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One of the first adaptations we make once learning that we are pregnant, or even when trying to conceive, is reducing our caffeine intake. In this article we will explore the NHS guidance and advice on consuming caffeine in pregnancy, the impacts of caffeine in pregnancy and explore the caffeine levels of our favourite items. We’ll offer some alternatives to caffeine as well as how to avoid caffeine without others suspecting your pregnancy in the early days.
ALSO READ: Caffeine and breastfeeding
What is the NHS Guidance on consuming caffeine in pregnancy?
The NHS advises that if you’re pregnant you should limit your daily consumption of caffeine to under 200mg (milligrams). The NHS warn high levels of caffeine in pregnancy could result in a low birth weight which can increase the risk of health problems later in life. They warn that too much caffeine can also cause a miscarriage. If are pregnancy and you have any concerns regarding the amount of caffeine you have consumed then please contact your GP or midwife.
How does caffeine affect an unborn baby?
Very few studies have been carried out exploring the impact of caffeine on an unborn baby so the full extent of the impact is unclear. As we mentioned above, some studies have found that high levels of caffeine in pregnancy can result in a low birth weight and your chance of miscarriage also increases. One study on over 1000 pregnant women found that those who consumed over 200mg of caffeine a day doubled their miscarriage risk. Its definitely advised to reduce caffeine consumption to below 200mg whilst pregnant.
What is caffeine in?
Caffeine naturally appears in common items such as tea, coffee and chocolate. Caffeine is added to items such as energy drinks, cold and flu medicine and soft drinks such as cola. All of these items have varying levels of caffeine so it’s worth looking at the labels to familiarise yourself with the quantities. To give you an idea here are some rough caffeine levels in some popular items.
- Small coffee shop black coffee : 95 mg
- Small coffee shop latte or cappuccino : 70mg
- Instant coffee : 80mg
- Decaffeinated instant coffee : 3mg
- Can of Coca-Cola : 32mg
- Can of diet Coca-Cola : 42mg
- 50g milk chocolate bar : 25mg
- 50g dark chocolate bar : 50 mg
- Lemsip : 25mg
How much caffeine can I have while pregnant?
The NHS advise keeping your caffeine intake below 200mg whilst pregnant. Therefore having the odd cup of instant coffee a day (80mg) is within the limit. Its just a case of being more mindful of the caffeine levels of what you consume daily. With a few changes you should be able to still enjoy items containing caffeine without a negative consequence.
How can I reduce my caffeine?
If you usually have regular tea or coffee, one option is to switch to decaffeinated versions of your usual drinks. Decaffeinated tea and coffee is available fron supermarkets and if youre out and about then most coffee shops will sell decaffeinated coffee. Alternatively, opting for soft drinks, plain or flavoured water and naturally fruit juice are other caffeine free options. Remember you don’t have to cut it out completely so if you’re a big tea or coffee drinker then you could still have your usual morning drink then swap to alternatives for the rest of the day.
How can I cope with tiredness without caffeine?
We understand how tiring pregnancy is for you and your body. Naturally, we are so used to reaching for a cup of coffee to get us through the exhaustion but you may be looking for alternatives to this so here are some tips on dealing with tiredness without turning to caffeine. Firstly, rest when you can. This can be trickier when you’re working and when you have other children to look after but get help and make time for yourself to rest. It’s key to listen to your body and rest when you’re feeling tired. Secondly, eat well and stay hydrated. It can be tempting to ‘eat for two’ but it’s only in the third trimester that you need an extra 300 calories. Eating a healthy and balanced diet throughout your pregnancy is energising and will help you to feel less tired. Finally, fresh air and exercise. Its important to rest but it’s equally important to keep your body moving. Getting out in the fresh air for a 20-30 minute walk will help you to feel energised.
How do I avoid caffeine without friends suspecting I'm pregnant?
So if you’re in the early stages of your pregnancy and choosing to keep it to yourself for now, you may be wondering how you’re going to cutback on caffeine without those around you guessing. Here are three ideas for how to go caffeine free without raising suspicions. Firstly, switch your drink completely. If the weather’s warm then opting for a fruit juice won’t seem unusual. Or try ordering a hot fruit tea and rave about the great flavour to keep others from suspecting. Secondly, you could tell your friends, colleagues, family that you’re going caffeine free for charity. Thirdly, avoid the coffee run and bring in your own decaffeinated drink in a reusable cup. You can distract colleagues by telling them it’s because you’re wanting to help save the planet with less waste.
Pregnancy is such an exciting time but it definitely comes with some negative sides too. Information on the negative impacts of caffeine can feel overwhelming. And learning that you shouldn’t have coffee when you’re at your most exhausted is tricky. If youre used to regular caffeine fixes then cut down slowly and try swapping to decaffeinated alternatives. If you’re feeling more tired than before, get plenty of rest, eat well and stay hydrated before turning to a cup of coffee. And to avoid suspicions from those around you in the early days, get creative with your reasons for going caffeine free. Pregnancy can feel like it’s lasting forever but it won’t be long before your little one is here and you can enjoy your coffee once more.. Although you may have to get used to drinking it cold!