Q&A: Can you drink coffee when pregnant?

Posted in Healthy Pregnancy, Pregnancy FAQs and tagged , .

Question & Answer

Pregnancy should be a time where you are calm and relaxed and enjoy the journey of bringing your new baby to life. For many, drinking coffee when pregnant may have little if any effect and it can provide the little boost in energy you find your body needs.

However, for just as many of us who might be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, even small amounts can lead to restlessness, anxiety, and sleep difficulties.

Considering this, it is important to be aware of how your body reacts to caffeine and if you experience any anxiety, restlessness or sleep difficulties then I recommend avoiding caffeine during pregnancy.

Does caffeine impact baby?

Pregnant woman drinking cup of tea

Further things to consider is that caffeine passes to the baby through the placenta (and also via breastmilk post-birth) and babies are less able to break down caffeine, so the baby will be exposed to some of the stimulant effects that the mother is. There is no conclusive research to date to state that this has any association with problems for the baby during or after pregnancy. However, we do know that high levels of caffeine intake (over 300mg per day) may be associated with decreasing conception chances and increasing miscarriage rates.

There has also been recent evidence to suggest that even moderate amounts of caffeine are associated with babies of a lower weight and size. This is a concern as babies with small birth weights can lead to problems during pregnancy but also long-term health problems after birth. There is however no association between caffeine and birth defects and there is no evidence for long-term effects on behaviour and development of children.

Lastly, if consuming coffee for your caffeine hit then this can often replace a snack or even breakfast for some people and this is not ideal to provide nourishment and nutrient to your growing baby. Caffeine can also dehydrate us so it is important to be aware of your water intake when consuming caffeine.

What can I drink instead of coffee?

Woman drinking a cup of raspberry leaf tea

Due to the mix of inconclusive evidence available, the Australian guidelines are to avoid caffeine while pregnant or at least minimise consumption to no more than 300mg of caffeine per day (this equates to one cup of espresso style coffee or four cups of black tea).

Coffee is the most common source of caffeine for most people so if you feel like reducing or cutting out your daily coffee will be difficult then we encourage you to try some caffeine-free alternatives. Herbal teas such as dandelion root (has the same bitter taste of coffee), peppermint tea, chamomile tea, lemon and ginger tea and many more options are available in health food stores and supermarkets. You can also try warm water with fresh lemon, ginger, mint, turmeric etc to create your own hot beverages.

Steph Wearne, the head nutritionist at 28 by Sam Wood, is a qualified Nutritionist and Exercise Scientist, specialising in the area of lifestyle nutrition and recipe creation. With years of experience in weight loss, general health, sports nutrition, and chronic diseases, Steph is aware that being or becoming healthy involves some changes to your lifestyle. Her mission is to make these changes as easy, enjoyable, and as rewarding as possible. No more boring, tasteless, failure diets, only nutritious, flavoursome, nourishing recipes, and meal ideas that will convert anyone to a healthy foodie.

(Sources: Study: Is caffeine consumption safe during pregnancy?, Study: Caffeine and birth weight, NSW Food Authority, Queensland Health)

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