Most Americans drink caffeine every day. It’s in tea, coffee, chocolate, colas, green tea, and some dietary supplements and medications including cold and flu remedies. But how much caffeine can a pregnant woman consume safely?
The average American person consumes about 300mg of caffeine every day – that’s roughly equivalent to one to three cups of coffee and one or two bars of chocolate, and that’s how it’s usually consumed. But is that a safe amount, or do pregnant women need to cut down from that? And how much do you consume?
The first thing you need to do is read the labels of any supplements or medicines you’re taking. Add up the doses of caffeine you’re taking there for a daily amount. Next, look at what you eat and drink. The chocolate in chocolate milk or chocolate biscuits counts towards toward this total, but it’s so low that it’s safe to ignore unless you consume those foods in huge quantities.
By far the biggest source of caffeine in most Americans’ diets is coffee, though you need to check your tea and green tea intake too. The average cup of coffee will contain somewhere between 80 and 300mg of caffeine. If you’re brewing a stronger blend, or you like your coffee stronger, ratchet up the numbers accordingly. Remember, the idea isn’t to figure out to the nearest milligram exactly how much caffeine you’re taking on every day. Just a ball park figure is all we’re after.
Caffeine in pregnancy is associated with three problems: miscarriage, low birth weight and neural tube disorders. The risk is fairly low for miscarriages but obviously it’s such a traumatic event that any risk factor that can be eliminated should be. Low birth weight is much more common. The threshold that’s been set for these is 200mg.
The third problem, neural tube defects, is due to high doses of caffeine interfering with the body’s capacity to absorb folic acid, which is vital for nervous system development. Without it, babies can develop spina bifida, where the spinal cord doesn’t connect properly, causing a lifetime of pain and reduced function. Fortunately, the 200mg rule applies here as well. As long as you’re not consuming more caffeine than this altogether daily, you should be perfectly safe.
As we’ve already seen though, most of as are consuming more caffeine than that.?So cutting out colas, using lower-caffeine coffee blends or just drinking less tea and coffee could all be useful strategies in brining total caffeine intake down. And beware of cold and flu remedies: always read the label, as some have very high doses of caffeine in and you could be taking your whole day’s allowance right there without knowing it!
Small or moderate doses of caffeine are perfectly safe during pregnancy and there will be times when favorite treats will be very welcome. But you need to moderate your intake. Apart from that there’s no reason not to enjoy your morning coffee when you’re pregnant.
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