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Caffeine During Pregnancy: Effects on Baby

One of the first things most women think about once they see those two pink lines on our pregnancy tests is that beloved cup of morning coffee or tea; we worry about caffeine during pregnancy – effects on baby.

Our mothers and grandmothers will probably tell us that they drank the same amount of caffeine when expecting as they did when they were not pregnant and their children turned out fine. However, a lot more research has been done since their time and studies are showing that too much caffeine can cause some complications such as preterm labor and/or low birth weight.

How Caffeine Affects You

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It

increases your heart rate

increases blood pressure

is a diuretic – causes fluid loss

How Caffeine Affects Baby

Caffeine crosses the placenta

Your baby's metabolism cannot handle large amounts of caffeine

Lower birth wieght

Later studies reveal caffeine may alter the unborn baby's DNA

Possible link to childhood leukemia

So how much caffeine is too much caffeine? Doctors are telling their patients that a moderate amount of caffeine will not harm their babies. Even though caffeine does cross the placenta, anything less than 200 milligrams a day (a 12 ounce cup of strong coffee) will probably not do any harm.

Anything over 200 milligrams puts your baby at risk. A study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology have also shown that women who drink more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day during their first trimester have a slightly higher risk of a miscarriage.

What's the amount of caffeine in common foods and beverages? (from babycenter.com)

Coffee Amount Caffeine
coffee, generic brewed 8 oz 95-200 mg
coffee, Starbucks brewed 16 oz (grande) 330 mg
coffee, Dunkin' Donuts brewed 16 oz 211 mg
caffé latte, misto, or cappuccino, Starbucks 16 oz (grande) 150 mg
caffé latte, misto, or cappuccino, Starbucks 12 oz (tall) 75 mg
espresso, Starbucks 1 oz (1 shot ) 75 mg
espresso, generic 1 oz (1 shot) 64 mg
coffee, generic instant 1 tsp granules 31 mg
coffee, generic decaffeinated 8 oz 2 mg
Tea Amount Caffeine
black tea, brewed 8 oz 47 mg
green tea, brewed 8 oz 25 mg
black tea, decaffeinated 8 oz 2 mg
Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea latte 16 oz (grande) 95 mg
instant tea, unsweetened 1 tsp powder 26 mg
Snapple 16 oz 42 mg
Lipton Brisk iced tea 12 oz 5 mg
Soft drinks Amount Caffeine
Coke 12 oz 35 mg
Diet Coke 12 oz 47 mg
Pepsi 12 oz 38 mg
Diet Pepsi 12 oz 36 mg
Jolt Cola 12 oz 72 mg
Mountain Dew 12 oz 54 mg
7-Up 12 oz 0 mg
Sierra Mist 12 oz 0 mg
Sprite 12 oz 0 mg
Energy drinks Amount Caffeine
Red Bull 8.3 oz 77 mg
SoBe Essential Energy, berry or orange 8 oz 48 mg
5-Hour Energy 2 oz 138 mg
Desserts Amount Caffeine
dark chocolate (70-85% cacao solids) 1 oz 23 mg
milk chocolate 1.55-oz 9 mg
coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt 8 oz 2 mg
hot cocoa 8 oz 8-12 mg
chocolate chips, semisweet 4 oz 53 mg
chocolate milk 8 oz 5-8 mg

Studies have also shown that women who had over 500 milligrams of caffeine a day had babies who had faster heart rates and faster breathing rates. These babies also spent more time awake in their first few days of life rather than peacefully sleeping after their long journey.

There are a number of other reasons why we women might want to cut back on the amount of caffeine we drink during pregnancy.

For starters, it has no nutritional value. If there is ever a time for us to be aware of our nutritional needs it is when we are pregnant.

Second, caffeine is a stimulant which will increase your heart rate and can cause insomnia and headaches which can put some stress on your growing little one.

Third, caffeine can cause heartburn. If you have been pregnant before you know that heartburn can be a burden to begin with, and caffeine just makes it worse.

Lastly it is a diuretic which means it can cause you to lose fluids which can put you at a risk of becoming dehydrated.

While it is not necessary for you to give up all caffeine through out the duration of your pregnancy, you should learn how to drink it in moderation or don't drink it at all. If you can not handle having only one cup of coffee a day, then you might be better off drinking no coffee at all.

Stick with caffeine free sodas and even decaf coffee. Remember though that decaf coffee still contains small traces of caffeine so make sure you take that into consideration. Caffeine during pregnancy – effects on baby – is safe in small amounts.

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