of bean and roast type makes a difference so choose wisely.
Also, don’t forget 200mg is the maximum limit for all the caffeine that a pregnant woman consumes daily. If you’re eating caffeine-rich foods like chocolate or drinking tea and energy drinks, they must be included in your daily intake as well.
Q – How much caffeine is safe during breastfeeding?
A – The maximum limit of 200mg of caffeine per day is recommended while breastfeeding as well. Caffeine doesn’t enter into a mother’s breast milk as freely as it crosses into her developing baby’s bloodstream but some will transfer to the infant. For this reason, coffee consumption should remain minimal to avoid sleep issues, irritability, and an accelerated heart rate until the point of weaning.
Q – What is the best coffee for pregnant women?
A – Decaffeinated coffee is by far the best choice for expectant mothers because it contains the lowest amount of caffeine. Tea is another good alternative to coffee because it contains only trace amounts and can soothe morning sickness symptoms for some women.
Is coffee good while pregnant? Not really but, then it’s not always good for us regardless of whether we’re pregnant or not. Caffeine is a strong stimulant that many of us are hopelessly addicted to but, if enjoyed sensibly, its risks are minimal and it can even increase our productivity throughout the working day.
The same applies to drinking coffee while pregnant. It is better, if you can, to avoid caffeine altogether but there are negligible risks associated with consuming small daily amounts. Approach your cup of joe with a sensible attitude and you should have no problems drinking coffee throughout your pregnancy.
What alternatives to caffeinated beverages did you enjoy drinking while pregnant?
Let us know in the comments below!
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