Should you drink coffee during pregnancy? 

With so much conflicting advice about caffeine intake during pregnancy, is a cup or two a day really off-limits?

The good news is experts mostly agree that a small amount of coffee is not dangerous during pregnancy, but in today’s barista-driven world it can be a challenge to know if or when you’re having too much.

What are the guidelines about caffeine in pregnancy?

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advises avoiding excessive caffeine consumption (upwards of 300mg a day, the equivalent of 3-4 cups of brewed coffees).

This is on par with advice from the World Health Organization, which warns “some observational studies suggest excess intake of caffeine may be associated with growth restriction, reduced birth weight, preterm birth or stillbirth”.

Mixed messages over caffeine during pregnancy

However, there is still constant debate about caffeine and pregnancy.

One recent study found pregnant women shouldn’t consume caffeine, linking it to increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Many experts condemned the findings, including Dr Daghni Rajasingham, a consultant obstetrician at the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“The findings of this study add to the large body of evidence that supports limited caffeine intake during pregnancy, but pregnant women do not need to completely cut out caffeine, as this paper suggests,” she stated in response to the study.

University of Adelaide Robinson Research Institute professor Michael Davies says the study is “going beyond the data”.

“The most recent paper claiming ‘no lower threshold’ for coffee consumption is misleading,” Prof Davies says.

“The authors simply drew a straight line from extreme levels down to zero and extrapolated well beyond the reliable evidence.

“There is no evidence that a weak cup of tea in the morning will cause any harm.

“By contrast having 10 high caffeine ‘energy’ drinks throughout the day is quite possibly a risky practice because the mother’s heart rate starts to race, which will also be experienced by the fetus.”

Not only is coffee safe in small doses, Prof Davies says it also has been associated with health benefits including having anti-inflammatory effects.

Should I have my regular morning coffee when pregnant?

In moderation, coffee during pregnancy is considered safe by most experts.

However, it is important to consider all the caffeinated drinks – including cola, tea, or any energy drinks – you might have through the day other than just coffee.

University of Newcastle nutrition professor Clare Collins advises pregnant women to cut out caffeine “to play it on the safe side”.

“The reason why I say to switch to decaf or cut it out all together is because there is no easy way to monitor your caffeine intake,” she says.

“If you have to go around keeping your eye on the barista and how many shots have been added to your coffee, and thinking ‘how much did I have’ – it’s just easier to go caffeine-free, particularly in those first two trimesters of pregnancy.”

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Written by Alex White.