Can You Drink Coffee During Pregnancy?

Can You Drink Coffee During Pregnancy?

How about first trimester? Second trimester? And third trimester?

As female coffee drinkers, these are questions bugging us when we become pregnant. Coffee is such a popular drink and an important part of our breakfast routine, and many women rely on this drink to wake them up in order to handle the day ahead.

So it’s no wonder we want to know if we could get our dose of java during those precious 9 months. Yet coffee has had its share of controversy over the years. Whether or not it is safe to be consumed and the amount it can be consumed during pregnancy has been debated.

Can you drink coffee during pregnancy

Can You Drink Coffee During Pregnancy?

I remember when I was pregnant a few years ago, I was almost instantaneously slapped with exhaustion. I couldn’t get out of bed and recall equating the feeling to having big weights on my feet.

One day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who happens to be a physician, and she suggested I try some coffee to combat my fatigue. I thought she was crazy, why would she even suggest this? Doesn’t she know coffee is dangerous during pregnancy?

In hindsight I think I was cautious and super paranoid- being a first time mom and all. I was never a serious coffee drinker, but I did enjoy a drink once in a while, but before rushing to the nearest Starbucks, I decided to clear thing out myself.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine, a chemical found in coffee, is a stimulant to our central nervous system. This means that it changes levels of physiological/nervous activity (such as raise blood pressure).

Caffeine And Mental Alertness

Caffeine has been shown to improve mental alertness, and to wake us up. Caffeine may even improve or enhance performance on tasks requiring memory retrieval.

However, caffeine consumption can affect sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep. Caffeine consumption can also increase blood pressure and heart rate. Some studies show that too much caffeine can even cause anxiety or stress.

Is Coffee Bad During Pregnancy?

Most of us drink our coffee (and enjoy it) without realizing what it does in the body. Other than making us feel more awake and energetic, caffeine can also act on the stomach by triggering it to release acid, which can cause an upset stomach, and lead to heartburn.

This might be a problem for some women, as heart burn and acid reflux are common symptoms during pregnancy.

When we drink coffee, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually travels to the liver where it is broken down into compounds. These compounds can then alter (temporarily) the function of some organs causing an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, cause anxiety, and irregular heart beat. Caffeine also crosses the placenta barrier and once it does, it is metabolized at a slower rate.

However, studies have been consistent in failing to demonstrate a correlation between coffee consumption and risk to pregnancy outcome.

How Much Caffeine Can You Have During Pregnancy?

It is recommended nevertheless to limit caffeine consumption to 2 drinks per day. In some studies, high levels of caffeine have been linked to babies being born underweight, which can in turn lead to other health issues later in life.

So, whether or not it is safe to drink coffee during pregnancy is not such a clear cut answer. Yes, it is safe at moderate amounts (two cups per day), but this also depends on a woman’s medical history.

We know consumption in excess is probably not a good idea (too much of anything is bad!) as some evidence has linked it to miscarriage. The truth is that data are conflicting and research has not been consistent on the safety of the fetus exposed to dietary caffeine.

To Drink Or Not To Drink?

Having said all that, despite the many studies and literature reviews that have been done on the topic of coffee consumption during pregnancy outcome (which have generated further papers to be published), there have been no positive relationship between drinking coffee and adverse effects on pregnancy.

For now, drinking 1-2 cups per day is the recommended allowance. For the time being, research has yet to find a definitive answer to whether or not more than 2 cups of coffee per day is safe, and so data is limited in that regard.

It should also be noted that many of the studies done, also show that women who drink coffee also differ from other women in other ways, such as smoke cigarettes, which by itself raises pregnancy and fertility complications, and therefore is a confounding factor and makes it difficult to know what really is causing what.

Moreover, It has been shown in studies that women who drink considerable amounts of coffee have a higher risk of miscarriage. But again it is not known whether miscarriage was due to other factors or whether high coffee consumption was to blame. As mentioned before, the rate with which caffeine is eliminated by the liver varies, and depends on various genetic factors. In smokers, for instance, elimination occurs more rapidly.

I guess the take home message is that deciding to drink coffee or not is a personal choice (as well as one being guided by a physician).

I think with all the available information out there, the best we can do is to educate ourselves, know the pros and cons, and then make an informed decision.

The reality is no one really knows why even having more than two cups per day is not recommended.

Having a science background, I can appreciate the difference between causation and correlation. These two terms are used interchangeably.

Telling women to stop drinking coffee during pregnancy is based on causal reasoning; if all factors remain the same, there are less chances of a miscarriage if consumption is reduced.

The research we see are correlation (women who drink coffee have higher chances of miscarriage). Correlation does not equal causation.

In the end I decided to try coffee, and guess what? I gave birth to a healthy happy little boy.

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