How much coffee during pregnancy can harm my baby?
Time to give up coffee now that you're pregnant? Read on
If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, one of the first advices you’re bound to receive is to “cut down caffeine”. Now if you’re someone who needs her morning cuppa, you’re probably wondering how you will pull through nine whole months without it.
How harmful is caffeine intake during pregnancy? “Caffeine is easily absorbed through the placenta and reaches the foetus in a concentration similar to that of maternal levels,” says Anandini Swaminathan, dietician and co-founder, Diet Unlimited, Bengaluru.
Some studies state that women who consumed more than 300 mg of caffeine during pregnancy increased the risk of abortion, stillbirth or low birth weight infants. However, most reports about caffeine consumption during pregnancy are conflicting.
But what has been observed with certainty is that the lesser the caffeine intake, the healthier the body feels.
Sources of caffeine
Coffee is not the only source of caffeine. It is also found in tea, cola, other soft drinks, energy drinks, cocoa and several medications. Here is a table provided by Swaminathan (adapted from: Marchofdimes) that cites the amount of caffeine present in common foods.
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It is therefore, always advised to read labels of various medicines and beverages carefully.
Continue reading to know the various side effects of caffeine.
Side effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy
Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic. High levels of it in the blood could cause a variety of side effects.
- The stimulating effects of caffeine increases the heart rate, making one feel jittery
- It causes sleeplessness, specially when caffeinated beverages are consumed in the late hours of the day
- It may increase the frequency of urination, leading to dehydration
- Too much of caffeine also increases nausea and vomiting during periods of morning sickness
- It stimulates the secretion of acids present in the stomach and increases heartburn
“So even though the mother’s body can handle these conditions, the baby’s metabolism is still under developed and will be affected,” adds Swaminathan, who has also authored ‘Confessions of a dietitian’.
How does one curb caffeine intake during pregnancy?
You don’t need to feel guilty about drinking coffee during pregnancy as long as you monitor your intake. “Less than 300 mg coffee per day is considered safe during pregnancy and lactation, which means 1-2 cups per day,” says Dr Tripat Chaudhary, director, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis La Femme, Delhi.
But, the lesser caffeine consumed, the better for you. So, if you are planning for pregnancy or are pregnant and want to cut down on the amount of tea or coffee you consume, make a note of the following tips:
- Try switching to instant coffee rather than brewed or filter coffee, as the brewed variety has more caffeine content.
- Carry your own instant coffee sachets if the coffee machine at work offers only the brewed variety
- Try adding more milk to your coffee
- When you brew your tea, brew them for a shorter while to have a lighter tea
- Switch to having other varieties of tea as they will limit the intake of caffeine during your pregnancy. Do consult your doctor before trying out anything new.
- Control the amount of chocolate you consume during the day. This includes chocolate in cookies, cakes and chocolate bars
- Sleep whenever tired so that your body gets adequate rest. Then you need not depend on a stimulant to wake you up
- Switch to fresh fruit juices if you’re used to having soft drinks
- Stay motivated through withdrawal symptoms. There’s nothing better than having a healthy, stress-free pregnancy
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