Is Caffeine Safe during Pregnancy?

By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

Although some women think that the only food that contains caffeine is a strong cup of coffee, in fact, you can find caffeine in many of the other things you eat and drink on a daily basis: tea, many sodas, cocoa, and chocolate. No evidence suggests that caffeine causes birth defects. However, if you consume caffeine in large amounts, it may raise the risk of miscarriage.

Most studies suggest that it takes more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day to affect the fetus. The average cup of coffee (remember, this is an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee — not the super-mega size or an espresso or cappuccino!) has between 100 and 150 mg of caffeine.

Caffeinated tea has slightly less caffeine — about 50 to 100 mg — and soft drinks have approximately 36 mg per 12-ounce serving. So drinking one 8-ounce cup of coffee (or the equivalent caffeine content in other foods or beverages) per day is usually okay during pregnancy.

A lot of women ask about the caffeine content in chocolate — your sweet tooth will be happy to know that an average-sized chocolate bar or cup of hot cocoa has only about 6 mg of caffeine.

Remember, too, that consuming caffeine often increases the already frequent trips to the bathroom. If you’re already bothered by frequent urination, you may want to cut your caffeine intake further.

Also, you may find that, especially in the last trimester, getting a full night’s rest is almost impossible because you can’t find a comfortable sleeping position and, even if you do, you have to get up several times to go to the bathroom. Drinking coffee or tea at bedtime may only aggravate your inability to get some rest!