Is it safe to drink coffee during pregnancy?

pregnant woman drinking coffee

The list of food and drink that pregnant women must avoid can feel endless. It might not be difficult to cut the shark from your diet but missing your daily caffeine fix can be tricky. Fortunately, you needn't cut out caffeine altogether, but you do need to limit your intake.

The government advises that pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg of caffeine per day. Research indicates that consuming too much caffeine during pregnancy increases the risk of fetal growth restriction, which can lead to miscarriage and low birth weight.

What is 200mg caffeine equivalent to?

Two cups of coffee and a bar of chocolate would bring you over the caffeine limit.

Unfortunately, 200mg of caffeine doesn't add up to much when it comes to cups of coffee or tea. There's also caffeine 'hidden' in energy drinks, chocolate and other foods.

Caffeine levels in popular caffeinated food and drink:

  • 350ml mug of filter coffee – 140mg
  • 350ml mug of instant coffee – 140mg
  • 250ml mug of tea – 75mg
  • 330ml can of cola – 40mg
  • 50g bar of chocolate – 25mg
  • 250ml energy drink – 80mg

Cups of coffee in cafes often contain two shots, which is probably more caffeine than you'd put in a cup of coffee at home.

What else contains caffeine?

Some medicines, including headache relief medicines, cold and flu tablets and some allergy remedies, contain caffeine. Make sure you mention to your pharmacist that you are pregnant when buying over-the-counter medicines. They will be able to advise you on the appropriate medicine for you.

How can I keep track of my caffeine intake?

A study conducted by Tommy's shows that many of us don't know how little 200mg of caffeine amounts to in real terms. That's understandable, given that we're used to thinking in cups and not milligrams.

Using a caffeine calculator now can help you be more aware of your consumption and to cut down if you need to.

According to the study, 61% of pregnant women would reduce their caffeine consumption habits after learning how much caffeine there is in a cup of tea or coffee.

So, if you're pregnant or just want to cut down on your caffeine habit, it's worth keeping track of how much coffee/tea/chocolate you're drinking. You can calculate your caffeine consumption with this easy-to-use calculator.

What effect does caffeine have on my baby?

Caffeine crosses from you to your baby via the placenta. So, when you drink coffee, your baby will experience a stimulating effect similar to the one you experience. Your baby's heart rate and metabolism will also increase.

Lots of caffeine can negatively affect on your baby even after birth. Babies of mothers who consume more than 500mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy have been found to have faster heart rates and increased breathing rates in the days after birth. It can also make your baby stay awake more, as they are more stimulated and less able to settle.

I've gone over the 200mg per day limit. What should I do?

Don't worry, as that won't be good for you. Just try to keep track of how much you're consuming from now on.

Caffeine swaps

Try switching to decaffeinated coffee and tea, fruit juice, herbal teas or water. At first, these alternatives probably won't cut the mustard. As you get used to the change, though, you may start to enjoy them.

A mug of tea and a filter coffee takes me to just over to 215mg. I had no idea!

Reducing your caffeine intake can be a good opportunity to find other ways to feel energised, such as moderate exercise or getting into a good sleep routine. Not all Mumsnetters manage to make the switch though…

When I was pregnant I could never give up my morning latte on the way to work – I just swapped for decaf and never felt a moment's guilt. It was the enormous pastry I had with it that was the problem.

I drank one cup of tea every morning, a latte mid-morning, and a can of coke in the afternoon (with an otherwise very healthy lunch). I couldn't not drink the coffee and tea as I suffer from really bad headaches (withdrawal symptoms, I guess).

I plain craved the Coke, and had to force myself to keep it down to one can a day. DD1, you will no doubt be relieved to hear, is fine and healthy.

If you are drinking decaf, you are a saint. I can't drop my caffeine intake any more, especially as I'm knackered from lack of sleep after peeing three or four times a night. It's the caffeine that gives me the energy to deal with my two year old!

I gave it up but only because it doesn't appeal to me any more. I used to drink up to 15 cups of tea a day but all I want now are ice-pops and melon slices. So thirsty!