If you’re pregnant, you already know there are a lot of things you have to sacrifice to ensure your health and the health of your baby. With the constant and seemingly ever-changing list of activities, exercises, and diets that need to be considered, knowing what the right decisions are for you can be overwhelming.
Coffee is such a huge, ritualistic part of many people’s life. If you’re experiencing morning sickness, maybe that A.M. cup of Joe isn’t as appealing as it used to be. But if you’re pregnant and struggling with fatigue, caffeine could be vital to the rest of your day. Whether it’s your first pregnancy, or the demands of a busy family and work-life on top of being pregnant, many women look to caffeine for that necessary pick me up. But is it safe to drink?
Can You Drink Coffee During Pregnancy?
The short answer is YES, but there are some serious caveats to be aware of. There are a few potentially serious risks involved. Caffeine has been linked to low birth weights. It also crosses the placenta and limits its blood flow. You also put yourself at risk for an increase in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
During pregnancy, your liver is working overtime to process any increases in hormone activity. Adding caffeine to the mix can create additional, unnecessary strains to the organ. Consuming an extremely excessive amount of caffeine can lead to more serious consequences like an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
How Much is Too Much?
The recommended amount varies slightly, and will be different on an individual basis. However, most doctors recommend that consuming between 200-300 milligrams (but no more!) of caffeine per day during pregnancy is safe.
What does that mean? Well that all depends on what you’re drinking. Even with coffee, the way it is prepared makes a world of difference in the amount of caffeine present. Drip coffee leads the way with about 150-250 mg of caffeine per eight ounces. Brewed and instant coffee follow closely behind. Arm yourself with nutritional facts and keep track of what kind of coffee you’re consuming.
Big Starbucks fan? That’s fine, just be aware that you’re probably locked into the 10 oz range before you hit your daily limit. If you plan to brew your own, you can most likely safely drink two small cups per day. Again, it will depend on the type of coffee you’re brewing, the strength at which you brew, and the size of the mugs you’re using.
And if you’re already hitting your caffeine limit with one coffee, that means the rest of your day will be extremely restrictive in what you consume. Watch out for chocolate, soda, and tea for other sources of caffeine. Decaf is a great option for the real bean-heads struggling to get their fix, but it’s not without its risks. Even decaf can contain up to 20 mg of caffeine.
In general, you may find you won’t even miss caffeine while you’re pregnant. The normal effects may be heightened and you certainly don’t need to add anxiety, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and that buzzed-shakiness on top of pregnancy.
Again, any consumption over the recommended 200-300 mg will pose more serious risks. But it’s important to consult with your doctor to confirm your intake. In any case, airing on the side of caution will always be the safest bet, especially if you really don’t feel like you need it. Hydrate with water and drink milk or 100 percent fruit choices to add healthy variance.
What Am I Allowed to Eat? What Should I Avoid?
We’ve covered the potential risks of over-consuming caffeine, but what other normal aspects of everyday diets should be avoided? Any drugs, cigarettes/tobacco, and alcohol are definitely big, obvious nos. But there are a surprising number of foods that don’t quite make the cut as well.
With two bodies to now take care of, your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy. Therefore you’re at a greater risk of contracting food-borne viruses and bacteria. What may have previously only caused minor discomfort can now be much more serious, and some foods carry more risk than others.
Fish and/or Sushi
Sushi should definitely be avoided during pregnancy. California rolls may be the exception, along with other cooked items, but for the most part stay away from sushi, which may contain parasites.
“Normal” fish can be a great meal choice during pregnancy, but only in consuming specific species in limited amounts. Avoid fish with high levels of methyl-mercury, like swordfish, tilefish, and shark, which can affect the nervous system of a baby. Though there are trace levels of mercury in most fish, limiting your intake to two meals per day of fish like salmon, shrimp, canned tuna, and catfish should keep you in the green. Again, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge of what you’re consuming. Mercury levels can vary based on where you’re sourcing fish, so only consume 6-12 ounces per week.
As long as your eggs are cooked, you avoid the risk of contracting salmonella. Just watch out for any food items that may contain raw eggs – sunny side up or soft scramble-prepared eggs, raw cookie dough, homemade salad dressings and eggnog, etc. Be mindful and cautious in any meal situation that includes eggs in any form.
Think cured meats like sausage and bacon. Hot dogs and some deli meats like salami should also be avoided. Yes, they’re delicious and it may be tempting, but foods containing excessive amounts of nitrates can potentially lead to diabetes and brain tumors. Nitrates are additives, and should be limited in consumption as they don’t provide much nutritional value.
However, if you need to get your deli meat fix, just make sure it is heated before consumption to kill any bacteria. Doing so helps to avoid listeriosis, a severe bacterial infection. Grilled chicken, beans, or veggie burgers are healthy potential-replacements that still provide a high, protein-packed punch to your diet.
Absolutely! While extremely important during pregnancy, fresh vegetables and fruit should always be a major aspect of your diet. They’re nutrient rich, full of fiber, and will help provide you with a ton of the vitamins you’ll need to stay healthy. Just be careful on the natural-sugar intake, and be sure that you’re balancing your carb intake with plenty of protein. Additionally, any produce should be thoroughly washed to eliminate the risk of any bacteria.
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it’s not without its challenges. It is important that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and listen to your body. It’s important to remember that during pregnancy, any dietary restrictions (like regulating your coffee and caffeine consumption) are more about maintaining a proper balance.
For a clearer picture of your individual health and dietary plan, maintaining a steady plan and regular communication with your doctor is imperative. Contact your Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville OB/GYN today and schedule a consultation.