Good news: You don't have to give up your beloved cup of coffee during pregnancy, but you should careful about other sources of caffeine.
Throughout pregnancy, health and nutrition are a top priority for mothers-to-be. But if you need a caffeine buzz to get you going in the morning, does this mean you have to give up your beloved cup of coffee?
According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200 mg per day—about one 12 oz. cup of coffee or two 8 oz. cups of tea) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth.
But this doesn't mean you can guzzle a 32 oz. cola. To stay within the recommended ACOG guidelines, it's important to educate yourself on the caffeine content of your favorite beverages so you can safely incorporate them into your diet. This is easy to do with labels on prepackaged drinks, and major restaurants and coffee shops typically posting this information on their websites or on pamphlets available in-store.
Good and bad sources of caffeine
A typical 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains, on average, around 137 mg of caffeine, as noted in the ACOG study, making it one of the safer options for getting your buzz on. However, coffee tends to make some pregnant women queasy, in which case a cup of tea might be the better option. Tea also has less caffeine than coffee, around 26 and 48 mg per 8 oz. cup, so you feel like you're getting more.
"I would personally suggest to a woman experiencing acid reflux, which is common at the latter stages of pregnancy, to avoid coffee and try green tea," says Kathleen Love, an integrative nutrition counselor in Chicago who also works as a doula.
And don't forget that yummy piece of chocolate! "Caffeine is contained in chocolate, as are minerals such as magnesium, which helps regulate muscle relaxation," Love points out. But most experts advise choosing dark chocolate, she adds, which contains more cacao and less cream.
Two not-so-great choices for a caffeine fix are soda—including diet—and energy drinks. Both have received a bad rap in recent years, and their diminishing reputation is not unfounded, especially when it comes to their caffeine levels. High-powered energy drinks can have upwards of 200 mg of caffeine per serving, and one can often contains two or more servings.
Natural energy boosters
If you're still wary of sipping that cuppa joe during pregnancy, especially as studies have linked it to low birth weight and childhood obesity, there other ways to get that zing. Love employs a cave woman analogy: "What would they have done when tired? Pulled a Red Bull or diet soda out of the fridge? Hardly." Instead, she recommends doing what your ancestors might have done: heeding your body's message by getting more sleep or treating yourself to a nap or two (you might want to snag keys to the office nursing lounge a little early).
If you struggle to fit in some extra shuteye between registry to-do lists and prepping for your maternity leave cover, there are other safe sources of energy during pregnancy. "Sugar in the form of fresh or dried fruits provides energy as well," Love notes. "Dates, cooked apples with cinnamon, banana, mango or pineapple are all good choices as they pack a punch in the nutrient and fiber department." Just be careful those calories don't quickly add up.
No matter what your caffeine source, be sure to chase it down with water. "Even though scientific studies would support that caffeine in pregnancy is safe, there are other side effects that I worry about," Dr. Kruskol says. "Caffeine is a diuretic which can lead to dehydration, especially in the hotter months. I tell my patients that if they are going to drink caffeinated beverages, make sure they follow it up with a tall glass of water."