Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?

Can you still drink coffee, tea, Coke and eat foods with caffeine in while you're pregnant? Check the latest advice and guidance...

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In a nutshell

Yes, it IS safe to consume up to 200mg of caffeine a day. 

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That’s about 2 cups of instant coffee (100mg each), or nearly one-and-a-half mugs of filter coffee (140mg per cup), and two-and-a-half mugs of tea (40g each mug)

Should I cut out caffeine while I’m pregnant?

Despite what you might’ve heard, you certainly DON’T need to cut out caffeine altogether. The NHS even says so!

In fact, cutting it out altogether would be tricky, or so says midwife Claire Friars, who works with baby charity Tommy’s:

“Midwives have been saying for a long time that pregnant women should limit caffeine intake, but you’d have a real job to cut it out altogether, as it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks.”

Indeed, caffeine’s in lots of unexpected stuff – including different brands of painkillers and cold tablets. You can usually see if something’s got caffeine in it by checking the label, or running it by your pharmacist.

How much caffeine is in drinks (and chocolate)?

Approximate levels of caffeine are as follows:

  • Mug of filter coffee (350ml): 140mg
  • Cup of instant coffee (250ml): 100mg
  • Mug of tea (350ml): 75mg
  • Can of cola: 40mg of caffeine
  • Bar of plain chocolate: 50mg
  • Energy drink (250ml can): 80mg

What are the risks of too much caffeine in pregnancy?

Drinking too much caffeine while expecting has been linked to a couple of scary things, including low birth weight, and even risk of miscarriage.

But the risk of either is pretty small. We reckon it’s just good to know why it’s advised not to have too much.

Mind, we’re often seeing new studies about the effects of caffeine being published – so we’ll always keep this page up to date with the latest findings, advice and guidance.

Can caffeine affect my baby inside the womb?

caffeine is it safe

Yep! Just like you suddenly feel boosted, fresher or more alert after a good cuppa, your baby will also feel the effects of caffeine in the system.

Caffeine actually ‘crosses’ the placenta – so you might find they’re a bit wiggly or restless after you’ve drank some.

Too much caffeine – can it affect my child’s future weight?

Well, a study published in the BMJ Open in April 2018 certainly suggests there’s a connection.

The Norweigan Mother and Child Cohort Study found that excessive caffeine consumption during pregnancy (200 – 299mg per day) was linked to ‘excess growth’ during the child’s 1st year.

50,000 pregnant woman were asked self-report their caffeine intake, and researchers followed up with them and their children 8 years later.

Researchers noted that exposure to “average, high and very high levels” of caffeine while in the womb did bring “significantly higher” risks of kids being overweight at ages 3, 5 and 8.

They said all of that then goes on to increase the risk factor for obesity later in life, too. 

The study makes for an interesting read – but there’s lots to take into consideration when looking through the findings.

All of the data was self-reported, the study wasn’t hugely diverse in terms of who took part, and an un-connected researcher pointed out that breastfeeding (which can affect growth rates) wasn’t really taken into consideration.

Lots of things can affect how your child grows, so it’s kinda tricky to nail it all on this one point.

That said, researchers haven’t made any grand call-outs for new guidance to be put in place:

“Our findings show that high maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy was related to excess growth from infancy and with obesity later in childhood,” they said.

“The results support the current recommendations to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy to less than 200 mg of caffeine per day, which is approximately 2 cups of coffee… [but] we also found associations with caffeine intake below 200 mg.”

They reiterated: “Our findings support the current recommendation, as caffeine intakes higher than 200 mg/day was most consistently associated with (excess) child growth.”

In summary: stick to your 200mg or less, and you’re good.

How do I cut down on caffeine during pregnancy?

Reckon you’re consuming waaaaay over what’s recommended? Don’t stress! There are lots of things you can do to help minimise your caffeine intake during pregnany.

Tommy’s have an amazing caffeine calculator you can use – and we have guide to how many mgs are in the most popular caffeinated products.

But if you’re not keen on tracking your every move, simply switch to decaf versions of your fave drinks for the duration of your pregnancy.

It’s easy to get your hands on decaffeinated tea bags, instant coffee, and soft drinks in supermarkets nowadays. Most major brands like Yorkshire Tea, Diet Coke, and Nescafe are available in decaf versions, too.

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Have your say

How did you find limiting your caffeine intake during pregnancy? Perhaps you struggled to stick to the recommendations – or maybe you found it really, really easy?

Tell us in the comments below, on Facebook, or over on Instagram

Images: Getty Images

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