When Should You Stop Drinking Coffee When Pregnant

Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy

Caffeine is one of the most commonly consumed substances in the world, and is found in a variety of drinks and food such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, chocolate and energy drinks. While caffeine can provide an energy boost, pregnant women are advised to limit their intake as it can affect the development of their growing baby and might cause complications during labour.

Maternal caffeine intake can cross the placenta, so it is important to understand the effects caffeine can have during the different stages of pregnancy, and for when the best time is to stop drinking coffee each trimester.

First Trimester

The first trimester is a time when there is a significant amount of baby development taking place and therefore, a time where there is a greater risk to the baby if exposed to high levels of caffeine, such as from drinking coffee.

The UK National Health Service (NHS) advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (mg) per day, which is equivalent to around two cups of instant coffee. An 8oz cup of brewed coffee can contain up to 163mg of caffeine, so pregnant women should try to only drink one cup a day, as well as monitoring other foods and drinks that may contain caffeine.

Evidence has shown that excessive caffeine intake during the first trimester can increase the risk of miscarrying as well as result in a premature birth. Therefore, to reduce the risks associated with drinking coffee during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid it altogether.

Second Trimester

As the baby continues to develop and during the second trimester, caffeine intake is still an important factor to consider when deciding when to stop drinking coffee.

During this stage, the baby’s kidneys develop, and begin to process caffeine, which can be detrimental to the baby’s health if exposed to high levels. At this stage, too much caffeine can negatively impact their growth, while research has also linked caffeine intake to low birth weight, though the exact mechanism is still unclear.

Therefore, to keep the risk of complications during pregnancy to a minimum, and the baby’s development on track, the recommended limit still stands at 200mg of caffeine per day. If pregnant women want to continue drinking coffee, they should keep it to one cup a day and try and also limit their intake of other caffeinated foods and drinks.

Third Trimester

The third trimester is the most critical time for the development of the baby and thus, is when the most caution needs to be taken with regards to caffeine consumption. At this stage, the baby is now unable to process caffeine quickly, so its effects are longer lasting and more harmful.

The NHS recommends pregnant women stop drinking coffee completely during their third trimester and also to reduce their intake of other caffeinated foods and drinks as much as possible. This will help to avoid any complications during labour, such as the baby being born too early, or having low birth weight.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also recommends pregnant women reduce their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day and to stop drinking coffee altogether during the third trimester. This is because evidence suggests that pregnant women drinking more than two cups of coffee can potentially double the risk of low birth weight of their baby.

Caffeine Alternatives

Stopping drinking coffee when pregnant can be difficult for some women as it can become an important part of their routine or lifestyle. However, there are a number of alternatives that pregnant women can switch their coffee for.

Decaffeinated coffee is an option as it still retains the same flavour as regular coffee yet contains only small amounts of caffeine, while herbal teas provide an enjoyable and caffeine-free alternative. Fruit and vegetable juices, as well as smoothies can also offer a nutritious and caffeine-free start to the day, while milk-based drinks, such as hot chocolate and frozen drinks are also a great option.

Coffee Consumption After Pregnancy

In the weeks and months afterwards when breastfeeding, the NHS recommends pregnant women to limit their caffeine consumption as it can be passed on to the baby through breast milk. This can affect their sleep as well as energy levels, so limiting ingestion during this time is important.

However, the NHS statement that ‘there’s no evidence of harm from occasionally drinking small amounts of caffeinated drinks during breastfeeding’, meaning that pregnant women can occasionally enjoy a cup of coffee during this time, yet should still be aware of what constitutes a ‘small’ amount.

Health Benefits Of Drinking Coffee

Though pregnant women should avoid caffeine, there is evidence to show that drinking coffee in moderation can offer a number of health benefits. A European Journal of Preventative Cardiology study found that drinking up four cups of coffee per day can increase life expectancy by 64%, while two to five cups per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

To maximise these health benefits, drinking organic and freshly ground coffee over instant is the healthier option, while adding milk, sugar, or a non-dairy milk alternative could help to provide even more vitamins and minerals.

How To Control Caffeine Intake?

Though pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake, it is still possible to enjoy coffee when pregnant and also have a healthy pregnancy.

The key is for pregnant women to be conscious of what level of caffeine is safe throughout their pregnancy, track the foods and drinks that contain caffeine and to be aware of the caffeine content of them in order to make the best decision for them and their baby.

Thanks to its natural levels of antioxidants and helpful properties, drinking coffee in moderation during pregnancy can offer a number of benefits, providing it is done responsibly, so diluting coffee with hot water or mixing coffee with both almond and oat milk could create a healthier option.

Effects Of Caffeine On Fetus

Though caffeine can pass through the placenta, the effects this has on the fetus are often unclear. Some studies have suggested that pregnant women who consume more than 200mg of caffeine can increase the risk of their baby being born prematurely, having a low birth weight or experiencing growth restriction in the womb, yet other studies have found no definitive evidence for this.

Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to be aware that there is still limited research on the effects of drinking coffee when pregnant and much of the research that is available on the topic is often conflicting. While there is no certain agreed upon amount, it is best for pregnant women to stay on the safer side and follow the recommendation of 200mg or below per day.

Healthy Ways To Get Energy During Pregnancy

Pregnant women often find themselves in need of an energy boost and looking for alternatives to regular caffeine driven drinks. Eating a balanced diet, keeping hydrated by drinking lots of water, getting plenty of rest and exercising regularly can all be good ways to keep energy levels up during pregnancy, but snacks can also help too.

Nuts and dried fruit are both a good snack choice as they provide a good source of protein, antioxidants and fibre – all beneficial for mom and baby. Eating oatmeal is a great way to get a sustained release of energy throughout the day, while seeds, such as chia and pumpkin, provide a great source of iron and omega 3 fats.

Awareness Of Caffeine During Pregnancy

While drinking coffee during pregnancy is something many pregnant women may feel is out of their control, being conscious of the foods and drinks that contain caffeine and understanding how these can have an effect on the fetus is an important factor to consider when deciding when to stop drinking coffee.

Seeking help and advice from a professional if pregnant women are concerned about their caffeine intake when pregnant can help to ensure they are taking the right steps to ensure they and their baby’s health is cared for.

Tips To Control Caffeine Intake

Pregnant women wanting to reduce their caffeine and control their intake can do the following:

  • Understand the foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, soft drinks and energy drinks
  • Avoid sugary snacks or drinks, as these can also cause energy dips later in the day as well as contribute to excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, as this will help to keep energy levels up
  • Have a cup of decaffeinated coffee to get the same flavour that regular coffee offers
  • Switch to herbal teas, which are usually caffeine-free and can offer the same taste as regular teas.

The Bottom Line

Deciding when to stop drinking coffee when pregnant is an important factor to consider as caffeine can have an effect on the baby’s health and development. Though some studies suggest that pregnant women who drink more than two cups of coffee

James Giesen is an avid coffee enthusiast and a prolific writer. His focus on coffee has led him to write extensively about the brewing, roasting, and tasting of this beloved beverage. He has been working in the Specialty Coffee Retail industry for over five years.

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