One of the most common questions pregnant women ask as soon as they see that blue line on their pregnancy test kit is “Can I drink coffee when pregnant”. Well, the short answer is yes, pregnant women can drink coffee. However, it's important to keep an eye on how much caffeine you have during pregnancy as it is a well-known fact that if you don’t stick to moderate caffeine consumption, it can affect your pregnancy and your baby in ways that aren't 100% clear.
Caffeine is consumed by the majority of pregnant women – it may be through energy drinks, cola, chocolate or tea, but coffee is the most popular source of caffeine. It seems us Brits are rather partial to a cup of coffee or two – in fact we consumer over 100million cups of coffee a day!
Being a national pastime makes it pretty hard to give up, so let’s take a look at some of the facts about this comforting drink!
Can I drink coffee during pregnancy?
Coffee contains some essential nutrients and is extremely high in antioxidants, so when you’re not pregnant it can actually have some health benefits.
Look at the nutrients found in an 8-ounce cup of coffee:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 11% of the DV
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 6% of the DV
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 2% of the DV
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 2% of the DV
- Folate: 1% of the DV
- Manganese: 3% of the DV
- Potassium: 3% of the DV
- Magnesium: 2% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 1% of the DV
This may not seem like a lot, but try multiplying it with the number of cups you usually drink a day — it can add up to a significant portion of your daily nutrient intake.
There are also lots of studies that suggest drinking cups of coffee regularly can have lots of other health benefits too - such as decreasing your risk of Dementia, Parkinsons and Type 2 Diabetes.
However, coffee in pregnancy can have an adverse effect on your health and that of your baby.
We wrote a blog about pregnancy food myths where we touched on drinking coffee, but let's break it down for all you caffeine-loving mothers-to-be. Is drinking coffee safe during pregnancy?
In short, there are two schools of thought. In September last year a study was published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine which concluded that indeed coffee drunk in pregnancy could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age and childhood acute leukaemia.
Researchers noted during their study of over 1,200 reports, that the effect of drinking coffee in pregnancy is reliably associated with major negative pregnancy outcomes. However, this is dismissed by the coffee industry and has not been endorsed by The Foods Standards Agency, who stick by their belief that 200mg a day is safe, stating “Based on current scientific opinion, the FSA advises pregnant and breastfeeding women not to have more than 200mg of caffeine over the course of a day, which is roughly two mugs of instant coffee or one mug of filter coffee.”
Of course, you’ll know this, but when asking yourself can I drink coffee during pregnancy, the real question is can I drink caffeine during pregnancy. So other consumables, like energy drinks, tea and chocolate also need to be considered when considering this question.
What is the recommended amount of caffeine?
Doctors and midwives endorse the FSA and the NHS who recommend the amount of caffeine to consume safely whilst pregnant is 200 milligrams per day. Most studies agree that it is only when higher amounts of caffeine are consumed that a woman could damage the health of her baby.
Although potential risk is a little unclear, experts know caffeine definitely can permeate the placental barrier, which is why it is strongly suggested that you stick to a 200 milligrams limit per day.
The charity Tommy's has a caffeine intake calculator which is a great way to keep track of your daily caffeine consumption.
What are the effects of caffeine whilst pregnant?
Aside from the potential increased risk towards your baby there are different ways caffeine might affect you too.
It could have you rushing to the bathroom more often than you did before you were pregnant. It can also worsen your heartburn and give you jitters (even if you used to be able to drink 5 cups a day!)
There is also the possibility that too much caffeine could impact your body’s ability to absorb iron whilst you're pregnant, therefor increasing risk of iron deficiency or anaemia.
It's always best to talk to your doctor about your caffeine consumption if you have any concerns.
How much caffeine is in a coffee?
It can be hard to tell how much caffeine is in your drinks.
Most people know to look for it in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and chocolate bars.
But did you know caffeine can also be found in hot chocolate, raw energy bars, some chilli sauces and even in specialised soaps (yes, caffeine can be absorbed through the skin – ask any barista).
Amounts of caffeine can also vary between cafes and brands. In fact, even the way that coffee is brewed can impact how much caffeine it contains, so it's really best to check product labels instead of guessing.
Here are a few approximate examples of the caffeine found in some of the most popular products (for drinks the average we're working with is an 8-ounce cup):
Amount of Caffeine
|1 can of energy drink||50-350 mg|
|1 cup of brewed drip coffee||137 mg|
|1 cup of instant coffee||95 mg|
|1 espresso shot||90 mg|
|1 cup of brewed tea (black)||48 mg|
|1 can of coke||35 mg|
|1 mug of green tea||29 mg|
|1/2 cup of coffee ice cream||20-40 mg|
|1 cup of matcha||20 mg|
|1 ounce of dark chocolate||20 mg|
|1 cup of decaf coffee||5-30 mg|
|1 ounce of milk chocolate||6 mg|
|1 mug of decaf black tea||5 mg|
How can I limit my caffeine intake?
Of course, you could cut out caffeinated products altogether, but some mums-to-be find this too much of a challenge!
If you’re willing to give it a try, the Decadent Decaf Coffee Company reckon you can give up caffeinated coffee in a week!
If you’re finding caffeinated coffee too hard to give up altogether why not switch from filter coffee to instant, or switch from instant to decaffeinated. You may prefer to switch from coffee over to tea which tends to have less caffeine.
You could also swap out dark chocolate for milk or white when you snack. It really depends on what you love about your caffeine!
If you just love the taste of coffee, then definitely swap to versions with lower caffeine. If you love having a warm drink then tea, or hot water and lemon are a great, cosy alternative.
If you love the freshness of a fizzy soda or energy drink maybe you can try sparkling water with fresh fruit or lemon instead. If it's the energy boost that you need, then you could switch up your diet for healthy energy boosting snacks and meals, energising workouts and make sure you are getting enough sleep!
To stick to your 200mg daily limit, you’ll need to do a little research.
With a little research you’ll be able to figure out where caffeine is hidden - in snacks, lattes or coffee flavoured desserts - so that you can include these sources of caffeine in your 200 mg daily limit.
If your regular diet is loaded with caffeine then it may be best to reduce your intake gradually, try mixing your normal coffee with half decaf or a load of milk to lessen its strength.
Overall, we would just say try not to worry! There are lots of lower caffeine options to your favourite energy boosting drinks and snacks that you can find, and it won't be too long before you can go back to whatever caffeine consumption you want!