Can I Drink Coffee While Pregnant?

Woman holding coffee

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As soon as you get a positive pregnancy test, you may wonder whether or not you can continue drinking your morning cup of coffee. And when pregnancy fatigue kicks in, you may really hope the answer is yes!

While you may need to cut down on how much coffee you drink each day, you do not have to give it up altogether. A little bit of caffeine won't harm your baby. That being said, drinking too much coffee can be dangerous, so it's important to keep an eye on how much caffeine you consume while pregnant.

Drinking Coffee During Pregnancy

It's OK to drink a limited amount of coffee during pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should restrict your total caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day.

Drinking too much coffee can cause problems for both the expecting mother and the developing child. Excessive caffeine consumption increases your risk of miscarriage or the risk that your baby will be born at low birth weight. It can also cause unpleasant side effects for you, like stress and insomnia.

A cup and a half of coffee has about 200 milligrams of caffeine, but it can vary considerably between types and brands, points out registered dietician and ANA-certified nutritionist, Nadia Charif, who serves as the Health and Wellness Advisor at Coffeeble.

Hira Shaheen, MD, an OB/GYN and scientific advisor for a wellness company, explains, "I would advise you to choose one type, calculate the number of cups you can have, and stick to it until the end of pregnancy."

You also need to count caffeine from other sources like tea, soda, and chocolate. To stay on the safe side, Dr. Shaheen suggests drinking just one cup of coffee daily to leave a buffer zone to make sure you don't exceed the daily limit.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about drinking coffee while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

About a cup to a cup and a half of coffee daily is safe for a developing baby. However, consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day can cause problems. Babies may be born at low birth weight and the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth increases.

Benefits of Coffee During Pregnancy

There are no specific health benefits to drinking coffee during pregnancy, but that caffeine boost can definitely help you make it through pregnancy exhaustion. While it's vital to keep tabs on how much caffeine you consume so that you don't endanger your developing child, you don't have to deprive yourself either.

If you're used to having a cup of coffee in the morning, cutting it out completely can shock your system and leave you feeling groggy with a pounding headache. Continuing to drink a small amount of coffee, or drinking less than you usually do rather than dropping coffee cold turkey, may help you feel energized and upbeat.

Safety Precautions

Caffeine crosses the placenta, so it will enter your baby's bloodstream. The fetal digestive system is not able to metabolize caffeine efficiently. Consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily presents risks that can affect both your baby and your own wellbeing throughout pregnancy.

Hypertension

Caffeine consumption is associated with increased blood pressure. High blood pressure is problematic during pregnancy because it can lead to preeclampsia, which is potentially fatal to the mother.

Insomnia

You probably drink your coffee for the wakefulness it provides you, but that helpful side effect can turn into difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Pregnancy already makes you extra tired, and often your changing body shape can prevent you from sleeping in a comfortable position. The last thing you want is another factor interfering with your ability to get a good night's sleep.

Low Birth Weight

Expecting mothers who consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies. Low birth-weight babies are born weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces and they are at an increased risk of a variety of issues, including breathing problems and jaundice.

Maternal Stress

Caffeine boosts cortisol production in the body, which increases stress levels. Stress doesn't just affect the person who is pregnant either. Research indicates that maternal stress during pregnancy could make the resulting children more likely to suffer from emotional problems later in life.

Pregnancy Loss

Too much caffeine can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. "Caffeine releases catecholamine [hormones that are released in response to stress] in the mother’s body, potentially resulting in loss of pregnancy," Dr. Shaheen cautions. One study suggests that every 150-milligram increase in caffeine consumption per day leads to a 19% increase in the risk of pregnancy loss.

When Can I Resume Drinking Coffee?

If you cut down on your caffeine consumption during pregnancy, you can feel free to bump it back up right after delivering the baby (and a cup of coffee might be just what you need after a feat like that!).

If you are breastfeeding, Dr. Shaheen says to limit yourself to about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. "Very little caffeine comes into breast milk, so you can consume a higher amount compared to pregnancy. Just watch out if your baby is sensitive because some babies have a lower threshold for caffeine than others and may become irritable, fussy, or jittery." Charif adds, "Slightly more than one cup would be fine, but I don't advise going above three small cups a day...what you drink does end up in your breastmilk."

Things are a little different for preterm babies, though. If you delivered early, stick with the 200-milligram limit and ask your doctor when you can drink more coffee.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

If cutting down on coffee feels impossible to you, try replacing it with something else. There are some low-caffeine or caffeine-free alternatives.

Decaffeinated Coffee

If you miss the taste of coffee, try decaf. Decaf is not completely caffeine-free, but 97% of it is removed. A cup of decaf has about 2 milligrams of caffeine in it, so it is really not a concern during pregnancy. You can also try "half-caf" and mix regular coffee with decaf to help you drink less.

Fruit

Fresh, whole fruit may give you the energy boost you crave without caffeine. You can also get fiber and vitamins that your body needs during pregnancy from fruit.

Green Tea

Drinking green tea is a good way to make sure you take in only a moderate amount of caffeine. "Teas are great alternatives because they have a slightly lower amount of caffeine and give you a great kick!" says Dr. Shaheen.

A cup of green tea has about 30 milligrams of caffeine, which may be enough to prevent caffeine withdrawal while keeping your consumption low enough to be safe during pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

It is safe to drink coffee while you are pregnant, as long as you keep your total daily caffeine intake below 200 milligrams. About a cup and a half each day or less will not put your baby at risk and you will be less likely to suffer from caffeine's less desirable side effects. Always check with a healthcare provider to be sure that coffee is OK for your specific pregnancy.

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