Drinking Caffeine While Pregnant: Is It Safe?​

woman drinking coffee looking at her phoneFor so many of us, groggy mornings necessitate drinking coffee. At the very least, it can be hard to envision forgoing your morning cup of joe for nine months! Yet, pregnant women are often told that caffeine is a no-go and giving it up is best for their baby, due to concerns that it might lead to higher rates of miscarriage and inhibit fetal development by limiting blood flow to the placenta. But is that really the case?

The verdict: According to nutritionist Willow Jarosh MS, RD, C&J Nutrition and healthy mama® brand medical advisory board member, caffeine is safe -- in small amounts. "The majority of experts agree that it's okay to have a cup of joe daily, but you need to be cautious with your portions," Jarosh says.

Here, the details:


The generally recommended max is 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day, or the amount of caffeine in about one 12-oz. cup of coffee (a size small at most coffee shops). Jarosh advises women to consider whether they're consuming any other foods that contain caffeine. Many foods, non-coffee beverages, and even over-the-counter drugs are hidden sources. For example, you'll want to pay special attention to dark chocolate (i.e. Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar (31 mg, almost as much as a can of Coke), pain-relievers like Excedrin (65 mg per tablet), or green tea (24-45 mg for 8 oz.).

It also helps to be mindful that caffeine content of some cafes' coffees contain more caffeine than regular brewed coffee, notes nutritionist Stephanie Clarke MS, RD, who is also a C&J Nutrition and healthy mama® brand medical advisory board member. For that reason, women should drink even less of these beverages. "We typically recommend our clients order a 'short'-size coffee, which is 8 oz., if they're ordering from Starbucks, or a tall half-caf," advises Clarke.

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That said, research shows limited consumption of caffeine does not appear to show any difference in terms of fetal well-being compared to infants who aren't exposed to any caffeine at all, says Dr. Marcel M. Favetta, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology for Geisinger Northeast of the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. And an oft-cited study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found no difference in miscarriage rates between women who drank no coffee and those who drank up to two cups a day. (Though researchers did find higher miscarriage rates for those who drank more than two cups a day, which explains the recommendation.)

To play it extra safe, you can look up the caffeine content of various popular beverages before relaying your order to a barista.

What adjustments to your caffeine routine have you made while pregnant?

Image via bruno_padilha/Flickr

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