Coffee and Pregnancy: The Answers to All of Your Questions


Anyone who is currently pregnant or has been pregnant in the past knows that there is a lot of information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do while carrying a child. The problem is that much of this information is extremely contradictory. A pregnant woman may find herself looking over labels carefully and anxiously researching ingredients to determine whether something is safe for consumption. There are some pregnancy rules that are non-negotiable. However, many of them are up for debate. You’ll find very different information depending on the sources you use. This can be confusing and leave you unsure about what to believe.

One of the top questions a pregnant woman may have is whether drinking coffee is safe. Coffee can be a fantastic stimulant to help you through the day while tired and fatigued. It can also be a great way to get an extra dose of energy to help you wrangle a small child while another one is on the way. Because there are so many conflicting opinions about whether coffee is safe for expecting mothers, we chose to dig deeper and find out what the truth is. We’ll explain exactly what the truth is in terms of the safeness of having caffeine while pregnant, so you have an answer, once and for all.

We’ll also take some time to look at how breastfeeding is affected by choosing to drink coffee and whether that’s a safe decision or not. For any of you who may be attempting to get pregnant, this article will also delve into whether coffee is capable of having an adverse effect on that desire. No matter where you are on your current or upcoming pregnancy journey, you’ll have the facts you need to make the best decisions about drinking coffee while keeping your baby and yourself in great health.

First, let’s look at whether coffee is safe while pregnant and what amount of caffeine is considered acceptable for consumption for you.

How Much Caffeine is Safe for Consumption While Pregnant

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a pregnant woman can consume a “moderate amount” of caffeine while pregnant. When digging deeper, this is defined as ingesting no more than 200 milligrams a day. Various studies on the matter show that this amount of caffeine has very limited chances of resulting in a preterm birth or a miscarriage. That means if you love a cup of coffee every day and can’t dream of giving it up, you do not have to. But you do have to monitor how much you drink and avoid going over the recommended amount.

The New England Journal of Medicine did a study with 562 women who miscarried between the six- and 12-week mark of pregnancy. This study showed that consuming more than five cups of coffee in a day caused an increase to the chance of miscarriage. Before you get anxious about that, remember that most people do not drink that much coffee. Pregnant women especially often drink a very limited amount of caffeine, much less than five cups in most cases.

A second study, done in 2008, from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research expanded on this research. It found that women who drank more than 200 mg of caffeine a day had a higher risk of miscarriage than those who did not have any caffeine. This gives us the 200 mg rule that we mentioned earlier. As long as you stay below the number, it is very unlikely your fetus will experience any adverse reactions. This allows you a cup or two of coffee every morning. There’s no reason you have to give it up entirely unless you wish to do so.

You may be wondering exactly how much caffeine is in your favorite coffee beverage and we’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. The chart below shows exactly how much caffeine is in various types of coffee. You can take a look to get an idea of how much caffeine you are currently consuming to be sure you are safe in your habits. After that, we’ll look into the more in-depth details of drinking coffee or tea while pregnant and consider some alternatives if you decide you’d like to cut down on your level of consumption.

Caffeine Content in Various Foods and Beverages

Beverage or FoodCaffeine in Milligrams
8-oz Brewed Coffee95 to 200
8-oz Decaf Coffee2 to 12
8-oz Instant Coffee27-173
8-oz Instant Decaf Coffee2-12
1-oz Espresso Shot47-75
16-oz Cappuccino or Latte63-175
8-oz Black Tea14-70
6-oz Green Tea24-45
16-oz Chai Tea Latte100
12-oz Iced Tea5-50
12-oz Root Beer23
12-oz Lemon Lime Soda0
12-oz Coca Cola35
12-oz Diet Cola47
Chocolate Bar9
Dark Chocolate Bar31
Coffee Ice Cream50-84

Considering Light, Medium, and Dark Roast Coffees

Many people believe that light roast coffee has a significantly larger amount of caffeine than dark roast, which might lead the pregnant woman to switch to a darker roast for safety sake. However, a study found in the 2017 Journal of Medicinal Food has a different perspective on this idea. In fact, the study showed there is very little difference between having a light roast coffee and a dark roast coffee. This study was originally built to look at the changes in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties based on roasted, but it also found that the roasting length has little effect on the amount of caffeine in coffee. Another finding that is worth hearing about here is that light roasts actually were shown to have more antioxidants, which can be a good thing for a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

The Case for or Against Decaffeinated Coffee

When you hear the phrase “decaffeinated coffee,” you may immediately assume that the coffee in question has absolutely no caffeine. This is not entirely accurate. Decaffeinated coffee does have much less caffeine than regular coffee, though. Drinking decaf is often recommended for pregnant women who used to drink many cups of coffee a day and miss the taste of it. However, this is an uncommon choice as many pregnant women find that they no longer enjoy the taste of coffee after becoming pregnant. You can choose decaf is the scent is appealing to you and you enjoy the taste of coffee, though.

Other Beverages to Watch Out For

While coffee makes up a large amount of all caffeinated beverages consumed globally, there are many others and they have to be considered as well. For instance, if you decide to drink a 12-ounce cup of black tea or green tea, there could be well over 75 mg of caffeine. Make sure you check labels on caffeinated items to be aware of what you are going to put into your body. Energy drinks are also often heavily caffeinated, although you may only find this information in the small print on the bottle. Other items that usually contain caffeine include matcha, soda, chai latte, chocolate, Kombucha, and even some medications such as Excedrin.

Reasons Your Doctor May Recommend Drinking Coffee While Pregnant

In some cases, you may find that your physician recommends that you drink coffee while you are pregnant. One of the biggest reasons this might be done is if you suffer from migraines. Coffee can be an outstanding alternative to medications like Ibuprofen. When you drink coffee, the caffeine works to constrict your blood vessels, which are known to swell during migraines. This is what causes the pounding and throbbing sensation. Even those who are recommended drinking coffee should still stick to moderation and only drink a couple of cups a day. Be sure to speak with your doctor if there are any changes of you have additional concerns about the intake of caffeine while pregnant.

Take Time to Consider How You React to Caffeine Yourself

Drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks while pregnant is a personal decision, as with everything else. You should always discuss the option with a physician and be aware of your own experiences consuming caffeine. There are some people who get wound up and jittery after having a single cup of coffee. Other people can drink coffee all day long and still fall asleep in seconds once their head reaches the pillow. If you’re the sort of person who can drink a single coffee and find yourself anxious, it might be best to avoid it. However, if it’s something you can handle well before becoming pregnant, you can continue to drink it as long as you keep moderation in mind.

If you do choose to continue drinking coffee, always be sure to pay attention to your body and how it reacts. If you experience anxiety, high blood sugar, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, shakiness, or excessive sweating, this might mean that you are ingesting too much caffeine or should take a break from it altogether. This is when you should speak with a medical professional to determine what the best plan of action is for you.

Alternatives to Coffee During Pregnancy

If you prefer to step away from coffee, there are other options you can experiment with to have a tasty beverage option while pregnant. Some women find that coffee leads to trouble sleeping, excessive heartburn, and the feeling of jitteriness. The alternatives below contain less caffeine (and sometimes none at all) than coffee but taste great and are a wonderful complement to drinking water the rest of the day.

Rooibos Tea

This tea has long been touted as a remedy for insomnia and headaches while also offering a boost to the immune system. This beverage is completely free of caffeine and while it is labeled as a tea, it is actually an herb. This is a flavorful beverage that has been noted to have floral, woody, herbal, sweet, and smoky notes when consumed. It has a nutty full-body and a creamy finish with a touch of sweetness. It can be consumed on its own or with a bit of honey and milk. This tea can be made into all sorts of beverages such as lattes, iced teas, and more. Rooibos is also a common ingredient in anti-aging and health-oriented products due to its many health and nutrition benefits.

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Ginseng Beverages

The energy boosting properties of ginseng are well-known, but what really sets it apart is that it can be found in many different tease and tonics. You can try it in a tea to cut fatigue and boost your concentration but adding a spoonful of honey will make it taste even better. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been proven to boost your immune system. It’s simple to add to your diet as a tea, but it can also be used in stir-fry, soup, and other dishes. Ginseng extract is also available as a supplement that comes in a capsule, tablet, oil, and powder form.


Wheatgrass, as the name would suggest, comes from wheat. It is harvested before the wheat becomes mature and turns a brownish color. This ingredient is full of nutrients and can be found in various forms. Consuming wheatgrass during pregnancy is safe but it’s best not to overdo it. Ask your doctor for a recommendation of how much you should be consuming. During pregnancy, this food can help clear your skin, improve your blood circulation, and even accelerate healing. You can buy it as a supplement or make a wheatgrass juice to consume rather than coffee if you are avoiding it.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas do not contain caffeine and have many benefits, depending on the herb you choose. Chamomile offers a calming effect, peppermint helps aid in digestion, nettle provides iron, and ginger is perfect for settling the stomach. If you decide to consume herbal teas, be sure to do your research and only select high-quality natural teas which provide all of the benefits to you and your growing baby. Most commercial teas are completely safe to consume, but those that are not made commercially require extra caution.

