Is It Ok to Drink Coffee While Pregnant?

You might want to reach for the decaf


When you become pregnant, you quickly learn that certain indulgences you once enjoyed are off-limits now that you’re growing a little one. Sushi, deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses and of course, alcohol, are all relative no-nos during the gestational time. But what about caffeine?

Aside from other potential concerns regarding too much caffeine consumption in pregnancy, The New York Times recently published an article suggesting a link between caffeine intake in pregnancy and obese children.

Citing a Norwegian study that included 50,943 mother/infant duos, information was gathered regarding caffeine consumption at 22 weeks of pregnancy, and data was then collected over the span of the next eight years.

Children of moms who consumed 50 to 199 milligrams of caffeine per day were only a little more likely to be overweight between ages 3 and 8 years, but those whose moms consumed between 200 and 299 mg per day were 1 to 17 % more likely to be overweight through age 5. Moms who had more than 300 mg per day had children who were 29 to 44% more likely to be overweight or obese through age 8.

So what does this all mean, exactly? Do you have to ditch your morning cup of coffee completely for nine (or 10) long months?

While most women know to limit caffeine during pregnancy, these results might be a bit alarming. We spoke with Dr. Susan Loeb-Zeitlin, Obstetrician-Gynecologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine to find out more about drinking caffeine while pregnant.

Is caffeine during pregnancy safe?

Currently, there is no clear consensus regarding caffeine consumption during pregnancy, though Loeb-Zeitlin says, “Most studies suggest that moderate consumption (approximately 200 mg/day) of caffeine does not have adverse effects on the pregnancy.” That's the amount in about two cups of regular coffee.

What about the study?

Loeb-Zeitlin points out that the study cited in the Times article is observational, requiring some follow up. She says, “I don’t believe there is an understanding yet as to why caffeine intake might cause childhood obesity or increased childhood growth, but it does give us another reason to suggest that a woman might want to limit her caffeine intake during pregnancy.”

Loeb-Zeitlin tells her patients that it is likely fine to have a cup of coffee per day but less if they are able to. She also reminds patients that caffeine exists in other foods and drinks, too, like chocolate and iced tea.

What are the risks?

According to the the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, there is no “conclusive evidence” that caffeine can cause any problems. Loeb-Zeitlin reiterates that some studies have suggested an increased risk of birth defects (while other studies have shown the opposite), low birth weight, and the possibility of transient neonatal withdrawal. In fact, she says one study showed that caffeine intake prior to conception could protect against the development of gestational diabetes.

Often times, the concerns with consumption and exposures is highest when women are still within the first trimester of pregnancy. But is it the same with caffeine? Loeb-Zeitlin explained that while some of the congenital anomalies noted in animal studies occurred during the first trimester, there is no clear evidence that this proves true in humans. Though, she says, "In very high doses, there might be a risk of miscarriage, but that is not noticed consistently in different studies.”

What's the bottom line?

Worrying about having to completely ditch your morning coffee throughout pregnancy? Chances are, you’ll still be able to safely indulge, within limits. Loeb-Zeitlin says, “Overall there is not enough evidence to tell a woman to restrict caffeine entirely. As with many things, when taken in moderation, it should be fine.”

Article Sources
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  1. Papadopoulou E. Botton J. Brantsæter A, et al. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and childhood growth and overweight: results from a large Norwegian prospective observational cohort studyBMJ Open. 2018;8:e018895. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018895

  2. Committee Opinion No. 462. Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116:467–8.

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