Caffeine During Pregnancy: How Much is too Much

Caffeine and pregnancy is a contentious issue… or at least it was for me personally. A confirmed and somewhat proud Coffee Addict, I deeply resented those who would try to limit my intake. Particularly as itwas very difficult to find an answer that everyone can agree on.

Back in 2008 a highly publicized study found that women who consumed 200 mg (roughly a 12 oz cup) or more of caffeine a day had double the risk of a miscarriage compared with those who took in no caffeine.

Other research has suggested that a newborn whose mother consumed more than 500 mg of caffeine a day had a faster heart rate and breathing rate in the first few days after birth, and we know that caffeine crosses the placenta to the baby.

Still another study out of Denmark from Dr Kirsten Wisborg, of the perinatal epidemiology research unit at Denmark’s Aarhus University Hospital, followed 18,478 women who booked in for delivery at the hospital and found that women who drank 8 or more cups daily (no easy feat – 8 cups?!) more than doubled the risk of stillbirth.

The good news: A new position statement issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) seems to align with what we’re hearing; The group states that moderate caffeine intake – less than 200 milligrams a day – won’t increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.

So that’s coffee… Remember that while not as pervasive as sugar, caffeine is found in many other food products like chocolate, pop, teas and energy drinks. Some prescription or over the counter medications also contain caffeine for its medicinal properties (headache preparations and some pain relievers). If – like me – you can’t bear skipping your ‘morning joe’ you may also need to dial it back on the above-listed products.

Looking for some tips to help you consume less caffeinated drinks?

Switch to decaf.

I did this and I think I was able to trick my brain with the heat from the cup and the scent of coffee. Despite there being no ‘buzz’ with decaf – caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands which cause the release of adrenaline hormones which in turn cause the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, and this provides the energy kick – it satisfied my immediate cravings. You can also slowly start replacing half of the regular coffee grinds you use with decaf and avoid the nasty side effects of quitting cold turkey or too fast.

Sip herbal teas.

Herbal teas don’t contain caffeine and come in a wide variety of flavours. In fact, now that you mention it (you did mention it, right?) at Matraea we have developed a whole line of certified organic herbal teas to suit different stages of pregnancy. I started drinking these teas while pregnant with my second and haven’t stopped yet.

Make your coffee less strong.

I’m not suggesting you gulp back weak coffee – that would be wrong (I, as a coffee lover, am offended by weak coffee and I imagine that you are too) but if you were to use fewer grounds or steep your black tea for a shorter period of time you would consume less caffeine without necessarily sacrificing too much flavour.

Lose the pop.

I’m sorry but on sugary pop I will not waiver.

You deserve better! And pop is never a good choice – unless you’re mixing it with vodka, in which case I know you’re not pregnant!  Everyone knows alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix.

Soda pop is devoid of any nutritional value and leads to obesity and diabetes. A Danish study revealed that people who drank a regular soda every day for six months saw a 132 to 142 percent increase in liver fat, a 117 to 221 percent jump in skeletal fat, and about a 30 percent increase in both triglyceride blood fats and other organ fat. Their consumption also led to an 11 percent increase in cholesterol, compared with the people who drank other beverages such as water or milk.

If that’s not scary enough there’s also this fun tidbit: In 2011, the nonprofit Centre for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the artificial caramel colouring used to make Coke, Pepsi, and other colas brown. The reason: Two contaminants in the colouring, 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, have been found to cause cancer in animals.

It’s not just the soda that’s causing all the problems. Nearly all aluminum soda cans are lined with an epoxy resin called biphenyl alanine (BPA), used to keep the acids in soda from reacting with the metal. BPA is known to interfere with hormones and has been linked to everything from infertility to obesity and diabetes and some forms of reproductive cancers.

I know that you’re already exhausted and giving up caffeine seems so cruel, but 40 weeks goes by in a blink and then you can bathe in coffee if you want! (I’m talking relatively.) The good news is that even if you are breastfeeding you can up your coffee intake to about 300 mg (roughly equivalent to a large 18 oz cup a day, or 2 smaller cups) as only about 1% of caffeine ends up in your breast milk. Stay strong, stay awake, and take a moment to smell the coffee…

Sarah Cosman

Cosman & Webb Townships Organic, Bury, Quebec, Canada