Pregnancy is a sensitive time in a woman’s life. Most women want to protect their growing embryo, and that can raise concerns about many activities they normally take for granted without second thought—including drinking coffee. The caffeine in coffee is one question; is it safe during pregnancy? Another issue can be the acid in coffee, since some people report that it can trigger heartburn and discomfort. Here’s what you should know about coffee during pregnancy, and it’s always best to ask your healthcare provider about these issues, too.
Caffeine Effects and Limits in Pregnancy
The general recommendation for caffeine consumption is to stay under a limit of 400 mg per day. That is the amount that is in about 4 cups of regular coffee. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and should have less. Too much caffeine can cause jitters, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
However, for pregnant women, the guideline is to keep caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg per day. That’s the amount in about 2 cups of coffee. Still, recommendations should be individualized and your doctor should help you determine a limit for yourself based on your own health situation and your tolerance for risk.
Effects of Having Too Much Caffeine During Pregnancy
What can caffeine do if you have too much? Can it affect your child’s future health or behavior?
During pregnancy, your body metabolizes caffeine more slowly. In fact, it can take up to three times as long to leave your body. Caffeine does cross the placenta during pregnancy. That means that when you drink caffeinated coffee, your embryo gets caffeine, too. If caffeine is in your body for hours and hours, it’ll be getting to your baby for that long, too.
Caffeine can interfere with sleep, both for you and for your growing baby. That’s tough when you’re pregnant and may already having trouble sleeping due to being in uncomfortable positions to accommodate the baby. It also means the embryo may not be able to sleep as it would without any exposure to caffeine.
Caffeine is a diuretic. That means it increases urination. When you're pregnant, you may already be urinating often. It's important to avoid dehydration during pregnancy, too.
There has been some research on the effects of caffeine during pregnancy. It does seem that a small amount won’t raise the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. There also isn’t overwhelming evidence that it interferes with the newborn’s sleep in the first few months of life.
On the other hand, these conclusions aren’t certain. It’s possible that caffeine could have effects on the newborn or later in life, since the research isn’t yet certain. Some studies have shown increased risk of low birth weight or preterm birth even at levels of caffeine under 200 mg per day. Fussiness may be higher among babies whose mothers consumed high amounts of caffeine during pregnancy.
Caffeine and Breastfeeding
What about after your baby is born and you are breastfeeding? Does coffee matter?
It turns out that caffeine passes into breast milk. That’s something you might want to consider before nursing your baby. Caffeine stays in your bloodstream for about 6 hours. Since you’re likely breastfeeding more often than that, it would be hard to find a time to drink caffeine that wouldn’t lead to it passing to your baby while breastfeeding. If your baby has caffeine, the effects are likely to be the same as in you. That can include interrupting sleep, which may not be the goal if you’re an exhausted mother who is desperate for your baby to get some sleep so that you can, too!
Avoiding Quitting Caffeine Cold-Turkey While Pregnant
Caffeine is addictive. If you quit it cold-turkey, you’re likely to get withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and nausea. That’s not ideal for you or your baby. A better way to go, if you don’t want to have caffeine while you’re pregnant, might be to withdraw from caffeine before getting pregnant.
Of course, that’s not always possible. You probably won’t know you’re pregnant until about 4 to 6 weeks into the pregnancy. If you want to limit caffeine while you’re pregnant, you can try doing it gradually. You might, for example, stick to a bit of caffeine in the morning and have decaf coffee during the day. Or, you can try a Half Caff blend instead of a fully caffeinated version. Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee comes in Regular, Half Caff, and Decaf varieties so you can choose how much caffeine to have and taper down gradually.
Acid in Coffee and Acid Reflux During Pregnancy
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It’s caused by acid from the stomach making contact with the lining of your esophagus. It causes a painful, burning sensation in your chest. Heartburn is common in pregnancy due to the pressure of the growing fetus on your esophageal sphincter, which is the ring-like muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.
Some people try to reduce the acidity in their diets to lower the risk of heartburn while pregnant. Coffee is an acidic beverage. To limit the acid you get from coffee, you can opt for a low acid brand, such as Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee. Another benefit of lower acidity in coffee is less of a bitter or sour taste from the acid.
Caffeine is another trigger for heartburn. If you think it’s increasing heartburn while you’re pregnant, you might want to limit it. Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee comes in Half Caff and Decaffeinated alternatives so you can enjoy the same great blend of beans but with less caffeine.
It’s easy to start questioning everything when you’re pregnant, and coffee is an important topic to ask about. It’s best to ask your healthcare provider about your individual recommendation for caffeine intake and whether you should be limiting acid in your diet. A reduced acid coffee, such as Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee, can be a good choice if you’re concerned about heartburn and also if you’re monitoring caffeine consumption, since you can choose from Regular, Half Caff, and Decaf options.