During a pregnancy, it’s perfectly natural to scan through nutrition labels to find out if your food is okay to consume during pregnancy. It’s always a good idea to play things on the safe side, but you don’t have to spend months completely avoiding some of your favorite food and drinks. There’s plenty of myths and misconceptions about what you can and can’t have while pregnant, but what does the research say about drinking coffee?
While coffee has traditionally been discouraged for consumption during pregnancy, you don’t have to completely give up your morning brew. Aside from the decadent flavor, that energy spike can be crucial to making it through the day when you’re dealing with the stress of pregnancy. By learning the impact of coffee and caffeine during pregnancy, you’ll be able to incorporate your favorite beverage into your life without any health reprecussions.
There’s quite a few ways coffee will affect you during a pregnancy. Aside from the normal impact it has on your body, your body may react differently while dealing with the stress of pregnancy. By understanding each of the ways coffee can affect you, you’ll be able to make more informed dietary decisions.
What Impact Caffeine Have On The Body
Caffeine is generally seen as the most dramatic part of how coffee affects you during pregnancy. While it normally gives you a nice little boost in the morning or throughout the day, you may have a heightened response to the stimulant while carrying. This is the most important aspect of drinking coffee while pregnant, and there’s been plenty of testing and discussion about how it impacts pregnancy.
Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence on the definitive impact of caffeine on an unborn baby. Despite multiple studies, results are inconclusive, often time with directly conflicting results. While some studies have shown increased rates of miscarriage with heavy coffee consumption, others have shown no change or reduced rates. It can be frustrating to not have a scientific consensus about this, but it never hurts to play it safe when the results aren’t in.
One thing worth noting is that all of these studies tested very heavy caffeine consumption. Having more than 5 cups of coffee per day can have negative health impacts even when not pregnant. Much of the medical consensus is that you can still have caffeine in moderation while pregnant. So as long as you aren’t going overboard, you can still get that morning caffeine fix.
Why Coffee Can Cause Dehydration
Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning you lose more water and dehydrate easily throughout the day. Combine this with the stress and dehydration that already comes with pregnancy, and you can face mild health risks to drinking coffee while pregnant. Of course, the solution to this is simple. You can simply make sure to drink more water throughout the day to stay hydrated, mitigating the effects of caffeine on your hydration.
Acidity Can Lead To Digestive Issues
Coffee is a fairly acidic drink, with a pH of just over 5. This can be enough to cause digestive issues in people even without pregnancy. If you’re prone to heartburn, digestive issues, or acid reflux and are pregnant, coffee can irritate these issues even further. Consider lessening you coffee intake, or try drinking low acid coffee. That way, you’ll prevent agitating these issues while you’re pregnant.
Caffeine works by inhibiting your ability to feel fatigue. So while you may not get extra energy, you still feel more energized after a cup of joe. But caffeine can also impact your circulatory and respiratory systems, making you more prone to stress and anxiety. Or you can have a really powerful caffeine crash. This can be tough to deal with under any conditions, but add in a pregnancy, and that can be enough to make coffee not worthwhile any more. Consider drinking decaf coffee, or just cutting the drink out altogether.
How Much Coffee Is Safe
The general medical consensus is that you can have around 200 mg of caffeine per day while pregnant. While you can’t be downing a cup of java every few hours, you’ll still be able to get your daily fix. Whether you want it in the morning or in the afternoon, you can use your favorite drink to get through the day. But this can translate into different amounts of actual coffee depending on a few factors.
Caffeine content in different brew methods
Different brew methods extract different amounts of caffeine. While it may be the most common and cheapest way of making coffee, drip coffee has the most caffeine per cup of any coffee. A Grande coffee at Starbucks can pack well over 300 mg of caffeine. Meanwhile, a single shot of espresso only has about 80 mg. Per ounce, the espresso is more caffeinated, but you can have 2 or 3 small lattes without going over your caffeine limit, wile a single cup of drip coffee can be too much, so keep that in mind when making your next morning brew.
Dark roasts contain less caffeine than lighter roasts
Contrary to popular belief, the rich, bold, powerful flavor of a dark roast has much less caffeine than a light roast. When you roast your beans, you basically cook the caffeine out of the coffee. So a light roast will have up to twice the caffeine of an extra dark roast. Fortunately, most of the coffee beans you buy at the store are dark roast, and so they come with less caffeine. Ask your local barista which roast they use for your favorite drink to find out if you need to change things up.
Other caffeine sources
Caffeine can come from tons of places, including tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate. If you’re a true coffee connoisseur, you prioritize the deep flavor of a cup of java over a Coke, so you’ll want to cut down on the caffeine from other places. Or, if you just like the flavor of coffee but don’t want to make the compromise, you can reduce your coffee intake, use a coffee extract, drink decaf, or make a brew that’s less caffeinated.
How to Reduce Caffeine Intake
Once you understand how drinking coffee can impact a pregnancy, you’ll want to find ways to reduce your caffeine intake so you can still enjoy your favorite drink. You can cut down on coffee altogether, or just lower your caffeine intake. These techniques will help you reduce risk of complications during pregnancy while letting you continue to enjoy the bold, toasty flavors of a rich dark roast.
Drink less coffee
It’s counterintuitive to continuing your love affair with coffee, but try sticking to one cup of coffee per day. If you’re used to drinking a pot or 3 per day, you’ll be able to appreciate each sip just a little more. This is the easiest option if you’re just drinking coffee for the caffeine. Plus, you’ll save plenty of money on coffee beans.
Make decaf coffee
Decaf coffee is perfectly safe, and has less than 3% of the caffeine content of regular coffee. If you just can’t give up the several cups of joe per day, than switch them to decaf, or even half-caf if you need the energy spike. You’ll still be able to have a cappuccino after lunch, or a full pot every morning. If you’re struggling with a high caffeine tolerance, this can be a great way to overcome it and give coffee that punch it used to have.
Reduce other sources of caffeine
This is a no-brainer. If you love coffee but want to reduce caffeine intake during pregnancy, get rid of other sources of caffeine. It may be tough to pick between an energy drink and coffee, but you can’t find that distinctive coffee flavor anywhere else. Or you can use coffee extracts to add the flavor of coffee to other things like milkshakes and cookies. Besides, most of those other drinks come packed with sugar, while it’s pretty easy to find healthy ways to sweeten and flavor your coffee.
Substitute coffee with other drinks
If you’re having trouble kicking coffee, trick your brain by substituting it. Have some hot tea to wake yourself up in the morning. Or have a hot chocolate in the early afternoon instead of a mocha. Many times, your body just wants to stick to it’s routine rather than actually drink coffee. Drink hot water, steamed milk, or any other drink to satisfy your coffee cravings. By finding similar substitutes, you’ll reduce your coffee and caffeine intake during pregnancy.
Making Coffee a Healthy Part of Pregnancy
When you’re carrying a child, you want to prioritize your health over everything else. Even if it means completely giving up coffee cold turkey, make sure that you’re only consuming things that are safe during pregnancy. Caffeine shouldn’t have a huge impact on an unborn child, but it may stress you out more than you want. By taking the initiative to regulate your coffee and caffeine intake, you’ll be able to keep coffee a healthy part of your life, even when you’re pregnant.