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Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy

What science says.

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

Caffeinated drinks are an essential part of many people’s daily life, especially their morning routines. Many will need to have their tea or coffee in the morning to be able to properly begin the day and avoid headaches. It is well known that excessive caffeine intake is bad, however, you may have heard different versions of caffeine during pregnancy. How much is safe? Can you have any at all?

Caffeine

Let’s be clear about one thing. Coffee and caffeine are two separate things. Coffee, as we all know, is the actual beverage prepared with roasted coffee beans, while caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases alertness. We tend to associate coffee with caffeine when caffeine is also found in numerous hot and cold drinks, such as tea, soft and energy drinks and chocolate. 

Benefits and risks of caffeine

Caffeine has physical, cognitive, and psychological benefits. It increases energy levels, alertness, and mood and improves focus. It is also beneficial in the acute treatment of headaches and migraines. Moderate caffeine intake is also known to modulate certain neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

However, what most studies indicate, is that the caffeine intake is only beneficial when taken in moderate amounts. Excessive caffeine consumption is harmful and causes adverse effects such as dehydrationanxietyheadachesincreased heartbeat, restlessness and abdominal pain. Other negative effects include sleepcognitive and physical performance disturbances.

Potential risks during pregnancy

There is controversy about whether a woman should have caffeine during pregnancy. Let’s see what the science says.

Research shows that too much caffeine causes blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which means a lower blood supply to the foetus. Not to mention, that caffeine is metabolised much slower in pregnant women. A study shows that it takes only 3.4 hours on average for adult males and non-pregnant females, but 8.3 hours for pregnant females to eliminate caffeine from their bodies. In other words, caffeine is metabolised more than twice slower during pregnancy.

Some studies suggest that even the slightest amount of caffeine is harmful and is linked with several negative pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage and lower birth weight. Therefore, you may have heard that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are advised to avoid caffeine completely.

Current recommendations

Despite these claims, experts still believe there is not enough scientific evidence supporting these claims. The majority of the existing evidence on caffeine consumption and negative pregnancy outcomes has numerous limitations. The studies are often limited to small sample sizes and retrospective data collection, that were influenced by recall bias due to pregnancy loss.

Furthermore, many of these studies found these adverse effects to be associated with a high caffeine intake. The key term that experts consider when evaluating the potential risks of caffeine during pregnancy is excessive consumption.

Current recommendations advise pregnant women to limit daily caffeine intake to 200 mg, without forgetting that caffeine is not only found in coffee and tea but many other beverages and certain foods. 

It is recommended that pregnant women avoid soft drinks completely due to unnecessary sugar, caffeine, colourings, and other unhealthy and potentially harmful chemicals. 

Below is a list of common caffeinated drinks with their caffeine amounts: 

  • 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

– Makayla Meixner MS, RDN — Medically reviewed by Atli Arnarson BSc, PhD.
Link to article: 
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-during-pregnancy

Conclusion

Caffeinated drinks especially coffee and tea are highly popular and consumed worldwide. Caffeine has numerous benefits but also potential risks when taken in excessive amounts. This applies to pregnancy as well.

The views on caffeine consumption during pregnancy are controversial. The results from scientific research are also inconsistent. This article points out the existing findings as well as their limitations. This explains why the current recommendations still support that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy is safe. 

Written by Lilia Nora Adamou

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