Caffeine During Pregnancy

Coffee, tea, & soda during pregnancy.

Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG

Coffee, tea, and cola are among the most popular beverages in the world. Many women can not imagine beginning their day without a jolt of caffeine. Is there a safe amount of caffeine that a pregnant woman can consume? Is caffeine harmless? Will it make my unborn baby hyperactive later in life? These are questions, women are asking about drinking their favorite beverages before, during, and after gestation.

Several research studies have examined the effects of caffeine during pregnancy. One study was very large. It followed sixty thousand women over a ten year period of time. Long term large studies usually provide accurate information The researchers found that caffeine consumption increased the likelihood of having low birth weight babies.  Low birth weight babies are at risk for health problems at birth and long term.

Some animal studies indicate that caffeine may be linked to heart problems and other birth defects as well as early labor.  Conflicting studies exist regarding whether or not caffeine causes miscarriage rates to increase in humans. More research is needed.

The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women consume 300 milligrams of caffeine daily as a maximum limit. The March of Dimes recommends less than 200 milligrams. Two hundred milligrams is equal to approximately 12 oz of coffee.

Caffeine is found in many products. Some medications, especially those used for headaches and colds, contain caffeine. Herbs that contain caffeine include black and green teas, guarana, and yerba mate. Chocolate contains caffeine. Products vary in caffeine content.

Examples of Caffeine Content:

Coffee 8oz. regular blend 140 mg
Tea, black or green 8oz. 40- 50 mg.
Cola 8oz 30 mg.
1.5 oz dark chocolate 30 mg
1.5 oz milk chocolate 10 mg
1 aspirin with caffeine headache remedy dose 65 mg.

Keep in mind that some specialty teas and coffees are served in large sizes and may be extra strong, such as those containing espresso. Instant teas and coffees contain about half as much caffeine as their brewed counterparts. Prepared products that contain chocolate or coffee flavoring have small amounts of caffeine in them.

Some studies indicate that caffeine may impair conception. Caffeine does not appear to cause hyperactivity. Small amounts are present in breast milk.

Caffeine is able to pass through the placental barrier from mom to baby. The babies' immature systems can not deactivate the caffeine during early pregnancy. Until more is known about the effects of caffeine on developing babies, it is best to avoid or limit caffeine during pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions.