Should I limit Caffeine While Pregnant?

I’m a Registered Dietitian that works with women who are pregnant, want to become pregnant and mom’s raising kid’s through feeding challenges. Here is the advice I give on whether to limit caffeine while pregnant.

3 cups of coffee with heart milk art surrounded by plants on a table

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant that increases the activity of our brain and nervous system and increases our levels of cortisol and adrenaline says one source. It is most commonly found in coffee, tea, soda pop, chocolate, energy drinks and even some medications.

Why consume caffeine?

A source says that 89% of Americans and 80% of women consume a source of caffeine daily. People consume caffeine for a variety of reasons:

  • To increase cognitive function
  • To increase athletic performance
  • Habit
  • Because they didn’t sleep well
  • To go poop
  • Socially
  • They enjoy the taste
    As someone who thoroughly enjoys my morning coffee, and since becoming a mother and seemingly never sleeping adequately, I think I’d like to think I drink caffeine for habit and energy. Why do you drink caffeine?

Should you limit caffeine while pregnant?

The recommendation for caffeine during pregnancy has conflicting advice depending on who you talk to. The American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding caffeine as much as possible while pregnant, while another study says that limiting caffeine intake to <300 mg per day is safe during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests consuming <200 mg/day. The truth is more studies need to be done on caffeine and pregnancy and the risks associated with it. It is truly up to you as to whether you will continue to consume caffeinated food and drinks while pregnant.

Although, if you decide to consume caffeine during pregnancy it is a good idea to consume less than that 200 mg to not see side effects for yourself and for baby, whose body can’t process caffeine. Not to mention when you’re pregnant you metabolize caffeine slower than you did before so seeing more sensitivity to it isn’t uncommon. If you’re in your first trimester it is common that you’ll have an aversion to coffee altogether. If that happens, of course just go with the flow and listen to your body by avoiding your coffee in the morning!

Side Effects Of Too Much Caffeine

  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • increased thirst
  • sleep disturbances
  • rapid heart rate
  • upset stomach
  • nervousness, anxiety
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • dehydration

Sources of Caffeine

What Does 200 mg of Caffeine Look Like?

  • 4-5 cups of green tea, depending on the brand
  • 71 ounces of diet coke or 5.9 cans of diet coke
  • A grande flat white from starbucks (195 mg)
  • Home brewed coffee could have anywhere from 95-200 mg/cup, you can brew less strong coffee at home to decrease caffeine. I would encourage you to look at your coffee’s caffeine content
  • 2.5 Grande matcha latte’s from Starbucks

Are Their Benefits of Consuming Caffeine During Pregnancy?

In this study, it showed that women who consumed caffeine during their second trimester under the recommendation of <200mg/day had a lower risk of getting Gestational Diabetes. Does this mean you should go out and consume coffee to decrease your risk? No. If you weren’t a caffeine drinker prior to pregnancy, now is not the time to start consuming caffeine. Always talk to your doctor first before making decisions about changing your caffeine intake.

What Are Other Associate Risks Of Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy?

Research found that children age 9-11 years old whose mothers consumed the higher end of caffeine during pregnancy tended to have a higher bmi and those children tend to consumer more soda and sugar. Another study shows that caffeine consumption of over 300 mg per day doubles ones risk of miscarriage. Finally, low birth rate babies and overconsumption of caffeine >500 mg/day has some research to support this, however more research needs to be done on it.

Can You Drink Caffeine While Breastfeeding?

Yes! You can drink caffeine while nursing, although small amounts of caffeine do cross into the breast milk it is thought that 2-3 cups of coffee per day is a safe amount. However, if your baby is having a harder time staying asleep after you’ve have had caffeine or they seem more fussy it might be a good idea to monitor your caffeine and see if there’s a relationship. It could be that baby is more sensitive to caffeine.

Tips To Wean Back Caffeine Intake

  • If you drink a lot of coffee and are wanting to cut back, try subbing half your coffee for decaf coffee
  • Opt for milk chocolate over dark chocolate
  • Drink decaf versions of tea, if you’re pregnant read this article to see what herbal teas are safe during pregnancy
  • Avoid energy drinks, caffeine pills, pre-workout and any medications (without first discussing with your doctor) while pregnant

Should you limit caffeine while pregnant?

Ultimately this choice is up to you. As per the recommendations from professionals above, it is a good idea to stay under the the recommended 200mg/day if you do decide to consume caffeine. Always talk with your OBGYN or doctor prior to changing your diet and never start consuming caffeine if you didn’t before pregnancy.