If you’re pregnant and love lattes, you have a tough decision to make: whether or not to drink coffee while pregnant. The March of Dimes recommends pregnant women keep their daily caffeine intake to 200 mg – the equivalent of a 12-ounce cup – or less. However, some experts believe moms-to-be should say no to coffee entirely.
One of the reasons during pregnancy is controversial is that it’s a difficult topic to research. Scientists rely on animal studies and observational studies because testing on pregnant women is simply unethical.
Unfortunately, this leaves expectant mothers with a somewhat perplexing decision to make. In the face of an unclear collection of information, is a cup of coffee worth a possible health risk?
What research says on…
Low Birth Weight
Norwegian researchers collected data from 60,000 mothers and found that women who drank coffee and other caffeinated beverages were more likely to have delivered babies with low birth weight. However, researchers couldn’t say definitively that caffeine caused the low birth weight.
In 2009, Yale University Medical School conducted a study on pregnant mice which found that drinking the equivalent of two cups of coffee each day had long term effects on the heart health of the mice’s offspring. (But remember: They’re mice, not people!)
Some investigations into caffeine and pregnancy directly contradict one another, which only adds to the confusion. In 2008, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study, which reported that women who ingested 200 mg or more of caffeine each day doubled their risk of miscarriage. The same year, a study printed in Epidemiology found that drinking between 200 and 350 mg of caffeine per day didn’t increase the risk of a miscarriage.
So while the jury’s still out on several issues, there are some conclusive reasons you may want to avoid coffee during pregnancy:
The Caffeine is Potentially Harmful
Caffeine can cross the placenta and be absorbed by the baby, and your little one’s maturing metabolism can’t break it down as effectively an adult’s can.
It’s a Diuretic
In addition to impacting the health of your baby, caffeine might amplify some of the symptoms and complications that come with pregnancy. The diuretic effect of caffeine causes dehydration, can aggravate constipation, and may make you need to use the bathroom more often.
It Can Affect Your Sleep – and Your Baby’s Too
In the later stages of pregnancy, caffeine can alter a baby’s normal sleep and movement patterns. Such a disruption in these patterns could interfere with a mother’s ability to get a good night’s rest.
If you’re having trouble giving up caffeine, try one of these tricks.
- Switch to decaf coffee
- To ease caffeine withdrawal, mix decaffeinated coffee with regular coffee and slowly adjust to life with less caffeine.
- Use extra milk in your tea or coffee to reduce the amount of caffeine in each cup.
- Drink herbal tea. It’s caffeine-free and can be served hot or cold. If you’re missing your iced mocha, try iced herbal tea with a little honey.