Effects Of Caffeine During Pregnancy
Written by: Co-Founder Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO
There is nothing like a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. Many women (especially with toddlers) can’t get their day started without this little energy drink. Becoming pregnant and limiting caffeine can have this routine turned upside down.
For some pregnant women, like me, nausea and vomiting made me lose the taste for coffee and artificial sweeteners. Was it nature's way of telling me to limit caffeine intake? Maybe?! I was known for drinking 2-3 cups in the morning too. Life is funny that way.
Many women wonder how much coffee can I drink while pregnant, and how caffeine effects the fetus. Here is everything you need to know about caffeine during pregnancy.
★ How Much Caffeine Is Safe To Drink During Pregnancy?
Yes caffeine is safe to drink during pregnancy, but with some restrictions on the amount of caffeine a day. Obstetricians and gynecologists have stated that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy may not have a negative effect on a developing baby.
So, how many mg of caffeine can you have while pregnant? Moderate varies anywhere from 150 mg- 300 mg a day. It’s best to speak with your provider about what is suitable for you. However, the American Pregnancy Association suggests avoiding caffeine as much as possible during pregnancy and even breastfeeding. There may not be any benefits of drinking coffee while pregnant other than it tastes good and it helps keep you going (especially if you are pregnant with your second or third kid!).
★ Why Is Caffeine “Bad” During Pregnancy?
Caffeine isn’t necessarily “bad” to have during pregnancy. Experts like the American College of Obstetricians agree to proceed with caution. You can still have your morning cup (about 12 oz or less) of coffee (depending on the brand), but as far as enjoying coffee all day-- that’s a habit to forgo.
Make the most out of your morning cup-o-joe and enjoy it iced, in a smoothie, or even make your own pumpkin spiced latte with a couple of spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, warmed vanilla almond milk, and pumpkin pie spice (and less coffee). Sip and savor it (if possible) because it will probably be the only coffee you can drink during the day!
★ What Happens If You Drink Coffee While Pregnant?
Caffeine in coffee crosses the placenta into the amniotic fluid and therefore goes into your baby’s bloodstream. A woman's body metabolizes caffeine to get rid of it. However, because a growing baby is still developing, it takes much longer to process and metabolize any amount of caffeine. Therefore, the baby is exposed to more caffeine. And as the second and third trimesters roll around, it takes much longer for a pregnant woman's body to metabolize caffeine.
Because caffeine is a stimulant, you may find it can intensify issues like heartburn and frequent urination. And pregnant women already deal with that enough! Plus, it can make you feel jittery and keep you up later than you want. And it may raise your blood pressure and heart rate, which may be dangerous.
There is a caffeine limit during pregnancy because too much caffeine during pregnancy may cause harm to both mom and growing baby.
★ Caffeine Facts
Caffeine is both a stimulant and diuretic, which means it can both speed up your heart rate and blood pressure (stimulant) and make you use the bathroom more frequently (diuretic). The issue with too much urination (on top of already frequent pregnancy bathroom trips!) is that you can become easily dehydrated. Dehydration is problematic during pregnancy because a dehydrated pregnant woman risks low amniotic fluid and preterm labor.
Caffeine crosses the placenta to your baby. Your developing baby’s metabolism is not mature enough to handle a lot of caffeine. Any amount of caffeine can also change your baby’s sleep patterns while in the womb.
Caffeine is found in many beverages other than coffee. Coffee seems to be the most popular caffeinated beverage, but tea, chocolate, and soda also contain levels of caffeine. How much caffeine can a pregnant woman have a day? About 200 mg or less (heavy on the less). How much is 200 mg of caffeine? See this chart below for reference, but it's roughly about 8-10 oz cups of coffee.
★ Does Caffeine Cause Miscarriages?
According to the March of Dimes, it is unknown whether or not caffeine causes miscarriages. March of Dimes recommends drinking as little caffeine as possible and no more than 200 mg daily.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2020 summarized nine observational studies of maternal caffeine consumption and miscarriage conducted in 2000. The findings agreed, with about eight studies reporting compelling associations between caffeine and increased risk of miscarriage. Current evidence does not back theories about safe levels of maternal caffeine consumption. The collective scientific documentation supports advice to pregnant women and women planning pregnancy to avoid caffeine in early pregnancy and throughout pregnancy.
Bottom line: Is it safe to drink coffee while pregnant? We encourage you to speak to your midwife, OB, or health care provider about caffeine during pregnancy so that you can make a decision that is best and safe for you and your growing baby. We advise staying away from caffeine in the first trimester when your baby's development is crucial.
★ Can Caffeine Cause Contractions And Induce Labor?
There is no substantial evidence that states that caffeine consumption can induce labor. The connection between caffeine intake and uterine contractions is likely due to caffeine’s effect on the uterine muscle. In some cases, caffeine may cause preterm labor, but the results were not significant.
★ Caffeine Alternatives During Pregnancy
- Decaf coffee (which also may have trace amounts of caffeine- just make sure to choose the right one for you).
- Fruit-infused water (our favorite caffeine-free drink during pregnancy).
- Coconut water
- Fruit juices made with 100% juice
- Peppermint Tea - a natural caffeine-free tea that's ok during pregnancy.
★ How To Increase Energy Without Caffeine
- Drink plenty of water. At least 10, 8 oz glasses daily.
- Consume meals/snacks every 3-4 hours.
- Get as much rest as possible. Even power naps help!
- Do pregnancy-safe exercises like walking or prenatal yoga.
- Limit foods high in sugar and salt, which can make you feel super sluggish.
- Take a prenatal vitamin with Iron and Vitamin B12. Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal + DHA has 18 mg of Iron and 2.6 mcg of B12. Click here for more info!