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Over 2,000 Australians have Googled “Can I drink coffee when pregnant?” in the last 12 months, and it’s easy to know why! Many women enjoy their morning coffee, and the fatigue often experienced in pregnancy can lead you to crave an extra cup in the afternoon (if you can tolerate coffee in pregnancy!). But is this safe for you and your baby?
When consumed during pregnancy, caffeine readily crosses the placenta at a high concentration. In adults, caffeine is metabolised by cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver. However, because your baby hasn’t developed its P450 enzyme system, the kidneys are the main route of excretion. This results in more than 80% of the caffeine passing unchanged in the urine of your little ones compared with only 2–4% in adults. Therefore, fetal caffeine processing depends on your metabolism rate as the mum, which changes during pregnancy. Caffeine processing slows to half and then to about a third of the non-pregnant rate during the second and third trimesters.
Due to the inability of your little one to process caffeine while in the uterus, consuming large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight or small for gestational age, childhood acute leukaemia and childhood overweight and obesity. Hence, it’s best to limit your intake of caffeine.
There is some discussion regarding whether there is a safe limit to the amount of caffeine consumed during pregnancy. The general consensus is reducing intake as much as possible will benefit you and your baby.
In Australia, the recommended caffeine intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding is up to 200mg per day. This is equal to:
Caffeine is also found in chocolate, energy drinks and green tea. Here is the approximate caffeine content in some popular foods and drinks:
Decafe coffee contains significantly less caffeine than regular coffee – with about 2-7mg of caffeine per cup. This is an obvious choice to replace your coffee with to get that delicious taste!
Herbal teas are free from caffeine. However not all are safe for pregnancy, so it’s best to check with a clinical nutritionist, naturopath, midwife, or doctor before consuming. Some safe options include peppermint, ginger, and cranberry herbal teas. Peppermint can help reduce gas, nausea, and heartburn, while ginger is known to aid with stomach issues (including nausea) and digestion.
A chai or turmeric latte might hit the spot instead of your regular coffee. Chai lattes usually come with or without black tea, so to minimise caffeine intake, it may be best to skip the tea for a caffeine-free version.
Smoothies are a great way to increase your nutritional intake during pregnancy, which is important to support your growing baby and reduce the risk of miscarriage. The increase in fruits and vegetables also helps your energy levels – double win!
We’re not talking about your average hot chocolate, which is packed with sugar and contains few nutrients. Hot cocoa is made using raw cacao powder containing mood-boosting magnesium and antioxidants. Magnesium is beneficial during pregnancy to reduce leg cramping, increase sleep quality and support energy production. However, this is one to have in moderation as cocoa has a small amount of caffeine.
Still feeling a bit sluggish? Here are some energy boosting tips:
If you’re interested in taking any supplements, please discuss this with your practitioner to ensure you’re taking the correct dose and form for you. This article is not intended to be medical advice and is purely for education purposes.