You’re pregnant, tired, and need a little pick-me-up. Ahhh, a coffee would hit the spot right about now. But just before you decide to place your Starbucks order, you’re not quite sure if it’s okay to have a cup of coffee during pregnancy.
Knowing what you should and shouldn’t put in your body when expecting can be a little tricky at times. Especially if it’s your first pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I heard a lot of conflicting advice when it came to drinking coffee. I had absolutely no idea what to believe in my first trimester. Was it no coffee at all? Two cups of coffee? Decaf only?
To save you the headache of searching for the right answers, we’ve talked to the experts and gathered the facts for you. Pregnancy and coffee–what’s okay and what’s not? Read on for all the answers.
The Effects of Drinking Coffee While Pregnant
A hot topic in pregnancy is caffeine. So let’s start with the basics. When you drink a cup of coffee, your body absorbs the caffeine and stimulates your nervous system. Your blood pressure will increase and leave you feeling more awake and energetic.
However, if you drink a moderate amount of coffee, the excess caffeine can cause shakiness, headaches, fast heart rate, and anxiety. The negative side effects all depend on your personal tolerance to caffeine – some people are more sensitive than others.
In pregnant women, caffeine from coffee easily crosses the placenta into the fetus. So when an expecting mom drinks coffee, baby does too–possible negative side effects and all.
Risks of coffee during pregnancy
So what happens when you drink too much caffeine while pregnant? Let’s break down the risks for both baby and mom.
- Risks to baby – the effects of caffeine on fetuses are much more serious than compared to effects on pregnant women. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that caffeine can cause blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which could reduce the blood supply to a fetus and delay human development. The same studies also show that moderate consumption of caffeine could potentially disrupt fetal stress hormones, putting infants at risk for rapid weight gain after birth and for later life obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Moreover, drinking a lot of coffee in pregnancy has also been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
- Risks to mom – expecting mothers can be more sensitive to caffeine because it takes longer to detox it from the body than if you weren’t pregnant, states the March of Dimes Organization. The negative side effects to mom from coffee include raised blood pressure and heart rate, jitters, dehydration, indigestion, lightheadedness, and nausea.
Are there any benefits of drinking coffee while pregnant?
If there are any benefits of drinking coffee while pregnant, they are slim and not backed with enough research yet. Some newer studies suggest that caffeine can help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. But until more research is done, it’s best to take advice straight from your provider.
How Much Coffee Is Okay During Pregnancy
There have been many studies done to try and learn how much coffee while pregnant is actually okay–but a lot of information is conflicting. For me, I turned to Ryan Kipping, RDN, CLEC, to learn more about coffee consumption during pregnancy. I felt confident taking her advice as she is a nutritionist who specializes in prenatal health.
“You can have one 8 to 12-ounce cup of coffee per day. This is equivalent to about 100 – 200 milligrams of caffeine,” notes Kipping on her personal blog. Although it’s important to know that some popular coffee drinks like cold brews have high levels of caffeine in them–so being aware of your coffee order and what’s in it is important.
Caffeine amounts in tea vs coffee
Now that we know 200 mg is the maximum suggested daily limit of caffeine during pregnancy, exactly how much caffeine is in coffee vs tea? Here’s a breakdown provided by the Mayo Clinic.
- 8oz cup of coffee = 96 mg of caffeine
- 1oz of espresso = 64 mg of caffeine
- 8oz of instant coffee = 62 mg of caffeine
- 8oz of black tea = 47 mg of caffeine
- 8oz of green tea = 28 mg of caffeine
- 8oz of store-bought bottled tea = 19 mg of caffeine
Actual caffeine levels can vary based on brewing method and concentrations, but as you can see, tea normally contains less caffeine than coffee.
Is decaf tea or coffee okay during pregnancy?
Decaf can be used as a safe coffee during pregnancy. “Opting for a 1/2 caf or decaf coffee is one way to decrease the amount of caffeine you are consuming on a daily basis,” says Kipping. Just be aware that even decaf coffees still contain caffeine–about 2 mg is in an 8oz cup. The same goes for decaf teas.
Tips for Limiting Caffeine While Pregnant
If you’re an avid coffee drinker and now finding it hard to make it through the day without your sweet cup of joe, there is hope. Here are some coffee alternatives from Kipping on making it through 9 months with less caffeine.
- Nut and Mushroom “Coffee” – these coffee alternatives contain less caffeine than your traditional cup of coffee, but still give you that warm cozy feeling and a small caffeine boost. It’s always a good idea to read the label and check out the ingredients and caffeine amounts on your specific brand before sipping.
- Decaf Coffee or Half Caf – going full decaf or a half decaf and half regular coffee mix is a great option for expecting moms who still want that coffee taste. Remember that decaf coffee contains about 2 mg of caffeine so be sure to include that in your daily limit.
- Ginger or Peppermint Tea – this non-caffeinated drink doesn’t give you a boost of energy but it does provide that similar ceremonial warm spirit. I personally drank ginger and peppermint tea all throughout my pregnancy as a safe alternative to coffee. P.S. You can spice it up with a little lemon juice and honey for some extra flavor!
- Black, Green, and White Teas – need some sort of boost? These teas contain about half the caffeine as coffee but provide a great alternative. Black, green, and white teas are also known to reduce stress–adding these into your routine can be a win-win.
Coffee During Pregnancy FAQ
1. Can drinking coffee during pregnancy cause a miscarriage?
Low amounts of caffeine consumption (less than 200 mg per day) is not found to be a major factor in miscarriage – according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. On the other hand, drinking a lot of caffeine during pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
2. Is it safe to consume decaf coffee during pregnancy?
Decaf coffee is a safe choice if you are pregnant and want to cut down on caffeine intake. But it’s important to remember that there is still a slight amount of caffeine in decaf coffee – about 2 mg.
3. Are there any alternatives to coffee during pregnancy?
Mushroom and decaf coffee are great alternatives for expecting women. You can also try ginger, peppermint, black, green, and white teas.
4. How does caffeine affect the development of the fetus?
Staying under 200 mg of caffeine a day has been shown to be safe for mom and baby. In contrast, moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and possibly other problems–according to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Also be mindful that caffeine can be found in soft drinks, energy drinks, herbal teas, and even chocolate—so be sure to add those to your 200 mg daily limit.
5. Will consuming too much caffeine during pregnancy harm the baby?
Yes, the National Institutes of Health found that too much caffeine is believed to reduce the blood supply to the fetus and inhibit overall growth.
What Will Your Order Be?
At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether or not to cut out coffee completely or limit yourself to one cup a day. Ask your provider, look into what the experts are saying, and make an educated decision.
For me, I didn’t drink much coffee other than the occasional Starbucks drink before I became pregnant, so it was easy to cut it out completely. But if you consider yourself a coffee enthusiast, cutting down to one cup a day or even going half-caf is a safe option. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to keep both baby and yourself in mind.
Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate.