Caffeine is a stimulant that provides a boost of energy and makes you feel more alert.
It’s consumed worldwide, with coffee and tea being two of the most popular sources.
While caffeine is considered safe for the general population, health authorities advise limiting your intake when expecting.
This article discusses how much caffeine you can safely consume during pregnancy.
Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
For many people, caffeine has favorable effects on energy levels, focus, and even migraines. Additionally, some caffeinated beverages offer health benefits.
However, caffeine can cause negative side effects in some and may pose risks during pregnancy.
Caffeine is proven to improve energy levels and focus.
Research shows that caffeine stimulates your brain and central nervous system, which may help you stay awake and sharpen mental alertness.
It may also be effective at treating headaches when combined with pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.
Additionally, some caffeinated beverages contain antioxidants, beneficial compounds that can protect your cells from damage, reduce inflammation and ward off chronic disease.
Green tea is especially high in antioxidants, but other teas and coffee contain substantial amounts as well.
Caffeine has many potential benefits, but there’s concern that it may be harmful when consumed during pregnancy.
Pregnant women metabolize caffeine much more slowly. It can take 1.5–3.5 times longer to eliminate caffeine from your body. Caffeine also crosses the placenta and enters the baby’s bloodstream, raising concerns that it can affect the baby’s health.
The American College of Obstetricians Gynecologists (ACOG) states that moderate amounts of caffeine — less than 200 mg per day — are not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.
However, research suggests that intakes greater than 200 mg per day may raise the risk of miscarriage.
Additionally, some evidence suggests that even low intakes of caffeine may result in low birth weight. For example, one study found that low intakes of 50– 149 mg per day during pregnancy were associated with a 13% higher risk of low birth weight.
However, more research is needed. The risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and other adverse effects due to higher intakes of caffeine during pregnancy remains largely unclear.
Other negative side effects of caffeine include high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, increased anxiety, dizziness, restlessness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Summary: Caffeine may boost energy levels, improve focus and help relieve headaches. However, it may pose risks when consumed in high amounts during pregnancy, such as an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.
Recommendations during pregnancy
The ACOG recommends limiting your caffeine intake to 200 mg or less if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
Depending on the type and preparation method, this is equivalent to about 1–2 cups (240–580 ml) of coffee or about 2–4 cups (240–960 ml) of brewed tea per day.
Along with limiting your intake, you should also consider the source.
For instance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends avoiding energy drinks entirely during pregnancy.
Suggested read: Coffee vs. tea: Which is healthier?
In addition to caffeine, energy drinks usually contain high amounts of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which lack nutritional value.
They also contain various herbs, such as ginseng, that have been deemed unsafe for pregnant women. Other herbs used in energy drinks have not been adequately studied for their safety during pregnancy.
Moreover, you should avoid certain herbal teas during pregnancy, including those made with chicory root, licorice root, or fenugreek.
The following herbal teas have been reported as safe during pregnancy:
- ginger root
- peppermint leaf
- red raspberry leaf — limit your intake to 1 cup (240 mL) per day during the first trimester
- lemon balm
As with any herbal remedy, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before drinking herbal teas during pregnancy.
Instead, consider caffeine-free beverages, such as water, decaf coffee, and safe caffeine-free teas.
Summary: During pregnancy, limit caffeine to less than 200 mg per day and avoid energy drinks entirely. Some herbal teas may be safe to drink, but it’s always best to check with your doctor first.
Caffeine content of popular beverages
Coffee, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages contain varying amounts of caffeine.
Suggested read: 9 side effects of too much caffeine
Here’s a list of the caffeine content in some common drinks:
- Coffee: 60–200 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Espresso: 30–50 mg per 1-oz (30-ml) serving
- Yerba mate: 65–130 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Energy drinks: 50–160 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Brewed tea: 20–120 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Soft drinks: 30–60 mg per 12-oz (355-ml) serving
- Cocoa beverage: 3–32 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Chocolate milk: 2–7 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
- Decaffeinated coffee: 2–4 mg per 8-oz (240-ml) serving
Note that caffeine is also found in some foods. For example, chocolate can contain 1–35 mg of caffeine per ounce (28 grams). Typically, dark chocolate has higher concentrations.
Additionally, certain medications like pain relievers may contain caffeine, and it’s frequently added to supplements, such as weight loss pills and pre-workout mixes.
Be sure to check with your doctor if you’re concerned about the caffeine content of your diet.
Summary: The amount of caffeine in coffee, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages varies. Foods like chocolate, certain medications, and various supplements often contain caffeine as well.
Caffeine is popularly consumed worldwide. It’s been shown to boost energy levels, improve focus and even relieve headaches.
Though caffeine has benefits, health authorities recommend watching your intake during pregnancy.
Most experts agree that caffeine is safe during pregnancy if limited to 200 mg or less per day. This equals about 1–2 cups (240–580 mL) of coffee or 2–4 cups (540–960 mL) of caffeinated tea.