Coffee During Pregnancy: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Caffeine or Coffee During Pregnancy How Much Caffeine Is Too Much Caffeine During Pregnancy ?

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Caffeine/Coffee During Pregnancy: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much Caffeine During Pregnancy ? As an expecting mother, you probably have already been handed down a list of foods to eat and another, even longer list of foods to avoid. Coffee or any caffeine-based drinks usually make it to the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy and as a woman who loved her morning coffee pre-pregnancy, you might hate to have found yourself in this spot.

You might already also be wondering if there could be any loopholes to this rule or if you could perhaps just cut down coffee and not curb the intake completely.

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to how much coffee or caffeine consumption is safe during pregnancy, there only are some recommendations; but for everything else, we are here to help!

In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about a safe limit for caffeine consumption; how much coffee is safe, how to curb the crave and what to do to avoid the not-so-obvious sources of caffeine during pregnancy.

How much coffee is safe during pregnancy ?

As per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women are advised to cut down their caffeine intake to “lesser than 200 mg per day.” In layman’s terms, 200 mg is about one 11-ounce cup of coffee in one full day.

Does caffeine affect the fetus? Why should pregnant women not consume coffee or caffeine during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are advised to avoid caffeine during pregnancy because caffeine can cross through the placenta and enter the amniotic fluid which is supposed to nourish and nurture a baby. Once caffeine reaches the amniotic fluid, it subsequently reaches the baby’s bloodstream, thereby exposing the baby to caffeine and causing harm to the fetus.

Though mild caffeine intake (less than 200 mg), as mentioned, does not cause harm to the baby, a greater intake can cause some major harm to the developing fetus. Though researchers are still trying to determine all the probable issues, it has already been established in a study that mothers who consume more than 300 mg of caffeine a day or more than one 11-ounce cup of coffee in one full day, are more likely to give birth to babies small for their gestational age.

Besides, since caffeine is anyway proven to give you a ‘kick’ and to raise your BP as well as your heart rate, it is best to avoid the stimulant during pregnancy. As a pregnant woman, since your body’s ability to break down foods, including caffeine, goes down, consumption of too much caffeine can also cause a jittery feeling, cause increased heartburns by aggravating digestion acids, and lead to insomnia.

Fun fact: For a woman who is not pregnant versus a woman who is pregnant, the ability of a pregnant woman’s body to steer clear of caffeine from the bloodstream will take twice to three times as compared to the non-pregnant woman! This obviously also means that since the caffeine stays in the blood longer, more caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches the baby.

Here's a quick reference chart to help you understand the amount of caffeine present in varied kinds of cups of coffee.

Coffee Type Coffee Amount Caffeine Amount
Coffee, Generic Brewed 8 oz 95-200 mg
Coffee, Starbucks Brewed 12 oz 12 oz   240 mg
Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts Brewed 16 oz 16 oz   211 mg
Caffé latte, Misto, or Cappuccino (Starbucks) 16 oz 12 oz 150 mg 75 mg
Espresso, Generic 1 oz (1 shot) 64 mg
Espresso, Starbucks 1 oz (1 shot) 75 mg
Instant Coffee, Generic 1 tsp (granules) 31 mg
Decaffeinated  Coffee, Generic 8 oz 2 mg

Which foods and beverages contain caffeine and should be avoided during pregnancy?

Coffee, of course, is the primary and most obvious source of caffeine which should be avoided at all costs. Apart from coffee, certain other foods also have high levels of caffeine, albeit in lower strengths like energy drinks, carbonated drinks like coke, coffee-flavored ice cream, tea, energy drinks like red bull, and even some over the counter drugs sold to cure common colds and headaches.

Over the counter pills are anyway recommended to be avoided during the term and owing to the presence of caffeine in some, it is advised to always read the label very carefully if at all you happen to take it.

As for pure coffee, the amount of caffeine will vary greatly based on the type of bean used as well as the technique used to brew your cup of coffee.

Here's a quick reference chart to help you understand the amounts of caffeine present in varied kinds of other foods and drinks apart from coffee.

