Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Is caffeine a risk in pregnancy?

Consumption of as little as 200mg of caffeine while pregnant may not be as safe as once thought.  Currently, recommendations for pregnancy suggest that most pregnant women may safely consume up to 200mg of caffeine per day, with no risk to their unborn babies.  However, recent research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests otherwise.

In a recent study of more than 1000 women, women were surveyed about their caffeine consumption while pregnant.  Results found that consumption of more than  200mg of caffeine in pregnancy doubled the risk of miscarriage, even when accounting for the mother’s age and whether she smoked or not.  However, it is important to note that much more research needs to be done on this subject to determine if low levels of caffeine really do pose a risk to a growing baby.

It is important to note that caffeine is a stimulant and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure while also interfering with sleep.  Furhter, it can lead to dehydration.  None of these side effects are positive ones, when it comes to pregnancy.  Since caffeine can cross the placenta, this means a baby will feel the effects of caffeine just like you can.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, high amounts of caffeine have been shown to cause birth defects, preterm delivery, low birth weight and reduced fertility.  While these side effects have been linked with amounts of caffeine above the 200mg threshold, it is still unclear as to whether 200mg is “safe” or not.

As a dietitian, I encourage pregnant women to limit or avoid caffeine, with 200mg per day being the maximum intake per day.  While many professional health organizations have until recently deemed small amounts of caffeine during pregnancy as safe (based on previous research), some may now be more specific with their recommendations.  Rather than simply encouraging pregnant women to limit caffeine in general, some organizations may place specific amounts on those limitations.  Some reports indicate that the March of Dimes will now encourage pregnant women (and even women who are trying to conceive) to avoid consumption of more than 200mg of caffeine per day.

Even when not pregnant, it is usually a good idea to limit caffeine anyway, as it can create health problems beyond just those in pregnancy.  Review the chart below to see how much caffeine common foods, beverages and medicines usually contain.  As your favorite coffee shop for information about the caffeine in its beverages – and, as a general rule, try to opt for decaf!

Food, Beverage or Medicine

Amount of caffeine (mg), estimate
Brewed coffee, 8oz 65-120
Decaffeinated brewed coffee, 8oz 2-4
Espresso, 2oz 60-100
Black tea 30-60
Decaffeinated tea 0-5
Green tea 30-50
Iced tea, 12oz 70
Coca-Cola, 12oz 34
Diet Coke, 12oz 45
Pepsi, 12oz 38
Mountain Dew, 12oz 55
Jolt, 12oz 71
Excedrin 60
Cold relief medication, 1 tablet 30
Baker’s chocolate, 1oz 25
Milk chocolate, 1oz 6
Chocolate milk, 8oz 5


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This entry was posted on March 28, 2008 by in Pregnancy and tagged , , , .
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