When you are pregnant there is so much advice that people are willing to give you, some of which needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
Whether it be about parenting methods, birthing interventions, sleeping arrangements or what food and drinks you should or shouldn’t be consuming, everyone has (and is entitled to) their opinion.
When it comes to food and drinks there are some recommendations from well-recognized bodies in terms of foods and beverages that should be avoided for a number of reasons to protect the health of both you and your baby. No doubt you will each know someone that went through their pregnancy who avoided everything from any form of deli meat, soft cheese and seafood to those that just couldn’t quite give up their Sunday morning runny eggs or weren’t bothered about washing every single salad item before it went into their mouth.
When it comes to beverages we all know that alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy as there is no safe limit. However, what about caffeine; how will it affect your morning cuppa when you are carrying a little one and what effect does caffeine have on the development of your baby? When looking at caffeine and pregnancy there is a little more research within this area. Studies have reported that caffeine intake has been reported to be associated with a reduction in birth weight, however the exact level is still unknown. One study with more the 2500 women in the UK confirmed that a maternal intake of more than 300mg per day was associated with low birth weight or foetal growth restriction (300mg per day is about 3-4 cups of coffee using the instant variety). It also found that an average caffeine intake of greater than 100mg per day was associated with a reduction in birth weight in the third trimester. Although the threshold for which the risk of foetal growth restriction and lower birth weights increases, it concluded that the risk was reduced in those women consuming less than 100mg per day (approximately one coffee per day). The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia pledged to determine a recommended intake of caffeine for pregnant women within Australia following the publication of these findings.
So what’s the recommendation?
Australian guidelines recommend you limit your intake to less than 200 mg per day, so that's about one to two instant coffees a day and two to three cups of tea. Be mindful that your favorite barista coffee will contain more caffeine than your home instants.
It is advised that to be particularly mindful of your caffeine intake during your first trimester due to that time period being the greatest risk for miscarriage. However if you love your daily dose of coffee and have multiple cups per day, reducing your intake when pregnant may be something that you struggle with. You may also be more likely to experience the nasty withdrawal symptoms such as persistent headaches and further feelings of fatigue, which is just what you need when you are already feeling that way through growing a human within you.
It is important to consider other sources on top of your standard coffee also as caffeine isn't just found in your tea and coffee. If you’ve been indulging in some chocolate with your coffee or enjoy a soft drink with lunch these count towards your daily intake also. You need to be aware that the amount of caffeine is not adding up from other sources, for example one serve of the following equates to the listed amount of caffeine:
- Serve of instant coffee: 80-100mg
- Serve of filter coffee: 140mg
- Black tea: 20 - 70mg
- Green tea: ~20 - 40mg
- Coke 355ml: 20-35mg
- Diet Coke 355ml: 20-50mg
- Pepsi 350ml: 40mg
- Red Bull 260ml: 77mg
- 50g bar of plain (dark) chocolate: ~ 50mg
- 50g bar of milk chocolate: ~ 25mg.
If the thought of giving up your daily dose of caffeine or missing out on that warm cuppa, especially with winter coming, why not try having a cup of warm lemon water (great for your digestive system and immunity) or caffeine free teas whether loose leaf or in bags. There are so many different flavours to select from chamomile, peppermint, apple & ginger. Alternatively if you prefer to stick to your barista brewed coffee you could opt for decaf or a single shot only.
Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to give up your morning latte or regular shot of espresso (if you can – great!). Ensure you stick below the Australian guidelines of 200mg/day or speak to your doctor if you are concerned.