Since a 9th century Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi stumbled upon a fruit whose broth gave him lots of energy and terrible breath, people have been using coffee and its caffeine to wake them up in the morning, and keep them focused throughout the day. We’ve since discovered caffeine’s naturally occurring presence in tea, chocolate, and Red Bull (Ok, this one is not so natural), and people have been quick to jump to all sorts of different sources for caffeine’s energy. But is it safe to consume caffeine during pregnancy? Here’s what you need to know.
Are there downsides to caffeine during pregnancy?
Even though caffeine naturally gives you a bunch of energy, some drinks containing caffeine also contain herbal supplements, high amounts of sugar, or other ingredients that aren’t desirable during pregnancy. Also, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it’ll increase the frequency with which you need to pee, which is usually already elevated during pregnancy. This can lead to dehydration if you don’t drink enough water to replenish yourself.
Caffeine is most often used as a stimulant to help get you up in the morning, however drinking caffeine later in the day can make getting precious sleep more difficult. Like other stimulants, caffeine temporarily raises both heart rate and blood pressure, which may impact you more during pregnancy. Both increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure can be risky for some people or lead to complications.
Can caffeine hurt Baby?
While babies and children shouldn’t drink caffeine, fetuses in utero don’t receive the same amount of caffeine as you do drinking it directly. Research suggests that small amounts of caffeine are likely safe for developing babies and pregnancies. Rates of stillbirth, miscarriage, pre-term birth and/or low birthweight do not appear to be impacted by small amounts (under 200 mg) of daily caffeine use in pregnancy.
What’s the verdict?
Drinking a small amount of caffeine each day (under 200 mg, or about 1-2 small cups of coffee) is likely safe for you and your pregnancy. People who want to completely eliminate any risk posed by caffeine can eliminate it completely if they choose. Always be sure to check the amount of caffeine in any coffee, tea, soda, chocolate or supplements, because the amounts can vary quite a bit. And, of course, check in with your healthcare provider for more guidance.
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- “Modetate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy: Committee Opinion Number 462.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 8/10/2015. Web.
- “Caffeine in pregnancy.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, 6/12/2015. Web.
- “Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: FAQ034.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/14/2015. Web.
- Caroline Brito Nunes, Peiyuan Huang, Geng Wang, Mischa Lundberg, Shannon D’Urso, Robyn E Wootton, Maria Carolina Borges, Deborah A Lawlor, Nicole M Warrington, David M Evans, Liang-Dar Hwang, Gunn-Helen Moen, Mendelian randomization study of maternal coffee consumption and its influence on birthweight, stillbirth, miscarriage, gestational age and pre-term birth, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2022;, dyac121, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyac121