Coffee, Tea &Baby: Is Caffeine Safe During Pregnancy?

Heather J. Mills and Trish Knudsen coffee

Every day almost 90 per cent of North Americans consume some form of chocolate, coffee or tea; caffeine can be difficult to avoid.

Although expectant mothers should talk to a physician for more information about caffeine, research now suggests it can be enjoyed in moderation during pregnancy.

Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?

If consumed in moderation, 150 to 300 milligrams a day is considered acceptable (a 237 ml or eight ounce cup of coffee has about 130 mg of caffeine). Eight ounces is equal to a small coffee at Tim Hortons or a short at Starbucks; a small at Second Cup is 12 oz.

Some studies have indicated that large amounts of caffeine can result in low birth weights and defects; one recent US study shows that even low levels of caffeine consumption increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage.

If you are worried, you may prefer to cut down your caffeine intake, or switch to decaffeinated drinks, especially during the first trimester. Check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your caffeine intake. Remember, decaffeinated coffee still contains small amounts of caffeine.

Many women choose to avoid caffeine completely during pregnancy.

Consider this: caffeine stays in the bloodstream of pregnant women for 18 to 20 hours and easily crosses the placenta.

A fetus experiences similar physiological effects (i.e. increased heart rate), as the mother. Caffeine also causes the body to lose fluids and calcium. Nursing mothers should be aware that caffeine is excreted through breast milk.

So what’s the bottom line on coffee?

Drinking more than five cups of coffee daily is unhealthy. If it’s difficult to stop completely, try to limit your consumption or drink decaffeinated coffee and espressos.

Also, beware of the coffee type (some roasts have more caffeine than others) and method of preparation: the amount of caffeine in a cup depends on how it was prepared. For instance, drip coffee has more caffeine than instant crystals.

What about tea and herbal tea?

Although there is generally less caffeine in tea, pregnant women should still drink it in moderation. One eight-ounce cup of tea has about 50 mg of caffeine.

Steeping tea for less time (about one minute) decreases the amount of caffeine per cup. Drinking green or white tea – which still contain trace amounts of caffeine – is an alternative to black tea.

Despite being caffeine-free, ingredients in many herbal teas aren’t safe during pregnancy. Check with your doctor before drinking herbal teas, sometimes even “natural” products can contain potentially dangerous substances. Your best bet is to stick with flavoured black or green tea.

Consider the size of the cup you are using for coffee and tea. Many coffee shops now use a 12 oz cup for a small drink, or a “tall” at Starbucks. A “venti” drink is 20 oz! That means you are consuming two and a half cups of coffee in one sitting, and more than 300 mg of caffeine.




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