How Much ‘Kick’ Do Pregnant Women Need?

A caffeinated cup of joe may be OK, but some moms-to-be reject it

Linda Ezziddin, a Massachusetts-based communications director who is due to give birth this winter, hasn’t quite embraced the recent research about coffee and pregnancy.

She’s erring on the side of caution.

“I used to have coffee every day, but I’m generally not drinking it since I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had maybe one or two cups in six-and-a-half-months,” she said.

Pregnant women, according to recent research, are now allowed to enjoy that morning cup of joe. But not everyone’s going full tilt.

Two bodies of research focused on caffeine, found in tea, soda, chocolate and coffee. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported that enjoying some coffee during pregnancy does not affect a child’s IQ.

About 2,220 moms with children ages 4 to 7 years old were studied over time. Results, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, showed that moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200 mg per day, equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of black coffee) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriages or preterm births.

The outcomes are reassuring for pregnant women who enjoy a cup every now and then. But caffeine consumption still causes eye-rolls for others who deliberately avoid it during their pregnancy.

“As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I changed to decaf or didn’t have any. And I had horrible headaches because of not drinking regular coffee,” said Lauren Watson, a pediatric speech language pathologist and mother of a 2-year-old daughter.

Even after her daughter’s birth, she still drank decaf, she said, because she was afraid it would affect sleep patterns for both of them.

“That was a big change for me because I had always had coffee every morning,” she said.

“Pregnant women are especially sensitive to caffeine, as it takes longer to clear it from a pregnant body.”

That said, both Ezziddin and Watson admitted they lost their appetite for drinking coffee soon after becoming pregnant.

“There have been warnings about excessive use of caffeine during pregnancy for many years,” said Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an assistant professor of OB/GYN at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She cited the increased amount of caffeine Americans ingest for the reason the studies have recently come to light.

“In pregnancy, the rate at which caffeine is metabolized (is slowed) and pregnant women generally maintain caffeine levels longer,” Shepherd said.

Related: Coffee a Latte Risk for Pregnant Moms

Shepherd and others in the medical field recommend keeping caffeine intake on the lower side. Too much coffee can increase the risk of other problems.

“While some caffeine is safe, it can be an issue in if large amounts are consumed,” said Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian based in Chicago. “Pregnant women are especially sensitive to caffeine, as it takes longer to clear it from a pregnant body.”

Ficek, as well as other experts surveyed, recommended erring on the side of caution by sticking to drinking 200 mg or less of coffee per day.

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