For pregnant mums and women trying for a baby, one of the common questions that emerge is: “can I drink coffee?”
Well, the short answer to that is yes, according to experts who say that “a couple of cups of tea or coffee a day is fine”.
The National Health Service (NHS) and many other organisations state that consuming 200mg of caffeine (or less) in a day should not pose any significant risk in terms of miscarriage of growth of the baby while in the womb.
Image source: iStock
Caffeine During Pregnancy: Controversial Research Paper Says It is Harmful
Comments from these experts come after a new research paper published in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine suggests that there is no safe caffeine ingestion level for pregnant women.
Looking at 48 studies on the topic, it links the consumption of caffeine with harm, stating that “maternal caffeine consumption is reliably associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, childhood acute leukaemia and childhood overweight and obesity.”
There was no association with preterm birth, however.
This led to the author of the controversial paper, Prof Jack James, a psychologist at Reykjavik University in Iceland to give his “best advice” that mums-to-be and women should avoid drinks like tea and coffee entirely.
While experts typically recommend mums-to-be and women trying to get pregnant to limit their caffeine intake, there has been no mention of eliminating caffeine consumption.
You don’t have to cut out caffeine during pregnancy entirely. | Image source: iStock
Moderate Amounts of Caffeine Intake Is Okay
Experts referred to the paper as being “overly alarmist” as it contradicts current guidelines whereby ‘moderate’ caffeine consumption of less than 200mg, or equivalent to two cups of instant coffee during pregnancy is safe.
James acknowledged that the study was only observational and was thus unable to establish any cause and effect to caffeine being harmful in pregnancy.
“There are so many dos and don’ts associated with pregnancy and the last thing we need is to cause unnecessary anxiety. At the end of the day, women should be reassured that caffeine can be consumed in moderation during pregnancy,” states Dr Luke Grzeskowiak, a pharmacist at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
And apart from caffeine intake, experts highlight that there could be other risks factors such as cigarette smoking, that could have contributed to negative implications during pregnancy.
“Like many substances found in a normal diet, harms in pregnancy can be found with high doses,” said Prof Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at Kings College London.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
According to the World Health Organization, the body removes caffeine much more slowly from the mother’s blood during pregnancy.
And based on observational studies, excessive caffeine intake in pregnant mums are linked to growth restriction, reduced birth weight, preterm birth or stillbirth.
Current NHS guidelines as mentioned, recommends pregnant mums to limit caffeine consumption to 200mg caffeine or less in a day.
More than just coffee and tea, caffeine can also be present in diets including chocolate, energy drinks, cold and flu remedies, as well as certain soft drinks such as cola.
You will almost reach your 200mg caffeine limit in a day if you have:
- 2 mugs of tea and 1 can of cola
- 1 mug of instant coffee and 1 can (250ml) of energy drink
Here is the amount of caffeine found in some foods and drinks as follows:
- 1 mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- 1 mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- 1 mug of tea: 75mg
- 1 can of cola: 40mg
- 1 can (250ml) of energy drink: up to 80mg – larger cans may contain up to 160mg
- 1 bar (50g) of plain chocolate
- 1 bar (50g) of milk chocolate