Drinking Coffee during Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

A pregnant woman holding a cup of coffee

An expecting mother faces a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to food and drinks. She has to change her lifestyle and diet for the betterment of her baby. Keeping this in mind, coffee lovers would be wondering if coffee is safe to consume during pregnancy? Can you drink coffee during the first trimester of pregnancy? If it is safe, then what quantity of it should be consumed.? Is there any alternative to coffee? What are the effects of coffee on pregnancy? Here is the answer to all your questions.

Why is it Unsafe to have Coffee during Pregnancy?

Too much consumption of coffee can increase the concentration of two components in our body, i.e. caffeine and polyphenols. As the breakdown time for caffeine in the body is longer during pregnancy, the chances of it reaching the unborn baby are higher. Caffeine passes from mother to the growing baby through the placenta. The organs in a growing baby are still in the developing stage and processing of caffeine by the baby’s body can be delayed which could cause side effects. Few of the side effects include:

  • Miscarriage: Studies say that high consumption of caffeine (more than two cups) can cause miscarriage in early stages of pregnancy. Therefore, avoid consuming coffee in the first trimester of the pregnancy.
  • Cardiovascular toxicity: In an unborn baby, caffeine can cause an increase in the heart rate, arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.
  • Growth Retardation: Caffeine can cause an adverse impact on the developing brain of the baby which in turn can affect the growth.
  • Carcinogenic: High amount of caffeine can lead to cancer in the foetus.
  • Anaemia: Anaemia is a condition in which there is a deficiency of red cells or haemoglobin in the blood. Caffeine may reduce the iron absorption capacity from food to body and can cause health risk during pregnancy.
  • Also, some studies have revealed that pregnant women with high consumption of caffeine (more than 300 mg) gave birth to the lighter weight babies than those with lower consumption of caffeine (100-200 mg). Also, this study says that the babies born with lower weight are at a higher risk of health issues when they grow older.

How much Coffee can you Consume during Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman drinking a cup of coffee

American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that drinking coffee cannot be dangerous during pregnancy if pregnant women restrict it’s consumption to 200 milligrams (mg) per day. Which means two standard cups of coffee, with each cup being about 100 ml. Larger mugs will mean more quantity of coffee, so the capacity of the mug should also be taken into consideration.

Types of coffee Portion Average caffeine amount (mg)
Instant coffee 8 ounces/ 1 cup (250 ml) 76
Filtered coffee 8 ounces/ 1 cup (250 ml) 179
Decaffeinated coffee 8 ounces/ 1 cup (250 ml) 3-15
Brewed coffee 8 ounces/ 1 cup (250 ml) 137

Source 1: https://www.dispensaire.ca/en/article/coffee-during-pregnancy/

Source 2: https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/caffeine-in-pregnancy.aspx

What are the Other Drinks that Contain Caffeine?

Caffeine is not only found in coffee but in other drinks as well. Below mentioned is the list, which illustrates caffeinated foods and their content.

  • Tea: Any type of tea such as green tea, ice tea or lemon tea contain a small amount of caffeine. Pregnant women can have tea but in a smaller portion as it also contains a good amount of antioxidants which is good for health. Larger quantities of it should be avoided.
  • Chocolate-based drinks: Yes you heard right! The temptation of having hot chocolate milk and chocolate milkshakes have high levels of caffeine an should also be avoided.
  • Carbonated drinks: Carbonated drinks, aerated soft drinks – these drinks contain a good amount of caffeine. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid these. A good alternative to these is fresh fruit juices which have little or no caffeine.

Safer Alternatives to Coffee

  • In case you are consuming a small amount of coffee/ tea, make sure that you drink plenty of water during your pregnancy to stay hydrated.
  • If you need a caffeine boost, you might choose a latte (about 75 mg of caffeine). From the milk in a latte you’ll get a little extra calcium and protein – nutrients you need during pregnancy anyway.
  • Include milk and milk products in your diet so that vitamin B12, calcium, and protein are supplied to your body naturally. You can have fresh lassi (sweet, thick yoghurt) made with your favourite fruit. Addition of buttermilk in your diet will keep your digestive system healthy by reducing gastric problems that arise during pregnancy. Lassi and buttermilk can act as a coolant in summer.
  • Pure/ fresh homemade fruit juices can be a good choice instead of caffeinated drinks. The fruit juices are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants.
  • Addition of herbal tea can help to reduce urge of caffeinated drinks. The herbal drinks such as mint tea (reduces morning sickness) , red raspberry leaves tea (regulates contraction during labour), Ginger tea (reduces morning sickness).
  • Consumption of vegetable juices will help to maintain the nutrient levels in the body during pregnancy. These juices are a good source of fibres, folic acid etc.
  • Include dry fruits and high fibre contained seeds/ fruits in your diet as they contain a good amount of omega 3- fatty acids, proteins and antioxidants which will be healthy for baby and mother.

In short, it is highly recommended to avoid caffeine as much as possible. But, even if you do have to cut back on the coffee now, don’t worry — you’ll be drinking plenty of it in a few months when your baby keeps you up all night!

Also, never hesitate to ask your doctor about caffeine intake or any other pregnancy-related queries. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Happy Pregnancy!