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Coffee consumption during pregnancy.

Experts advise women to limit caffeine during pregnancy to less than 200 milligrams a day, which is about one cup of coffee. It's a good idea to cut back as much as you can, though, because even smaller amounts could affect your baby.

Can pregnant women drink coffee?

The short answer is yes, pregnant women can drink coffee. However, it's important to watch your consumption of coffee, and caffeine overall, during pregnancy. Caffeine can affect your pregnancy and your baby in ways that aren't completely clear.

How much caffeine is safe during pregnancy?

Although the official recommendation is 200 mg or less a day, some experts believe that even moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can introduce risks.

Previously, studies have linked high caffeine consumption (more than 200 mg a day) to babies being small for their gestational age or at risk for intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). But researchers at the National Institutes of Health recently found that women who drank less than 200 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy – as little as half a cup of coffee per day – had slightly smaller babies than non-caffeine drinkers.

Researchers noted that caffeine is believed to cause blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which could reduce the blood supply to the fetus and inhibit growth. They also said that caffeine could potentially disrupt fetal stress hormones, putting infants at risk for rapid weight gain after birth and for obesity, heart disease and diabetes later in life.

However, other studies have found no link between moderate caffeine consumption in pregnancy (less than 200 mg a day) and problems such as low birth weight, IUGR, miscarriage, or premature birth. That's why moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy gets the okay from most ob-gyns and midwives.

Still, because the research isn't settled, it's a good idea to limit your caffeine consumption as much as possible during pregnancy, and to stay within the recommended 200-mg-a-day limit.

Effects of caffeine during pregnancy

When you drink a cup of coffee, caffeine crosses the placenta into the amniotic fluid and your baby's bloodstream. While your body goes to work metabolizing and getting rid of the caffeine, your baby's body is still developing and takes a much longer time to process the caffeine. As a result, your baby is exposed to the effects of caffeine for much longer than you are.

Even if caffeine doesn't usually cause problems for you, you may find that it doesn't agree with you during pregnancy. It's a stimulant, so it can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, it can make you feel jittery and cause insomnia. Caffeine can exacerbate pregnancy issues like heartburn and frequent urination, too.

The effects of caffeine may be more noticeable as your pregnancy progresses. That's because your body's ability to break down caffeine slows, so you end up with a higher level of it in your bloodstream.

During the second trimester, it takes almost twice as long to clear caffeine from your body as when you're not pregnant.

During the third trimester, it takes nearly three times as long. This can also mean that more caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches your baby, who can't process it efficiently.

There's one more reason to cut back on coffee and tea, whether it's caffeinated or not. These beverages contain compounds that make it harder for your body to absorb iron. This is important because many pregnant women are already low on iron. If you have coffee or tea, drink it between meals so it'll have less of an effect on your iron absorption.

Wondering when you can get back to enjoying your regular caffeine habit? It depends. Some caffeine can cross to your baby in breast milk, which is why it's also a good idea to limit caffeine if you're breastfeeding, especially for the first few months.

Ways to cut back on caffeine during pregnancy.

While there are good reasons to cut back on caffeine during pregnancy, it's not always easy. Your desire for a morning cup of joe might evaporate during the first trimester when morning sickness strikes, only to return full-strength later in pregnancy. Or, you may always have a hankering for your usual caffeinated pick-me-ups. Consider some of these tips to help you have a low-caffeine pregnancy:

  • Ease off gradually - If you're a devoted coffee lover, tea aficionado, or cola fan, caffeine withdrawal probably won't be easy. To lessen symptoms – which can include headaches, irritability, and lethargy – ease off gradually (but get under that 200-mg daily limit as soon as you can).

  • Try mixtures for less caffeine - You may want to start by mixing decaf with your regular coffee, gradually increasing the ratio of decaffeinated to caffeinated. Or use more milk and less coffee. At home, try using a smaller amount of ground coffee (or tea leaves), or brewing for a shorter time. Letting a tea bag steep for just one minute instead of five reduces the caffeine by as much as half.

  • Switch to decaf - Consider making the switch, at least for your second cup of coffee or tea. (Decaffeinated beverages may contain some caffeine, but it's usually a small amount.)

  • Seek other sources of energy - Do your best to get plenty of sleep at night, go to bed early, and take rests throughout the day when you can. Eat well and exercise – even mild exercise can give you an energy boost.

Although herbal teas often have no caffeine, check with your healthcare provider before drinking them. A cup of peppermint or ginger tea is fine, but some herbal teas aren't safe for pregnancy.

Find all beneficial information regarding nutrition during pregnancy to my Ebooks “Nutrition during pregnancy “ available at

Tania L.

EasyFit Rehab Instructor

IBBFA Barre Instructor Level 1,2,3,PrePostNatal

Barre Eclipse Instructor

ISSA Certified Nutritionist

ISSA Certified Personal Trainer.

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