Hot Cacao

When we say hot cacao, we aren’t talking about hot chocolate, although that can be fine in moderation. This is a drink made with raw cacao powder. It includes large amounts of magnesium, which helps with both body and mood health by stimulating the production of serotonin and other chemicals. Be careful since this drink does contain some caffeine and don’t overdo it. However, when consumed in moderation it can help with mood swings, improve your health, and leave you feeling great. As a rule of thumb, about two tablespoons of cacao has 50 mg of caffeine so use that as a guide when drinking it.

Coffee and Pregnancy

Other Foods That Should Be Avoided or Consumed in Moderation During Pregnancy

Now that you know the effect of coffee on your fetus while pregnant, let’s look at some other foods that you should be cautious about. The American Pregnancy Association offers insight into what foods should not be eaten while carrying a child. The truth is that most foods are relatively safe and provided needed nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that help your child grow and develop. Below we’ll look at which foods you should stay away from until you have given birth.

  • Raw Meat – Meat is fine to consume while you are pregnant, but you should never ingest meat this is raw. You should also be sure not to eat any poultry or beef that is undercooked. These foods can be contaminated with things like salmonella and coliform bacteria.
  • Deli Meat – There have been cases where deli meats have been contaminated with listeria, which is extremely dangerous to a fetus. It can infect your child and lead to blood poisoning, infection, or cause a miscarriage. If you are thinking about eating deli meats, be sure that you reheat the meats until steaming before consumption.
  • Fish with Mercury – Pregnant women should avoid eating fish with contain high levels of mercury. The consumption of mercury has been linked to brain damage and developmental delays. Some of the most common fish to avoid include swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. You can consume canned chunk light tuna but only in moderation as it does contain small amounts of mercury.
  • Smoked Seafood – Another food that may become contaminated with listeria is smoked seafood. This includes food labeled as jerky, lox, kippered, or nova style. However, these are safe if added to a recipe such as a casserole where they will be cooked. In most cases, these items are found in your grocer’s deli. The shelf-stable and canned smoked seafood is much less likely to cause a problem.
  • Fish Exposed to Industrial Pollutants – Fish that come from a contaminated river or lake are best avoided as they may have been exposed to excess amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls. These include fish like walleye, bluefish, trout, striped bass, pike, and salmon. This only applies to fish from local waters and not from those at the grocery store.
  • Raw Shellfish – Most disease coming from shellfish occurs with raw shellfish, such as clams, oysters, and mussels. Cooking removes some types of infection but not infections related to algae. While raw shellfish are dangerous for everyone, they should not be consumed at any time while pregnant.
  • Raw Eggs – Pregnant women should not consume raw eggs or any recipe that includes the use of raw eggs because there is a potential for being exposed to salmonella. Some items that often contain raw eggs include homemade ice cream, homemade Caesar dressing, homemade custards, and mayonnaise. Most commercially produced foods will be made with pasteurized eggs which does not lead to exposure to salmonella.
  • Soft Cheeses – Some soft cheeses that are imported may contain listeria. These include Roquefort, brie, feta, Camembert, and Gorgonzola. Do not consume these items unless they state they were made using pasteurized milk. If the milk is pasteurized, the cheese is safe for consumption.
  • Unpasteurized Milk – Any milk that has not been pasteurized by contain listeria. Before drinking milk or eating a recipe containing milk, make certain that it has been pasteurized.
  • Pate – Meat spreads and pate are another item that should not be consumed by anyone who is pregnant. This is another food that may contain listeria. However, you are free to eat meat spreads or canned pate that are shelf safe.
  • Unwashed Vegetables – Vegetables are healthy and eating them is important to ensure a balanced diet. That said, you must be sure all vegetables have been properly washed before you eat them. They may be exposed to toxoplasmosis, which is hazardous to the fetus.
  • Alcohol –If you are pregnant, drinking alcohol is absolutely not allowed. Drinking any alcohol is not safe for your fetus. Consumption of alcohol can lead to development issues for your unborn child. If you have drank alcohol in the past, stop doing so now. It should also be avoided while you are breastfeeding.

What to Know About Drinking Coffee While Breastfeeding

After you’ve had your bouncing baby, you may find that sleep deprivation is a constant problem. Drinking a cup of coffee is one of the easiest ways to get a boost of caffeine, but if you are like many mothers, you might be concerned about what effects that will have on your breastfeeding child. Fortunately, while eliminating or limiting the amount of caffeine you drink while pregnant is a must, that isn’t the same for a breastfeeding mother. The reason caffeine should be limited while pregnant is because it can cross the placenta and potentially affect the fetus. There is much less likely to be an effect on a child who is breastfeeding.