Drink Type

Coffee Amount

Caffeine Amount

Black tea, brewed

8 oz    

47 mg

Green tea, brewed     

8 oz    

25 mg

Black tea, decaffeinated

8 oz    

2 mg

Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea latte

16 oz

95 mg

Instant tea, unsweetened      

1 tsp powder  

26 mg

Snapple          

16 oz              

42 mg

Lipton Brisk Iced Tea 

12 oz  

5 mg

Coke

12 oz  

47 mg

Diet Coke       

12 oz

47 mg

Pepsi  

12 oz

38 mg

Diet Pepsi      

12 oz  

36 mg

Jolt Cola         

12 oz  

72 mg

Mountain Dew

12 oz  

54 mg

7-Up   

12 oz  

0 mg

Sierra Mist      

12 oz  

0 mg

Sprite  

12 oz  

0 mg

Red Bull         

8.3 oz 

77 mg

5-Hour Energy

2 oz    

138 mg

Desserts

Dark chocolate (with 70-85 percent cacao solids)  

1 oz    

23 mg

Milk chocolate

1.55 oz

9 mg

Coffee ice cream

8 oz    

2 mg

Frozen yogurt 

8 oz    

2 mg

Hot Cocoa

8 oz    

8-12 mg

Chocolate chips, semisweet  

4 oz    

53 mg

Chocolate milk           

8 oz

5-8 mg

Tips to curb the caffeine craving during pregnancy

Feeling groggy at the thought of not being able to drink coffee? You like it or not, your doctor will recommend you to curb or at least lower your caffeine consumption during pregnancy. To help you achieve the goal of a safe pregnancy, lowering your maternal caffeine consumption is imperative.

Here are some tips to help you lower or curb caffeine consumption during pregnancy-

  • Though most women typically start feeling everted to caffeine as a side effect of morning sickness, if you are one of those mommas who still finds herself yearning for that cup, try resorting to a decaf coffee, to begin with.
  • You could also try spiking decaf powder with a small percentage of caffeinated coffee for that ‘kick’ which might be too difficult to let go of in the initial days.
  • If you are using ground coffee or tea leaves, do not brew them for too long. In fact, letting a tea bag sit in the water for under one minute, instead of the regular 3-5 minutes can reduce the intensity of caffeine by half.

FAQs- Caffeine during pregnancy

1) Is using a caffeine-based body lotion safe during pregnancy?

As funny and unreal as this might sound, it is not safe to use cocoa butter lotions during pregnancy. A 2006 study found "a lowered risk of fetal heart arrhythmias in certain babies with structural heart issues" when women used cocoa butter lotions during pregnancies. Though it is suspected that caffeine-based lotions have an effect on the babies, it is not fully proven or established yet. However, consult your doctor for professional recommendations. Always better to be safe than sorry.

2) Are there any benefits of having caffeine during pregnancy?

If consumed moderately, caffeine sure can boost energy levels and improve the alertness of a person. However, caffeine 'during pregnancy' in particular, is not proven to have any sure-shot benefits. If you are a pregnant woman who really wants to have some coffee, you sure might, but ensure that the intensity is below 200 mg and the consumption is not on a regular basis.

3) Do caffeine-based drinks affect iron absorption in women during pregnancy?

Yes, caffeine drinks are known to reduce the body's ability to absorb iron, in a pregnant woman or otherwise. This is also why it is recommended to have caffeine-based drinks (tea or coffee) between meals and to limit caffeine after meals, as between meals can have lower negative effects of caffeine on the absorption ability.

4) Can caffeine cause miscarriages?

The answer is both yes and no. While a study conducted in 2008 established that "drinking two cups of coffee a day or five cans of caffeinated soda (both of which contain about 200 milligrams of caffeine) could double a pregnant woman's risk of miscarriage," the point here is to be able to strike a balance. We say this because a review of the established studies by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in August 2010 further concluded that "one cup of caffeinated coffee or one caffeinated soft drink a day won’t raise the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth." Hence, if the caffeine content is kept a check on, caffeine is safe to go!

5) Is caffeine-free coffee OK during pregnancy?

Though there are no official or professionally issued guidelines about decaf coffee consumption, logically it makes sense to have a decaf coffee instead of a caffeinated drink. It is always best to consult your doctor and take professional advice before consuming anything supposed to be even remotely unsafe for consumption during pregnancy.
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