Caffeine during pregnancy: How much is allowed and safe?
Caffeine during pregnancy: How much is allowed and safe?
Sometimes you need the punch that caffeine gives to sail through your day – quite frankly, it's completely understandable. Now you are pregnant, and you wonder if it's safe for you to continue chugging cups of warm caffeine drinks every mother with hopes that your baby's health and yours aren't at risk.
We are here to help you through this journey. We understand that you might need a little pick-me-up on some mornings during your pregnancy, which is completely normal as your energy levels won't always be top-notch. In this article, we would explore all about caffeine during pregnancy, how safe it is for you, the foods to eat, and possible effects on your body.
Ready for it? Here's everything you need to know about caffeine during pregnancy – how much of the daily dose of magic is allowed and safe.
What is Caffeine?
You could call it wonderful morning jazz, a cuppa, or even a cup of joe, but we all are in on the secret! Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant that many of us rely on for a quick jolt to get us through the day. According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 80 percent of adults in the United States take a form of caffeine, whether in drinks or bars, every day for the extra burst of energy. The truth about this substance is that it does more than just keeping us awake and energized. Scientists have recorded that caffeine affects the body in numerous ways.
Nutritionally, caffeine has no benefits on the body and is equally tasteless. Therefore, you might not know that it's in some foods and drugs. Although you might feel more energized after consuming a cup or more of caffeine, you may soon become highly lethargic due to withdrawal symptoms. Like most stimulants, your body adjusts and soon develops a tolerance level to caffeine, thus increasing the quantity you need to consume before feeling the energy rush. If you know some of the effects caffeine has on your organs, you might think twice before taking the fifth cup next time.
That isn't to say that caffeine is completely bad for your body. Studies have shown that caffeine reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia by 45 percent. However, this result was found only in those who consumed high-octane coffee and not decaf.
What foods and drinks contain Caffeine?
The amount of caffeine in beverages, soft drinks, coffee, teas, and certain foods widely varies. Some of the standard beverages that you consume contain a sizable amount of content. Check this list to ascertain the content of your favorite drinks:
- Espresso: 30 to 50 mg per 30 ml serving
- Coffee: 60 to 200 mg per 240 ml serving
- Energy drinks: 50 to 60 mg per 240 ml serving
- Yerba mate: 65 to 130 mg per 240 ml serving
- Soft drinks: 30 to 60 mg per 355 ml serving
- Chocolate milk: 2 to 7 mg per 240 ml serving
- Dark chocolate: 25 to 60 mg per 360 ml serving
- Brewed tea: 20 to 120 mg per 240 ml serving
- Cocoa beverage: 3 to 32 mg per 240 ml serving
- Decaffeinated coffee: 2 to 4 mg per 240 ml serving
As you'd have guessed, caffeine is naturally occurring in coffee and cocoa beans, and therefore is present in large quantities in chocolate. As a thumb rule, the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content. Other coffee-flavored confections like ice creams and granola bars also contain a high amount of caffeine. Kombucha, granola bars, some cereals, iced tea, non-cola soft drinks, Oreos, and even certain puddings contain caffeine, although in trace amounts. Healthily eating any of these foods will not cause a heavy load of caffeine in your body, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
What medicines contain Caffeine?
Aside from several drinks and foods containing caffeine, some medications you may use during your pregnancy may also include a portion of caffeine. Some drugs use caffeine as a base component for their formulation. Although these drugs are generally considered safe, they are not recommended for anyone trying to reduce the risk of caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
A study conducted recently revealed that consuming medications with high caffeine content increases the risk of developing a stroke by about 15 to 30 percent. Seeing as findings from this research negate earlier reports claiming that caffeine has protective effects on the body's major systems, it is advised that you tread cautiously.
Interestingly, caffeine pills are available for purchase in most local stores. Still, it is advised that you limit your consumption of other substances that contain caffeine or eliminate them while taking the pills. In pregnancy, these pills should not be an option because they have high amounts of caffeine in dosages considered unsafe. Although some factions in the medical field are wary of the research results on caffeine's effects on a growing fetus, we advise that you tread this path carefully.
Some common over-the-counter medication that contains caffeine include:
- Nalidixic acid
Some of these medications can sometimes have a moderate to severe reaction with other drugs that you may be on. Drug interaction is essential in pregnancy because of the likely passage of some of these materials into the growing fetus and the delicate nature of the mother's health.
