Caffeine and Coffee in Pregnancy – A Bad Combination?

There is currently no consensus on whether or not caffeine consumption during pregnancy is harmful. What is known, however, is that it is best to reduce your daily intake.

However, one should not make an abrupt change in consumption habits.

Caffeine and its effects on the body

Caffeine is the main ingredient in coffee and other beverages and acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. This means that it wakes you up, gives you energy and makes it easier for you to concentrate.

Adenosine, on the other hand, is a substance that acts as a CNS depressant, meaning it makes you feel relaxed and want to rest.

In other words, imagine your brain is a car where caffeine is the accelerator and adenosine is the brakes.

So, every time you ingest caffeine, you’re putting your foot down on the car’s gas pedal and preventing the adenosine, which is the brake, from doing its job.

Caffeine during pregnancy

First of all, it is important to remember that caffeine is not only found in coffee. In fact, drinks like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, some chocolates, yerba mate, and tea also contain caffeine.

For its part, the WHO (World Health Organization) makes it clear that excessive caffeine consumption during pregnancy can have a direct impact on the newborn.

For example, high coffee consumption can lead to problems such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Death in utero (in the most severe cases)

However, you should not be alarmed because there are many factors that affect the effects of caffeine on a pregnant woman.

But how much caffeine is too much caffeine?

It’s true that drinking too much coffee can be harmful for anyone, especially pregnant women.

According to the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), 400 mg of caffeine, i.e. 4 to 5 cups of black coffee, is the maximum daily dose that the average person can safely consume.

However, it is worth considering that there is no exact measure, since the intensity of the effect of caffeine on the body depends on various factors.

Examples of such factors are:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Health status

The FDA also advises that 1200 mg or more of caffeine can cause serious symptoms of caffeine intoxication, such as: B. cramps may occur.

What about pregnant women?

According to the WHO, the ideal daily caffeine intake for pregnant women should not exceed 200 mg. In other words, you shouldn’t drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day.

This is because a pregnant woman’s metabolism is significantly slower. For example, a non-pregnant woman can absorb and eliminate caffeine within 4 to 6 hours.

However, when the same woman becomes pregnant, it takes her body about 18 hours to filter and excrete the same amount of caffeine. This means that the effects of caffeine last longer.

But that’s not all

Caffeine can easily pass from mother to fetus, which can affect its normal development.

The American College of Obstetricians other However, Gynecologists (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend that 1 or 2 small cups of coffee per day is safe during pregnancy.

However, the institution also points out that the link between caffeine consumption and growth failure in newborns is not well understood.

Therefore, it’s best to first discuss with your doctor whether you should phase out coffee or just cut back on it.

And how much caffeine is in the most common drinks?

The FDA has fairly accurate measurements of caffeine levels in the most common beverages. We will introduce them to you below. This way you can estimate how much caffeine you are consuming per serving.

DrinkCrowdCaffeine content*
Black filter coffee100 milliliters80 milligrams
Black tea  100 milliliters18 milligrams
Green tea  100 milliliters20 milligrams
Coke  100 milliliters10 milligrams
Red Bull100 milliliters30 milligrams
Water100 milliliters0 milligrams

*The recommended maximum daily dose is 400 milligrams.

How do you know if you’ve consumed too much caffeine?

If you overdo it with caffeine consumption, you may experience uncomfortable symptoms as your body enters a state of overactivity.

This means your body is now “over-activated” because the adenosine isn’t acting on the receptors in the brain (you’re not hitting the brakes).

So, the body produces more adenosine to compensate for the lack of effect. So you feel sleepy and tired because adenosine is now taking control of the brain.

However, when caffeine levels stabilize, you may feel these negative effects:

  • Mood swings
  • Stress
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn (gastritis)
  • Palpitations

However, keep in mind that as a pregnant woman, you can feel these effects with even less caffeine consumption than before pregnancy.

Gradually reduce your caffeine consumption

First of all, remember that if you want to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet, you should never do it suddenly, i.e. overnight.

This is important because if, for example, you are a heavy coffee drinker and you stop abruptly, you are at high risk of developing caffeine withdrawal.

If you follow these steps, you can end up giving up caffeine without any problems.

Analyze where your caffeine comes from

First, you should analyze the main source of caffeine in your diet. The following questions can help you find out.

Do you drink black coffee?

  • What percentage of caffeine do you drink?
  • How many times a day do you consume caffeine?
  • Do you often drink Coca-Cola?

Gradually reduce your caffeine consumption

Let’s say you are a person who drinks 6 cups of coffee a day. One strategy that can help you cut back on caffeine consumption without feeling it is to cut back on a cup a day, per week.

This means that you only drink 5 cups in the first week. The second week you can then skip another cup and drink only 4 cups. By the third week, your body has probably adjusted to getting by with less caffeine, so you can try skipping another 1 or 2 cups a day.

But remember, the most important thing is that you can “trick” your body into not realizing that you’re not drinking the same amount of caffeine. The more caffeine you’ve been drinking, the more you need to reduce it.

This means that if you drink 8 cups of coffee a day, for example, you should not switch to 4 or 2 cups of coffee overnight. Additionally, some doctors recommend that women who cannot avoid coffee during pregnancy should ideally limit their coffee consumption to a maximum of 100 mg per day. This corresponds to the amount of 1 small cup of coffee.

Drink other decaffeinated beverages

One option for you if you can’t live without coffee is decaffeinated coffee. However, if you are pregnant, it is better to choose another drink. So, the idea is that you replace the cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage that you no longer drink with a serving of another decaffeinated beverage.

It’s sort of a substitute for caffeine so the body gets used to less caffeine.

Replace caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks with water

Perhaps you have already done this and have been able to reduce your daily caffeine consumption.

You can also drink other decaffeinated beverages, but drinking water instead of another beverage would be very good, especially if you are pregnant. This is very important because decaffeinated drinks can help you avoid caffeine, but they often contain a lot of sugar.

sugar is something you need to limit in your diet, especially when you are pregnant. In contrast to coffee, scientific findings agree on the major risks that high sugar consumption entails for mother and child.

So, if you cannot avoid caffeine consumption during pregnancy, you should at least make sure that this stimulant comes only from natural sources such as coffee or black tea.

So, avoid fizzy sweet drinks and other highly processed foods whenever possible.

The scientific evidence is not clear

Finally, while the internet is full of studies on caffeine consumption during pregnancy, there is no definitive consensus on whether or not caffeine is harmful during pregnancy.

Most published studies are observational studies. This means that the caffeine consumption of pregnant women is analyzed throughout pregnancy and subsequently linked to the diseases of the newborn.

However, in no case could a causal connection between coffee consumption and negative consequences during and after pregnancy be proven.

Therefore, to date, there has been no study that has irrefutably proven that caffeine is the direct cause of diseases such as e.g.:

  • Low birth weight
  • Obesity in infants
  • Premature birth
  • Intrauterine death
  • Other diseases

However, we are not saying that caffeine cannot cause these pathologies. We just want to point out that it is not yet clear what effects caffeine can have on pregnant women.

So far, the only thing that is clear is that caffeine can cross the placenta (afterbirth tissue), meaning it can enter the fetus’s bloodstream.

This is partly because the elimination of this substance from the mother’s body is slowed.

Final Notes

Always consult a doctor about the possible effects of caffeine consumption during pregnancy.