I have a love/hate relationship with coffee. Usually, the cycle goes something like this:
Day 1: I will have one cup of coffee today. God, coffee is delicious.
Day 3: I could have a cup and a half. If I just top off this cup, it’s basically like one “bottomless” cup, right?
Day 5: I will have one bottomless cup! As long as I refill it before I reach the bottom, it only counts as one cup.
Day 6: My head is killing me. It must be the caffeine. I better get out the giant mug.
Day 14: I’ve had a headache every day for the past week and a half. It’s probably because I drink six cups of coffee in the morning. I better quit.
Day 15: No coffee! Good job, me! Now if I can only get through the next few days of caffeine withdrawal, I’ll be fine.
Day 25: I’m not going to stay off coffee forever, though, right? I could probably just have one cup…
And the cycle repeats.
But now that I’m pregnant, things are a little more complicated. Part of the problem is that the research out there regarding caffeine during pregnancy is so conflicted. Here’s a brief overview of the research for and against caffeine during pregnancy:
Put down the mug!
- A study of 1,063 women found that consuming less than 200 mg/day of caffeine during pregnancy increased risk of miscarriage by 42%, and 200 mg/day or more of caffeine during pregnancy increased miscarriage risk by 123%. This association is especially true for women who have not miscarried in the past.
- This study found an association between low birth rate and the consumption of caffeine during pregnancy, even in as little quantities as 71 mg/day. Oddly, this was only true for babies born to nonsmoking mothers.
- CBS News reports on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that 1-3 cups of coffee a day increases risk of miscarriage by 30%, 3-5 cups raises risk by 40%, and 5 cups or more doubles the risk of miscarriage.
Have a cup!
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that less than 200 mg of caffeine during pregnancy per day doesn’t appear to cause miscarriage of preterm birth.
- This study of 2,407 pregnancies found no association between consumption of coffee and caffeine during pregnancy and miscarriage risk.
- A study of 873 Swedish women found no association between the intake of caffeine during pregnancy and birth weight or gestational age.
- This study (of only 79 women) found no link between caffeine during pregnancy and fertility or miscarriage risk.
Maybe drink some coffee?
- This study found that an average intake of 182 mg/day of caffeine during pregnancy didn’t affect length of gestation, although the average birth weight of babies born to women who weren’t consuming caffeine was 16 grams higher.
- An overview of several studies concluded that most had design flaws that could make the results invalid, and stated that “until studies can overcome these limitations, evidence for a causal link between caffeine and spontaneous abortion will remain inconclusive.”
- The National Health Service in England says less than 200 mg/day of caffeine during pregnancy is fine – but also notes that too much caffeine can result in babies with low birth weight or even miscarriages. The Food Standards Agency has the same guidelines.
- A statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that pregnant women should limit caffeine consumption to no more than 300 mg/day, except in the first trimester, when they shouldn’t have any. duri
- Another study found that “consuming less than two but more than zero servings of coffee, black tea, and herbal/green tea during early pregnancy was associated with an increased risk, compared with no servings of those beverages. The highest categories of intake for each beverage – more than two servings per day – were not associated with an increased risk.” This seems to imply that if you are going to drink coffee, you might as well drink a lot of it!
The Bottom Line
Confused yet? Me, too! The general consensus is that less than 200 mg of caffeine during pregnancy per day is okay. But the amount of caffeine can vary drastically depending on what you’re drinking: a 16 ounce cup of coffee from Starbucks has 330 mg of caffeine, while the same size at Dunkin’ Donuts has just 203 mg. Frankly, there’s just no way to know exactly how much caffeine is in your cup of coffee or tea.
So, for me, I’m skipping out on the coffee altogether (although I will admit that I had one…okay, two cups of half-caf the other day). I’m also ditching tea for the most part. For my first pregnancy, I didn’t have any caffeine for the first 4.5 months, but in the second half I indulged in a cup of coffee once in a while. I might do the same this time around, but it’s a slippery slope for me and coffee!
Personally, I’m better off avoiding caffeine during pregnancy altogether. My child has nine months or so to get the best head start in life. As a mom, part of your job is putting your children first, and if that means sacrificing my daily cup of coffee, I can do that. Although if I do break down and have a cup of tea or half-caf, I won’t freak out. If you choose to drink caffeine during your pregnancy, just try to do so in moderation. It’s always better to be on the safe side.