Caffeine and Pregnancy

Caffeine is the most commonly used stimulant in the country, and a good number of us enjoy a cup of something hot and caffeinated every morning to start our day. The use of caffeine during pregnancy is a controversial topic; most health practitioners believe a small amount of caffeine is acceptable, while others will say avoiding it entirely is the best course of action. Whether you believe in the some or none approach, everyone is in agreement that large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy are dangerous.

What Does Caffeine Do to Your Body?

Caffeine is both a stimulant and a diuretic. This means that it causes you to feel alert, can slightly elevate blood pressure as well as heart rate, and also causes fluids to leave the body through increased urination. Caffeine can cause a jittery feeling and cause sleep disruptions, especially if used in large amounts. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, and pregnant women are among them.

Caffeine and Miscarriage

A recent study showed that women who consume 200 mg or more of caffeine every day (about the amount in a large cup of coffee) carry a 50% higher risk of miscarriage than those who do not. Previous studies, however, have found no relationship between caffeine and miscarriage. Although the results of these studies have been conflicting, there is enough evidence to suggest that a risk of miscarriage may exist. This risk is especially high in the first trimester, so if you don’t wish to avoid caffeine through the entire pregnancy, it’s a good idea to at least skip it during those crucial early weeks. High amounts of caffeine in the diet have also been linked to stillbirth.

Effects of Caffeine on the Fetus

Caffeine does cross the placenta, and this means it reaches the baby. Research indicates that caffeine does restrict blood flow to the placenta, which could impact the baby. It has also been linked with lower birth weights, and a higher heart rate in the newborn baby.

What Foods Contain the Most Caffeine?

Caffeine occurs naturally in some foods and beverages, and is added to others. Coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans are all natural sources of caffeine. Coffee is by far the highest in caffeine content. The average 8 oz cup of coffee contains about 137 mg of caffeine, but this amount can vary widely depending on the type of coffee and how it was brewed. The same goes from tea, which contains about 48 mg of caffeine in an 8 oz cup. Generally, the stronger your cup of coffee or tea, the higher the caffeine content.

Soft drinks that have been caffeinated contain 37 mg of caffeine per 12 oz serving on average. Some of these beverages may contain higher or lower amounts. Chocolate contains caffeine in varying amounts depending on how dark the chocolate is (the percentage of cocoa solids).

The general consensus on caffeine in pregnancy is that it is probably safe in small amounts. Stick to one cup of coffee a day or the equivalent amount of caffeine from other sources. It’s best to avoid caffeine in the first trimester if you can, but after that you are probably safe to continue moderate consumption. Still, if you prefer to be cautious, skip the caffeine altogether. If you do choose to consume caffeine, remember to drink extra water as well, to make up for the diuretic effect of the caffeine on your system.

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