Most studies have shown that it’s safe to have coffee in pregnancy as long as it’s 300 mg of caffeine or 2 cups of coffee or less a day. Many people however often don’t know that sometimes one cup is more than one cup and may contain more than 300 mg of caffeine.
The main ingredient of concern in pregnancy of coffee is caffeine which is also an ingredient in many different drinks such as colas, cocoa, and chocolate.
Caffeine and Fertility
The effect of caffeine on pregnancy is one of the most researched subjects. Several studies in humans have associated increased caffeine use of more than 300 mg of caffeine (or about 2 cups) a day with a decrease in fertility and an increase in the incidence of miscarriage or low birth weight babies. Most practitioners, therefore, recommend that you do not drink more than 1-2 cups of coffee a day when you try to get pregnant or when you are already pregnant.
In one study, caffeine intake over 300 mg was associated with increased early pregnancy loss. In another study, the risk of pregnancy loss rose by 19% for every increase in caffeine intake of 150 mg/day and by 8% for every increase in coffee intake of two cups per day.
How much is too much?
A regular cup of coffee which is defined as having 8 ounces contains about 150 mg of caffeine. But it may surprise you to find out that “a cup” is not always “a cup,” and that when you drink what you think is a cup of coffee, it may actually contain much more than that.
In preparation for writing this column, I went to our kitchen and took out several cups that are used in our household for drinking coffee. I filled the cups to about 1 inch below the top and measured the content of fluid in each cup. To my surprise, an average cup actually contains 12 ounces or 1 ½ cups of fluid, and the larger ones contained 16 ounces. Therefore, a tall single cup of “Grande” coffee, for example, contains more than the recommended maximum of 300 mg a day. In addition, when coffee is brewed in different ways if may contain different amounts of caffeine.
Many women are unsure if they should forego their morning cup of coffee or skip their daily coffee break during pregnancy. The confusion regarding this topic is understandable as the recommendations on caffeine and coffee consumption during pregnancy are not as black and white as a cup of coffee with a side of cream!
Most doctors recommend that pregnant women and women considering pregnancy should reduce or eliminate coffee and caffeine from their diets. If you are concerned, your best bet is to try and eliminate caffeine use entirely while trying to conceive or during pregnancy. But if you really need your daily “fix,” 1-2 regular cups of coffee are OK as long as you measure your cups of coffee correctly and you don’t have more than 300 mg caffeine per day.
Effects of Caffeine
Because caffeine crosses the placenta, large amounts could affect babies in the same way it does adults. These effects include a faster heart rate, tremors, increased breathing rate, and trouble sleeping, but this is only when the mother consumes more than 500mg of caffeine each day (the amount found in more than three cups of coffee).
If you have a cup of coffee in the morning, try not to let it replace other hydrating beverages such as milk, orange juice, or water. This is important because caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it helps eliminate fluids from the body and can result in water and calcium loss. If you drink coffee, keep in mind that you should still strive to include the recommended daily 8-12 eight-ounce servings of water in your diet to stay adequately hydrated.
The benefits of good hydration are many, including detoxifying your body of waste products and aiding in healthy liver and kidney function for both mom and baby. A pregnant woman also needs more water as her body expands during pregnancy and blood volume significantly increases. Not drinking enough water may contribute to fatigue as well as constipation.
So fill your most of your glasses with low calorie and low caffeine products, but don’t let the caffeine content of your morning cup of Joe stop you from enjoying this popular beverage. Coffee is actually a good source of health-promoting antioxidants and has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of some diseases. As it goes for most everything we eat or drink (except for the foods that should be avoided during pregnancy such as alcohol and high-mercury fish), moderation is key. So based on the research, during pregnancy, you can still wake up and smell (and drink) the coffee!