There’s a lot of confusion about caffeine during pregnancy, and if you love coffee, you might be wondering if you need to give up the lattes when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. The answer is no, you don’t need to stop drinking it, but you may need to reduce your intake. So, the real question is: How much caffeine is safe?
Firstly, caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic, so it increases blood pressure and heart rate (not recommended during pregnancy), and causes frequent urination that could lead to dehydration. While you are in control of the exact amount of caffeine that enters your body, your baby is not; caffeine crosses the placenta and acts on your baby just as it acts on you. That means it increases the fetus’ heart rate, breathing rate, and level of arousal.
In an effort to prepare for pregnancy, many women eat better and exercise before conception to ensure that their bodies are healthy and ready for implantation of a fertilised embryo. Some studies have actually found a link between high amounts of caffeine consumption and delayed conception, with women who consumed more than 300 mg of caffeine per day twice as likely to have conception delayed a full year or more compared with women who consumed less than 300 mg per day.
Therefore, you’ll need to reduce your intake to a mild to moderate level of consumption. Research has found that this amount of caffeine doesn’t cause any adverse reproductive outcomes.
The under-300 mg per day mark seems to be the safe consumption level even after conception as the fetus grows within the mother. A few studies have been done that show an increase in miscarriage among women who consume more than 300 mg of caffeine per day, and other study outcomes of high caffeine consumption included pre-term labor and low birth weight.
It’s about 200-300 mg of caffeine. How much coffee is that?
While most women and babies have no negative health effects from low to moderate caffeine consumption, caffeine sensitivity varies in each individual mum and baby. If you are normally caffeine sensitive, take care to avoid it during pregnancy, as the effects of caffeine are greater because it is more slowly metabolised in pregnant women. Avoid caffeine containing foods such as chocolate, coffee flavoured ice creams and yoghurt, and stick to fresh fruit for dessert instead. Be sure to stay well hydrated with beverages such as decaffeinated tea, juice, and water.
If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, but consuming more than three cups of coffee per day, try to start weaning yourself off of the coffee now, as your body will have a chance to adjust before all of the other changes start taking place.
Once pregnant, take care to regulate caffeine intake at safe levels. Know what foods and beverages contain caffeine, and avoid them if you are concerned about the effects of caffeine on pregnancy. Myths do exist about caffeine and pregnancy, so remain calm if you do happen to slip and indulge in cappuccino ice cream; moderate levels of caffeine are safe for you and your baby.