Discussing the controversy over coffee and caffeine during pregnancy

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why you should avoid caffeine when pregnant

A common question women ask during pregnancy is whether it is okay to drink coffee during pregnancy and how much is safe? As a fellow coffee drinker, I completely understand! The problem with answering this question definitively is that studies are inconclusive when it comes to how much caffeine is considered safe to consume during pregnancy, making it controversial. This includes caffeine in all forms including food like chocolate and even decaffeinated beverages.

What we do know is that caffeine crosses the placental barrier entering fetal circulation. Your developing baby is not able to process the caffeine like an adult would be able to. A medical study found certain increased risks when pregnant women consumed more than 100 g of caffeine a day, including spontaneous abortion (< 24 gestational weeks), still birth (> 24 gestational weeks), small for gestational age (< 2.5 kg), and low birth weight (less than 10th percentile for given gestational age). The authors suggest women limit caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day immediately before and during pregnancy as a precautionary measure.

To put 200 mg in perspective, a Starbucks tall (12 oz) drip coffee contains roughly 260 mg of caffeine. The Centre for Science posted this chart showing the caffeine content in certain drinks and foods that might surprise you.

I like to be on the safe side, especially during the first trimester, and recommend my pregnant patient’s avoid caffeine all together during this time if possible. If you are missing your favourite caffeinated beverage, try rooibos (African red bush) as a replacement once you are safely into your second trimester. This herb is caffeine free but it has a mild stimulating effect that can improve focus and energy. It is also full of important antioxidants and has even been studied in male fertility potentially increasing sperm counts.

If lack of sleep is a potential cause to your fatigue, I love recommending this relaxing tea blend to my pregnant patients to help them unwind after a long day:

1 tsp of chamomile
½ tsp lemon balm
A pinch of lavender flowers
Steep for 10 minutes in a cup of hot water, 30-60 minutes before bed.

If you’re looking for more variety, see my list of teas safe and unsafe to drink during pregnancy here.

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