For many, coffee isn’t just a morning routine – it’s a lifestyle. Millions swear by their morning (and afternoon, and early evening, and sometimes even midnight) coffee to help stay focused and energized, but during pregnancy, many moms-to-be choose to reduce their caffeine intake. So what in the world could even compare to a cup of the good stuff? That depends.
Because of the routine of drinking coffee as well as its effects, many struggle with limiting themselves to the recommended daily pregnancy caffeine limit of daily 200 mg, or one large cup of regular coffee a day. Since this cut-off point also includes other sources of caffeine, like black or green tea, soda, or chocolate, staying under that limit can put some definite limits on a normal morning routine. However, while nothing will ever quite fill the place of coffee in a coffee-lover’s heart, it’s worth trying out some substitutions for the time being.
Why is caffeine restricted during pregnancy?
The euphoric rush that coffee provides comes from its caffeine content. Unfortunately, caffeine also causes blood vessels to constrict, which reduces the amount of blood that travels to the fetus. This change in blood flow can be dangerous, which is why it’s important to moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy.
What you substitute in for coffee depends largely on the role it plays in your life, so think about why you like coffee before looking for alternatives.
If you like coffee for: its warmth
Holding a warm beverage in your hands can be extremely comforting on a cold morning. If all you crave is a steaming beverage, you have a couple of options for these upcoming months.
- Herbal or pregnancy tea: Ask your healthcare provider about herbal tea or pregnancy teas, which usually contain beneficial herbs like red raspberry leaf. Unfortunately, non-herbal tea usually has caffeine, so it’s best to limit during pregnancy.
- Hot water with lemon and blackstrap molasses: You could also try drinking hot water with half a lemon and a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses, which contains a hearty dose of iron, calcium, and magnesium, among other nutrients.
- Decaf coffee: While decaf coffee does still contain some caffeine, it usually has a much smaller amount – around 13 mg per cup, depending on the brand.
If you like coffee for: the way it wakes you up
Lots of people have trouble waking up in the morning, and it’s never easy to rouse yourself after a night of sweet slumber. Instead of drinking a cup of coffee for its energizing effect, try some of the following:
- Turn more lights on as early in the morning as possible, and see if the light wakes you up.
- Take a cold shower – it’s guaranteed to shock your senses and take out of dreamland.
- Eat an apple. Your body gets an energy jolt from digesting the natural sugar.
If you like coffee for: the morning routine
- Go for a short walk outside. The fresh air and exercise can be invigorating and will give you some ‘you-time’.
- Stretch. Stretching gets your blood flowing, helping limber your body back up after hours of inactivity. Adding stretches into your morning routine can build a healthy lifelong habit.
If you like coffee for: its close friendship with your bowels
Hey, we’re right there with you. The caffeine in coffee is a pretty effective stimulant and can be a huge relief for those of us who are chronically backed up. But rest assured, there are alternatives. Here are some morning alternatives if The Force is strongest for you after three cups of coffee. Replace those 3 cups with any 1 of the following.
- 1 cup of hot water and 1 lemon, with its juice squeezed into the hot water. Citric acid can stimulate the bowels and the hot water provides water that can effectively soften things out.
- 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses, dropped into a cup of hot water or hot tea. Blackstrap molasses is super helpful during pregnancy particularly because it contains so many minerals and vitamins, one of which is magnesium which helps move waste through and out your body.
- 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil in tea. The oil helps make things a little more, shall we say, loose, which can encourage a trip to the bathroom.
It might seem that each day of pregnancy will drag by without multiple cups of coffee to fuel your steps. But most women are able to construct a new routine and adjust to their new habits. You might miss coffee every morning for a few months. But who knows? You might find a whole new morning routine that you enjoy.
- “Ch. 17: Nutrition During Pregnancy.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Apr 2015. Web.
- “Guideline: Food Safety for Pregnant Women.” FDA. USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, HHS, Food and Drug Administration, Jan 18 2017. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Caffeine: How much is too much?” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mar 8 2017.