Patient Education

Healthclicks Newsletters

Women's Health

May 2013

Java and Pregnancy: An OK Combo?

Finding out you are pregnant may prompt you to make some lifestyle changes, particularly in your diet. You may decide to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer high-fat foods. Another change you may want to consider: cutting back on coffee. A recent study suggests that too much coffee and other sources of caffeine may lower your baby's birth weight, possibly leading to serious health problems.

Photo of pregnant woman with a cup of coffee

Caffeine and your baby

Caffeine is a stimulant found naturally in many plants. A well-known source is the coffee bean. When you drink a cup of coffee, caffeine revs up your body; it makes you feel more alert. Many people consume caffeine without suffering any serious ill effects. But for pregnant women, it may be another matter.

Scientists know that caffeine breaks down more slowly in pregnant women. But research has been inconclusive about whether caffeine may be harmful during pregnancy. Some studies have found no unhealthy connection. Other studies suggest too much caffeine may raise a woman's risk for miscarriage, an early birth, or a low birth-weight baby.

Recent research in the journal BMC Medicine indicates that consuming higher levels of caffeine while pregnant may indeed affect your baby's birth weight. Researchers followed the caffeine consumption of more than 59,000 pregnant women in Norway. Those who consumed more caffeine were more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby. Babies born small are at risk for serious health problems, including breathing troubles and heart conditions. As they grow older, they are also more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

A cautious choice

Until more is known, experts-such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes-recommend that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg a day. That's about equal to one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Other common sources of caffeine in your diet that you may want to avoid include:

  • Coffee-flavored foods, such as ice cream

  • Tea

  • Soft drinks

  • Products made with chocolate, such as hot cocoa and candy

Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can also contain caffeine. They include products for pain, migraines, or colds. To be safe, talk with your doctor before taking any such drug. It's also a good idea to avoid herbal supplements if you are pregnant. Some herbs, including guarana and green tea extract, can hide high levels of caffeine.

After you have your baby, you may still want to curb your caffeine intake, primarily if you breastfeed. You can pass caffeine to your child through your breast milk. Too much caffeine may make your child fussy and irritable. It may also affect how well your baby sleeps. Better beverage choices include water, juice, and milk.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.


Wondering what’s best for your child-to-be? Click here to learn more about having a healthy pregnancy.

Online Resources

FDA - Medicine in My Home: Caffeine and Your Body

March of Dimes - Eating and Nutrition: Caffeine in Pregnancy



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