Is coffee safe to drink when pregnant?

How much instant coffee, latte, espresso and even a Starbucks tall cappuccino can you safely drink during pregnancy?

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In a nutshell 

Yes, coffee is safe to drink as long as it’s in moderation

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The expert view 

Addicted to your daily latte or espresso? Well, the good news is that you don’t need to stop drinking coffee during pregnancy – you just need to make sure you aren’t having too much.

Nutritionist Dr Rana Conway advises having a daily plan if you think you might bust the limit. 

“If you usually drink tea, coffee and cola and also have the odd chocolate bar, then be careful about going over the caffeine limit,” she warns. “Some women like to simplify things by allowing themselves a morning coffee and a cup of tea in the afternoon, but otherwise sticking to caffeine-free drinks. If you occasionally have a chocolate bar too that’s fine, but if you make some kind of plan, you won’t need to keep totting up your daily intake.” 

The NHS says pregnant women should limit caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day. This advice is based on US research in 2008, which found that women who drank more than 200mg caffeine daily were at a 25 per cent greater risk of miscarriage in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy than those who drank none.

A 2015 study carried out by the Ohio State University College of Medicine has advised that drinking coffee will not lower the IQ of your baby as it gets older, nor will it affect whether your baby wakes in the night or not and can be added to the growing evidence that it’s OK to have caffeine in moderation while you’re pregnant.

In August 2014, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggested that ‘high-level’ coffee consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of your baby getting childhood leukaemia. It’s important to know, however, that this study was based on women recalling, often many years later, how much coffee they’d drunk when they were pregnant – and the researchers themselves think more studies need to be done before any clear conclusions can be drawn.

So how much coffee is 200mg caffeine?

The approximate amount of caffeine found in coffee varies a lot, depending on how it is prepared. But, as a rules of thumb:

  • Mug of instant coffee: 100mg
  • Mug of filter coffee: 140mg
  • Starbucks tall cappuccino: 75mg
  • Starbucks single espresso: 75mg

It can be worth asking your local coffee shop whether they know the amount of caffeine in their coffee, as the type of beans and way the baristas brew it up can all affect the levels. 

In fact, scientists from the University of Glasgow tested 20 different coffee shops in the city and found the amount of caffeine in a single espresso ranged from 51mg to 322mg.  

And of course, most high street chains offer a decaffeinated coffee option if you want the taste without the jolt!

Mums on our forum say

“Tea & coffee have been a no no for weeks now cant abide the smell of coffee even.” skinny-latte

“I’ve been trying to cut down on regular coffee and it’s the hardest thing ever. I am so used to drinking 20oz coffee on the way to my job. So this week I decided to do 1/2 regular and 1/2 decaf OMG was I sooooo tired during the day. I thought the 1/2 regular will still be good. Then I felt bad so I went down to 16oz because someone told me that 20oz is about 3 cups. I did the 16oz and I still felt the same. I only drink one a day it’s not like I drink coffee all day. Seriously, I think I need that coffee in the morning.” Dani710

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