There are a lot of questions and concerns surrounding pregnancy and it seems the rules and regulations on what you are and aren’t allowed to eat, drink or do changes on a very regular basis. Once upon a time, our mothers were advised to drink Guinness to improve iron levels and now it’s advised to stay away from alcohol completely. The same can be said for coffee – once upon a time it was okay to have the odd cup of coffee during pregnancy but now you’ve read somewhere that you’re not allowed to drink it at all.
But can pregnant women drink decaf coffee?
In 1980, the FDA or Food and Drug Administration issued a statement that suggested pregnant women should avoid the intake of coffee completely to reduce caffeine intake. The reason behind this was because the metabolisation process of caffeine during pregnancy is much slower so even when you reduce the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, the level in the blood stays higher for longer.
There have been links made between caffeine and a number of birth defects including miscarriage, low weight at birth, stillbirths and others.
What are the guidelines?
At present, the guidelines states that you can enjoy a cup of coffee every once in a while but you will need to seriously limit your intake if you’re a big java-drinker. Not just coffee, there are a number of other food and drinks containing caffeine, the biggest culprits being fizzy drinks, tea and chocolate.
You should keep your caffeine intake below 200mg. That basically amounts to around two cup of regular, at-home, instant coffee, not the kind you pick up at your local barista coffee shop. These regularly contain a much higher caffeine content than that. A Grande Brewed Coffee from your local Starbucks can contain as much as 330mg of caffeine, taking you well above the recommend limit.
Here’s some advice for you if you’re pregnant – check the caffeine content before you order. Even a Grande Latte Macciato has 225mg of caffeine. Some of the tea’s are much better for you but in many cases, not by much. A Grande Classic Chai Tea Latte still has 95mg and the Teavana Jade Citrus Mint has 40mg.
There are some guidelines which have shown you should keep that figure to below 150mg. In order to get the best answer for you (and get safe advice on how to reduce your intake if you’re drinking more than that), you should have a chat with your doctor or midwife.
Can pregnant women drink decaf coffee?
The name ‘decaf’ or ‘decaffeinated’ is actually a little misleading, and in one study performed by the Journal of Analytical Toxicology showed that even our favourite decaffeinated beverages contained some caffeine content.
To put things into perspective for you, the average 12-ounce cola can will contain about 30-35mg of caffeine. The average home-made, instant stuff will have about 100mg. When testing decaffeinate coffee for their caffeine content, scientists still found that, despite being labelled as caffeine-free, there was a caffeine content ranging from between 8.6mg to 13.9mg. We go back once again to that fact of caffeine being metabolised slower during pregnancy and that the caffeine content stays in your body for longer and actually, drinking decaffeinated coffee might not be as good for you as you first may have thought.
If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee during pregnancy, it is definitely worth checking out whether or not the brand you are drinking is actually as caffeine-free as it promises to be.
As a final note, it is definitely worth remembering that you are consuming caffeine every day in more ways than just cups of tea and coffee. The FDA also reported that many of us are getting around 98% of our caffeine consumption in other ways, usually chocolate. There’s one other surprising source however… Painkillers work faster when they contain caffeine so this is one of the main ingredients in many of the over-the-counter medications you can buy. Not just being absorbed quicker by the body, the caffeine content also makes it almost 40% more effective. This is good when you’re in pain but not quite so good when you’re pregnant and trying to keep your caffeine consumption down.
In answer to the question, it is safe to have some caffeine during pregnancy but be very mindful of all the foods, drinks and medications that actually contain the ingredient. One cup of coffee with 100mg won’t hurt you or your baby, but when you’re combining that with a couple of chocolate bars in the afternoon and some painkillers for that killer headache, you’re caffeine consumption could go up much quicker than you’d planned for.
If in any doubt, always ask your doctor or midwife for more information. One thing is definitely for sure though, we could probably all do with a little less coffee!