Yes, you should definitely limit caffeine during pregnancy. High levels of caffeine during pregnancy can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life. Caffeine can also increase the risk of a miscarriage. Indeed, recent research even points towards best practice being to give up caffeine completely during pregnancy.
How much coffee can I drink when I'm pregnant?
There is still a lot of confusion about how much caffeine pregnant mums can drink and this is what this post is all about. According to the NHS, if you’re pregnant, you should really limit the amount of caffeine you consume to 200 milligrams (mg) a day, which is the equivalent of one cup of filter coffee or 2 cups of instant coffee.
The amount of caffeine found in some foods and drinks is as follows:
one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
one mug of tea: 75mg
one can of cola: 40mg
one can of energy drink: up to 80mg
one 50g bar of plain chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 25mg
one 50g bar of milk chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 10mg
This is where decaf can really come into its own. A lot of mums just decide to go completely decaf and often feel the benefits of living caffeine free and don’t go back. Swapping your morning drink with decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice or water, and definitely cutting out any energy drinks you have, as they can be high in caffeine.
In 2020, a new scientific study advised pregnant women to avoid caffeine completely as it has long been known and advised to cut caffeine intake for pregnant women and those trying to conceive. This year, scientists advised to cut caffeine completely instead of limiting caffeine intake.
Conducted by Reykjavik University in Iceland, led by Professor Jack James and published in the BMJ Evidence Based Medicine Journal, the research was a “study of studies” examining data from 37 previous observational studies on caffeine and pregnancy.
After analysing data from 37 studies then using Big Data analysis, the scientists found that caffeine significantly increased the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including stillbirth, miscarriage and low birth weight.
There was also a higher chance of children being overweight or obese when born to mothers who consume caffeine during pregnancy and an increased risk of childhood acute leukaemia.
Professor James who led the study wrote:
"Current advice such as that issued by the NHS is not consistent with the level of threat indicated by biological plausibility of harm and extensive empirical evidence of actual harm…
…Accordingly, current health recommendations concerning caffeine consumption during pregnancy are in need of radical revision…
Specifically, the cumulative scientific evidence supports pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy being advised to avoid caffeine."
Daghni Rajasingham, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, countered in response to the results of the study
"The findings of this study add to the large body of evidence that supports limited caffeine intake during pregnancy, but pregnant women do not need to completely cut out caffeine, as this paper suggests….
…This paper does not supersede all the other evidence that has found that a limited intake of caffeine is safe for the majority of pregnancy women."
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, responded:
"There is a need to ensure that women are able to make informed choices about what they eat and drink during pregnancy, and midwives will support women to do that, taking into account this latest research…
…It is important that all available evidence is considered to shape UK recommendations, and we hope the current guidance will now be reviewed in light of these findings."