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Caffeine and pregnancy – am I allowed?

  • Bonitas
  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Bonitas, Health, Parenting, Pregnancy, Pregnancy & Baby

You may be wondering if your morning cuppa is something to be avoided now that you’re pregnant. Generally, caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy, as it can harm your baby. However, you can consume caffeine in small amounts, so you won’t need to go cold turkey on your coffee habit. But how much is too much? And what caffeine high food and drink should you be avoiding?

How does caffeine affect you and your baby? 

Too much caffeine can have a negative impact on both you and your baby. If you’ve drunk a lot before getting pregnant you may find adjusting to only one cup a day (or the equivalent) pretty tough. As a stimulant, caffeine has the effect of making you feel more awake and alert, but too much (even before getting pregnant) isn’t good for you.

Caffeine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and leave you feeling fatigued when the stimulant has left your system. Caffeine is also addictive, while it doesn’t cause addiction in the way that drugs do, drinking it often can increase your dependency on it. When you’re pregnant your body will metabolize caffeine at a slower rate.

Some studies have linked increased caffeine intake to miscarriage (although there are conflicting studies on this) as well as low birth weight. Because the risks aren’t fully understood it is best to limit your intake. 

How much is enough?

When you find out you’re pregnant it’s best to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day. This is the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee (filter coffee has more) or 3 to 4 cups of brewed tea. Energy drinks, sodas and chocolate are other sources of caffeine which you should consider.

Remember, caffeine isn’t the only thing in these foods and drinks, energy drinks and sodas have lots of processed sugar, and some energy drinks also contain ginseng, which should be avoided during pregnancy.

What are alternatives to caffeine? 

If you are planning on sticking to as little caffeine as possible per day you’re probably wondering what healthy alternatives there are. Luckily in South Africa, rooibos tea is very popular and perfectly safe to drink. You can swap out filter coffee and flat whites for rooibos tea and red cappuccinos. Decaf coffee is another alternative, but it’s best not to overdo this one as it still has trace amounts of caffeine.

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