When you drink coffee, your body will metabolize most of the caffeine before it ever has a chance to reach the breast milk. This makes it quite safe to breastfeed your child, even while drinking as much coffee as you would like. In fact, Dr. Thomas Hale wrote in Medications and Mothers Milk that only about 1% of the caffeine for your coffee will reach the breast milk, which is far from enough to cause harm to most children who are breastfeeding.

Those who want to be extremely cautious can continue to limit the amount of caffeine they consume to about 300 mg a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This works out to about two or three cups of coffee each day. However, going over 300 mg is not likely to cause harm to a baby. The CDC simply suggests avoiding more than 10 cups a day, as this can lead to jittering and fussiness in your child.

The caffeine in your blood will peak in the breast milk around one or two hours after consuming a caffeinated beverage. If you want to make sure your child isn’t experiencing an effect of the caffeine, watch your child during this time more closely. However, the likelihood of a problem is close to zero.

Benefits and Risks of Coffee While Breastfeeding

While there are many risks to drinking too much coffee while pregnant, these risks drop substantially while breastfeeding. At one time experts had concerns that the caffeine might cause disturbances in a child’s sleep, but a study was carried out in Brazil in 2012 to study this exact idea. It turns out that there was no real difference found in the quality of sleep of three-month-old children whose mothers breastfed after drinking coffee and those who breastfed without caffeine. A second study in Korea discovered that a moderate consumption of coffee caused no major risks while breastfeeding babies.

Another concern that has come up is the effect of the acids found in coffee. Some people worried that the acids might lead to decreased levels of iron in the breast milk. There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. The reality is that breast milk as a whole is low in iron. If you drink coffee and breastfeed, you may choose to consult with your physician about the possibility to iron supplementation if this worries you.

Concern About Caffeine Disrupting Milk Supply

There is a common misconception that drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages will lead to a decrease to your milk supply. However, this is nothing more than a rumor that has run rampant. There are millions of mothers who consume caffeine and experience no issues while breastfeeding their children. Studies on the matter lead to the same answer, it simply isn’t something you need to worry about. One study actually shows that caffeine may help stimulate the production of milk. However, if the caffeine is making your child jittery or fussy, it may be best to avoid drinking it.

The Safety of Drinking Coffee While Trying to Become Pregnant

If you’re here researching as someone who would like to become pregnant, you probably have questions about whether coffee affects your fertility. If you are someone who often enjoys a cup of coffee each day and you’d prefer not to stop drinking it entirely, you’re in luck. We’ll look at the most recent studies on fertility and the consumption of caffeine, but in short, there is nothing wrong with drinking a moderate amount of coffee while you are attempting to get pregnant.

What the Research Has to Say

What caused the first controversy about drinking coffee and its affect on fertility was a study from 1988 where it was reported that women who drank a single cup of coffee each day were half as likely to conceive as women who did not drink coffee at all. Many people have seen this study quoted and take it to heart. However, the reality is that no other study has shown the same finding. In fact, some of the more modern studies how shown that rather than having a negative effect on fertility, coffee may cause a small increase.

One study done in Denmark had a group of 3000 women and the study looks at how fertility rates change when a woman consumes soda, tea, and coffee. This study uncovered a few different findings that are relevant. When it came to woman who drank soda, it was found that they were less likely to conceive than those who did not drink soda. In addition, the women who drank at least three sodas a day had a lower fertility rate than those who drank a single soda each day. Moving on to tea, women who drank at least two servings a day had a higher rate of fertility than woman who didn’t drink tea at all. But when it came to coffee, it was seen that those who drank at least 300 mg of caffeine a day had pretty much the exact same fertility rate as those who drank very little or none.

Of course, there’s a lot to unpack here. It isn’t to say that drinking a ton of tea is going to mean you’re more fertile. There are many reasons that the tea drinkers may have been more fertile, whether because of the tea itself or because they had healthier lifestyles. The same applies in the other direction for the women who drank soda. The point remains that coffee is not likely to have much of an effect on your fertility in a negative way.

What to Factor in With the Research Results

So the reality is that studying lifestyle choices and how they affect fertility is complicated. While you can control a single aspect of someone’s life, such as drinking coffee or not, it’s not easy to control everything they do. Most of these types of studies rely on the recall of the participants to get their results. For instance, a woman might be asked to recall and state what they drank during pregnancy, which may have been months or even years in the past.

