Your pregnancy test is positive, and instantly your mind is flooded with totally new questions. As a registered dietitian who specializes in child and family nutrition, I’m asked all the time by expectant and new moms if it’s safe to drink coffee and consume caffeine during pregnancy. The answer is yes, in moderation. Let’s look at the research.
You’ll hear contradicting advice on this subject from various health experts and even non-health experts. Health Canada and Dietitians of Canada suggest that up to 300 mg of caffeine is safe during pregnancy, and then others like the American Pregnancy Association recommend to avoid it all together if possible. I recommend that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to about 200 mg per day, which is the equivalent of about one and a half 8 oz cups of coffee/day. Keep in mind though that certain teas, soft drinks and foods also contain caffeine.
Here is a list that you can refer to if you’re wondering about caffeine levels in foods and beverages that you consume:
Caffeine content in common foods and beverages:
(Source: Health Canada)
- Brewed coffee 8 oz (237 mL)–> 135 mg caffeine
- Roasted, ground percolates 8 oz (237 mL)–> 118 mg caffeine
- Roasted, ground, filter drip 8 oz (237 mL)–> 179 mg
- Roasted and ground, decaf 8 oz (237 mL)–> 3mg caffeine
- Instant 8 oz (237 mL)–> 76-106 mg
- Instant decaf 8 oz *237 mL)–> 5 mg
- Black Tea (average blend) 8 oz (237 mL)–> 42 mg
- Green tea, 8 oz (237 mL)–>30 mg
- Decaf tea, 8oz (237 mL)–> 0 mg
- Regular Cola, 12 oz (355 mL)–> 36-46 mg
- Diet Cola, 12 oz (355 mL) –> 39-50 mg
- Chocolate milk, 8 oz (237 ml)–> 8 mg
- 1 envelope of hot cocoa mix, 8oz (237 mL)–> 5mg
- Milk Chocolate (1 oz or 28g)–> 7 mg
- Dark or baking chocolate (1 oz or 28g)–> 25-58 mg
- Chocolate cake (2.8 oz or 80g)–> 36 mg
- Chocolate Brownies (1.5oz or 42g)–> 10 mg
- Chocolate Mouse (3.2 oz or 90 g)–> 15 mg
- Chocolate Pudding (5.1 oz or 145 g)–> 9mg
What could happen if I over-consume caffeine while pregnant?
While enjoying your coffee and chocolate, keep in mind that caffeine is a stimulant and does cross the placenta/uterine barrier. Over-consumption can cause early miscarriage and can also cause your baby to have a low-birth weight.
Side effects of over-consumption include
- stomach upset, and more
How can I kick the caffeine habit?
If you are a coffee lover like me, but plan to cut back during pregnancy, don’t quit cold turkey— you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. Instead, gently and slowly decrease your caffeine consumption over several days or weeks. Remember, including one, to one and a half cups of coffee a day is likely completely safe for you and your baby if you are already a coffee drinker. Obviously, I would not recommend starting to drink coffee during pregnancy if you did not previously.
The other most common questions I get asked about pregnancy?
- What do I look for in a prenatal multivitamin?
- What are the most important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy?
- How much weight gain is okay in pregnancy?
- What if I’m not gaining enough weight in my pregnancy?
- Are there any foods I should avoid during pregnancy?
Did you know that we provide one on one nutrition counselling services for families? If this is something you’d like to learn more about, check out our The Centre For Family Nutrition page.