Especially if you were a chocolate lover before your pregnancy, you are probably craving it intensely now that you’re pregnant. If you don’t have a chocolate bar in your hands right now, you’re probably wishing that you did. All kinds of food cravings will come on during your pregnancy, and the ones that are particularly tempting can be difficult to resist. While chocolate contains caffeine, research shows that it is still safe to eat during your pregnancy.

Caffeine has countless negative effects on fetal development, so pregnant women should closely monitor their intake. Moms-to-be should limit themselves to approximately 200mg of it per day. While this could be a cup of coffee or even more, many women try cutting out caffeine completely because the risks are too great. A recent study shows that the amount of caffeine in chocolate does not add up to enough to have the same negative effects as other caffeinated foods and drinks. Of course, you could eat enough chocolate to exceed your recommended caffeine limit, but eating it in moderation is safe. Similarly, gaining too much weight during your pregnancy could have serious negative side effects, so chocolate intake should be moderate for that reason as well.

The only change that research results showed after chocolate consumption was a slight increase in fetal heart rate, which was probably not caused by the caffeine but instead by theobromine. Theobromine is a compound found in both coffee and chocolate that increases the heart rate while dilating the blood vessels, which in turn decreases blood pressure. This change that will occur in your baby after you eat chocolate is not harmful to his or her development.

If you’re pregnant and craving chocolate, you don’t need to avoid it completely. In fact, some research shows that consuming chocolate during your pregnancy can actually be beneficial. Dark chocolate especially releases endorphins in your brain, which improve your mood. Staying relaxed and happy during your pregnancy is important, as stress can have negative side effects of its own. Giving into the cravings of chocolate during your pregnancy will have no negative side effects on your baby, as long as you’re careful not to go overboard. If you eat too much, you could exceed your caffeine limits and gain excess weight. Women with issues that affect their nutrition during their pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, should be especially careful about consuming chocolate.

Source: Giorgia Buscicchio et al: The Effects of Maternal Caffeine and Chocolate Intake on Fetal Heart Rate. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Volume 25 Issue 5 pp. 528-530 May 2012

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