The best studies are the ones where a group of individuals are followed as they attempt to conceive. The women can be asked what they are drinking soon after it happens and that can be recorded until the point where they conceive. Thankfully, the study above used this as its basis. However, that doesn’t mean that errors don’t happen though, even with the best possible studies. For instance, these studies are largely populated by women who have difficulty conceiving, otherwise they would never have to attempt to get pregnant. In addition, deciding on doses of caffeine can be challenging.

For example, the coffee you make at home might have a very different caffeine content than the latte you grab at the nearest coffeeshop. The exact same drink from one place can be different in terms of caffeine from another place based on dozens of factors including the type of bean, roasting method, and more. In addition, the caffeine may or may not have any impact on fertility at all. It may simply be certain lifestyle choices that coffee drinkers are most likely to take part in.

Playing it Safe When Trying to Conceive

If you still have concerns about conceiving while consuming coffee, one option is to cut down on the amount you ingest. If you speak to a reproductive endocrinologist, you will often be recommended that you consume only 200 to 300 mg of caffeine a day. You can scroll back up to see our list of what drinks have how much caffeine to get an idea of how much that would be.

Also worth mentioning is that there have not been any studies which claim men who drink caffeine have lower fertility. As such, there is likely to be no real negative effect when drinking coffee and trying to get pregnant but being cautious isn’t something anyone will hold against you. It’s a personal choice and one that you have to consider and decide on your own or with the help of your physician.

The Wrap Up

So does coffee have an adverse effect on a fetus? You now know that the answer is “sometimes.” Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages in moderation is typically not a problem and will cause no issues for your unborn child. On the other hand, if you drink a massive amount of coffee, you will want to reduce the amount while you are carrying a child. Sometimes your physician may even recommend drinking small amounts of coffee for some women, particularly those who suffer from migraines and cannot take over the counter medications.

We also looked at some alternatives to coffee for those who want to cut down or stop drinking it while pregnant and provided some information on the amount of caffeine in several common beverages. You also have information about the effect that caffeine has while breastfeeding and how to ensure your child is safe if you choose to drink coffee after birth. As you learned, in most cases, coffee consumption is completely safe as long as you aren’t drinking dozens of cups every day.

You also have some insight into whether coffee has an effect on fertility if you are trying to get pregnant or plan to in the future. You should have all the information you could want regarding pregnancy, getting pregnant, and breastfeeding while enjoy your favorite coffee beverage. As long as you watch your intake and take care of yourself, having an occasional cup of coffee is not a problem. Good luck!

Bonus Questions

1. Can I drink Coca-Cola while pregnant?

According to the Food Standards Agency, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a can of Coca-Cola from time to time when you are pregnant. The rule of thumb is to consume no more than 200 mg of a caffeine in a single day and a traditional can of Coke contains only 32 while a Diet Coke contains 42 mg.

2. What foods should pregnant avoid?

Some of the foods that you should avoid or eat in smaller portions while pregnant include organ meat, high-mercury fish, raw sprouts, raw fish, under cooked meat, and organ meat.

3. How many cups of coffee a day is safe in pregnancy?

Moderate consumption of caffeine is considered to be acceptable according to experts. In most cases, you should curb your coffee drinking to no more than two cups a day. You do not want to drink more than 200 mg of caffeine in a single day.

4. What should you drink when pregnant?

Drinking plenty of water is the best option for staying hydrated while pregnant. However, you can also drink milk, soup or broth, and fresh fruit juice.

5. How does caffeine affect a fetus?

Small amounts of caffeine are not harmful to a growing fetus. However, if you drink an excessive amount of caffeine, this can lead to low birth weight and miscarriage.

6. Can coffee induce labor?

Many people will say that caffeine and certain spices are associated with starting contractions and beginning labor. However, this is not true. Rather than starting labor, it’s more likely to give you heartburn than to do anything else.

7. Is Matcha safe for pregnancy?

You can drink small amounts of Matcha green tea during pregnancy. However, you want to be sure you consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day while you are pregnant.

8. Can drinking coffee during pregnancy cause birth defects?

There is no evidence whatsoever that consuming caffeine will result in your baby being born with birth defects. However, you should still limit the amount of coffee that you drink while you are pregnant.

9. Is it Ok to drink Gatorade when pregnant?

Gatorade is a completely safe hydration option when pregnant. It can help with dehydration and provide you with electrolytes that are good for your body.

10. How much caffeine is OK in first trimester?

Based on extensive research by experts, a pregnant woman in the first trimester should avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine a day from all sources. This is the equivalent of one to two cups of coffee.

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