Is drinking coffee safe during pregnancy?
The answer to the question above is something we should frequently use in life: excess is never a good thing. So, yes, expecting moms can have coffee – which is great news since pregnancy drowsiness is a killer, right? But there is a daily intake limit that should be respected, or there will be an increased risk of premature birth or low birthweight. So, let´s agree on the recommended 200 mg of caffeine a day, roughly three espressos.
To be on the safe side, doctors recommend only two small cups of coffee a day, and that is because caffeine is also present in food and other beverages – which we sometimes forget – and everybody reacts differently to the amount of caffeine consumed. So, let´s not forget black, white, and green tea, chocolate, sodas, and even some meds (like painkillers and flu meds) are all packed with caffeine.
When mixing is not the best idea
Now we know a little coffee in your milk is not a problem as long as it respects your caffeine intake limits. However, there is another, but: caffeine reduces the absorption of calcium and other nutrients like iron and vitamins, which are very important during pregnancy. Ideally, you should take your coffee black and at least two hours before or after your meals (especially when you´re eating food rich in iron like meat and some vegetables). Most importantly, talk to your doctor. Knowing your medical history will help the two of you make the best decisions together.
Why is an excessive intake of caffeine cause for concern?
Studies show caffeine crosses the placenta to your baby. Your baby’s liver is still maturing and cannot fully metabolize it. The bigger problem is that caffeine can cause the release of a substance that closes blood vessels (‘vasoconstriction’) and therefore may be associated with reduced placental blood flow to the fetus – the baby gets fewer nutrients.
If you used to drink buckets of coffee throughout the day before becoming pregnant and you can’t get rid of the habit, here are some alternatives for you to try. Decaffeinated coffee (yes, we know the taste is not the same, but it is only for a while) can be used to reduce caffeine doses. But make no mistake: it also has caffeine only in much smaller quantities.
If what you like is the pleasant feeling of the warm coffee, how about sipping on delicious cups of caffeine-free tea? Chamomile, lemongrass, and fennel can be great substitutes (no, they don’t solve the need to sleep problem; in fact, they can even increase relaxation and drowsiness).
For those turning to coffee to get a stimulus to stay awake, the best option is to exchange the cup of coffee for a walk or another activity (it sounds like a joke, but it isn’t). Moving and exercising lead to the production of hormones that promote the feeling of well-being and increase your energy to tackle your daily tasks.
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