Ensure to consult your doctor before taking any medication for cold and flu when you are pregnant. Aside from caffeine, some medicines might contain chemicals and substances that are harmful to you and your baby. This also applies to regular painkillers.
Will Caffeine During pregnancy affect you and your baby?
You don't have to ditch your caffeine habit once you get pregnant completely. However, it was advised in the past that pregnant women stay away from caffeine due to the risk of developing withdrawal symptoms and the unknown effects on the growing fetus. Nonetheless, recent studies have revealed that moderate consumption is safe, as long as you are committed to sticking with available information on precautions.
We know that it might seem a lot to ditch your extra cup of morning magic juice, but one cup of coffee is not too much a sacrifice for your health and that of your baby. Although the direct mechanism of action is pretty unclear, experts are confident that caffeine can cross through the placental barrier to reach your child. Imagine a baby high on caffeine for a minute – it sounds like a scene from a horror movie! Furthermore, experts have reported that high caffeine consumption, especially in the first and second trimester, is linked to increased pregnancy loss chances.
Often, most pregnant women report that they do not feel any different, and for some, they have an extra punch of energy after consuming their regular amount of caffeine. This is likely due to new reactions formed by your body to other substances resulting from an increase in several hormonal levels. Hence, this could equally mask some of caffeine's debilitating effects in pregnancy until it is too late.
One of the significant side effects of caffeine is the increase in gastrointestinal movement. While pregnant, if you are already experiencing an increase in the amount of time you spend visiting the toilet per day, you should include caffeine on the list of things to avoid till the 'little one' shows up. Additionally, caffeine consumption may worsen your heartburns and jitters, which are some of the pregnancy symptoms that show up in the late second trimester until the baby arrives.
Furthermore, caffeine might increase your risk for anemia in pregnancy. Usually, iron levels are continually monitored throughout pregnancy. This is because low iron absorption can result in anemia which is dangerous to both mother and child at any stage of the pregnancy. In case you suffer from low iron levels, you might need to completely cut out caffeine or reduce the amount you consume regularly. This is because caffeine reduces the absorption of iron from the gastrointestinal tract.
On the flip side, caffeine can come in handy to perk you up after a night of tossing and turning. Difficulty in sleeping is often observed in pregnant women, especially in the third trimester. While caffeine might help you get through the day, you should not make a habit of consuming large amounts of it.
Caffeine during pregnancy dosage
Concerning caffeine consumption when pregnant, you are best advised to stick on the side of conservatives. Suppose you are a coffee fan, and can't do without your cup of morning glory. In that case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) advises that you consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. This value is equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of coffee. According to experts, exceeding this limit regularly could increase your risk of a miscarriage by almost 45 percent. However, results from this report are inconclusive. We would advise that you tread cautiously.
Additionally, it is vital to remember that aside from coffee, some other foods and drinks contain caffeine in varying quantities. Regular beverages like soda, chocolate milk, energy drinks, and brewed tea contain at least 50 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the product you buy. It will help if you read the labels and nutritional data on most products before consuming them. Remember, the goal here is to stay safe all through the period of your pregnancy.
Caffeine During Pregnancy FAQs
How does caffeine affect early pregnancy?
Large amounts of caffeine, especially in the early months of pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage by about 45 percent. It is therefore advised that pregnant women stick to the recommendations and guidelines provided by health experts.
Is it safe to drink decaf coffee during pregnancy?
Although there are no official reports and guidelines that relate decaf to pregnancy, it is considered safe to take it in moderation. Nonetheless, it is generally advised that the same caution exercised with caffeine should be applied to decaf.
What is an example of a suitable substitute for caffeine in pregnancy?
You can try out chicory coffee. Asides from being tasty, it also contains several nutrients that are beneficial for optimal health in pregnancy.
Final Thoughts on Caffeine During Pregnancy
While we can generally agree that caffeine might be needed to get your juices flowing for the day’s work, extreme caution is required to preserve the health of both mother and child. Asides from the regular drinks that contain caffeine note that some foods, medications, and flavored confections equally contain trace amounts of caffeine. In all, you are allowed to take caffeine during pregnancy, albeit within the boundaries of provided recommendations.