Is caffeine consumption safe during pregnancy?
Many opinions exist about the consumption of caffeine during pregnancy, some supported by research and some not. In general, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should limit their daily caffeine intake to about 200 mg (a regular, medium-sized coffee). The risks and effects of consuming too much caffeine are many.
Some Caffeine Facts
A research study printed in the March 2008 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that pregnant women who consumed more than 200 mg of caffeine per day had double the risk of miscarriage (Baby Center).
Though not all studies have supported this finding, there are many other consequences to caffeine consumption that pregnant women should be aware of.
To understand caffeine’s effect on the human body, particularly during pregnancy, it’s important to know some basic facts: (APA)
1.Caffeine is a stimulant
Blood pressure and heart rate both increase when caffeine is in the system. It can leave a pregnant woman feeling jittery or even lead to insomnia.
2.Caffeine is a diuretic
It increases the frequency of urination, leading to dehydration in pregnant women unless combatted with enough water consumption.
3.Caffeine crosses the placenta to the baby
The woman’s body may be able to process caffeine, but the still-developing body of the fetus cannot. The baby’s metabolism is not yet fully functional, so caffeine remains in the system for much longer, resulting in restlessness.
4.Caffeine can cause heartburn.
It stimulates the secretion of stomach acid, which raises in the digestive tract.
Some beverages block iron absorption.
Coffee and tea contain compounds called phenols that make it harder for the body to absorb iron, which is particularly important because many pregnant women already suffer from low iron levels .
Further, as the pregnancy progresses, a woman’s body breaks down caffeine more and more slowly. The effects may intensify in the second and third trimesters. Slower breakdown results in higher caffeine levels in both mom’s and baby’s systems.
The Possible Risks
Studies on animals have shown caffeine to cause birth defects, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, and increase the risk of low-birth-weight offspring (APA). But studies done on humans have been inconclusive for most of these effects. The known risks are as follows:
High levels of caffeine consumption have not caused infertility but may delay conception.
Women who consume more than 300 mg of caffeine have shown an increased rate of miscarriage, preterm labor, and low birth weight (APA).
Restricted blood flow
Caffeine constricts blood vessels and can decrease blood flow to the placenta.
Remarkable research has shown that “babies whose mothers absorb more than 500 mg of caffeine a day typically had faster heart rates and breathing rates and spent more time conscious in the first infrequent days after delivery” (Baby Center).
The best course of action for mothers-to-be who are concerned about the effects of caffeine is to limit it as much as possible. Though low doses have not been shown to cause any negative effects on the developing fetus, most obstetricians wouldn’t complain if their patients gave up caffeine altogether.