How much caffeine is safe for pregnancy?
The current guidelines recommend pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day. For women who are more sensitive to caffeine, you may need to consume less (1)
Why it’s important to limit caffeine.
The ability for your body to metabolize caffeine slows waaaaaaay down during pregnancy, especially towards the end. Caffeine freely passes from mom to the placenta. And unfortunately, neither the placenta nor the fetus have the ability to break caffeine down (1).
It’s important to limit caffeine consumption during pregnancy because too much caffeine can increase the risk for a bunch of negative effects on the baby such as Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IGR), low birth weight, and miscarriage. And interestingly, too much caffeine in pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of adult diseases later in life such as poor cognitive development, leukemia, and overweight/obesity which can set them up for a whole host of other health issues.
This is why it’s important that we pay attention to caffeine content. It’s not to say you can’t have any, but we need to be careful about having too much.
Is caffeine only in coffee?
No! Caffeine is found in a number of different foods and drinks. So we want to be aware of where we can find caffeine because we want our daily total to be less than 200mg.
Usually, the first thing we think of when someone says caffeine is coffee. But caffeine can be found in the following foods/drinks (2):
Coffee ~ 90 mg per 8 ounces
Espresso ~ 65 mg per shot (1.5 ounces)
Tea ~ 30-50 mg per 8 ounces
Soda ~ varies, but a 12 ounce can of Coca Cola contains 35mg (3)
Chocolate! This is surprising to most people but 1 ounce of dark chocolate has about 25 mg of caffeine. The less dark the chocolate is, the less caffeine it has.
Energy Drinks ~ varies, but be careful with these! The caffeine content adds up fast.
Supplements ~ varies, so always check to see if any supplements you are taking contain caffeine. And always ask your doctor before taking any supplements.
What affects caffeine content in a drink?
There are many different things that can change how much caffeine is in your coffee or tea. These include (4):
How you brew (with a filter, french press, hot/cold water)
How long you allow it to sit/seep
How many grounds/tea leaves you use
How thick the grounds are
Amount of water used
Type of bean/tea leaf
Location of origin of the bean
Soil content that the bean was grown in
How it was processed and stored
What does it mean to you when someone says “a cup” of coffee?
This is important, because to some people a “cup” may mean a 40 ounce cup of coffee. But when we say “cup” of coffee, we mean 8 ounces.
Starbucks drinks UNDER 200 mg caffeine (all of these are for a TALL 12 ounce drink) (5).
Caffè Americano 150 mg
Caffè Misto 115 mg (grande is 150 mg, venti is 195 mg)
Featured Starbucks Dark Roast Coffee 195 mg
Decaf Pike Place 20 mg
Cappuccino 75 mg (grande and venti are 150 mg)
Espresso Shot 150 mg
Espresso Con Panna 150 mg
Flat White 130 mg (grande is 195 mg)
Caffè Latte 75 mg (grande and venti are 150 mg)
Caramel Macchiato 75 mg (grande and venti are 150 mg)
Caffè Mocha 95 mg (grande is 175 mg, venti is 185 mg)
Hot Chocolate 20 mg
Caramel Apple Spice 0 mg
Vanilla Crème 0 mg
Chai Tea Latte 70 mg (grande is 95 mg, venti is 120 mg)
Chai Tea 40 mg
Black Tea 40 mg
Green Tea 15 mg
Herbal Tea 0 mg
Coffee Frappuccino 65 mg (grande is 95 mg, venti is 125 mg)
Cold Brew (155 mg)
Iced Caffè Americano 150 mg
Iced Coffee 120 mg (grande is 165 mg)
Iced Espresso 150 mg (1.5 ounces)
Iced Shaken Espresso 150 mg
Iced Flat White 90 mg (grande is 130 mg, venti is 175 mg)
Iced Caffè Latte 75 mg (grande is 150 mg)
Iced Caramel Macchiato 75 mg (grande is 150 mg)
Iced Caffè Mocha 95 mg (grande is 175 mg)
Iced Black Tea 20 mg
Iced Black Tea 20 mg
Iced Herbal Tea 0 mg
Iced Chai Tea Latte 70 mg (grande is 95, venti is 145 mg)
Starbucks drinks OVER 200 mg caffeine (all of these are for a TALL 12 ounce drink) (5).
Veranda Blend 270 mg
Pike Place Roast 235 mg
Nitro Cold Brew 215 mg
Can I drink hot chocolate while pregnant?
Yes, you can drink hot chocolate while pregnant. In fact, the caffeine content in hot coco is less than coffee by a lot.
What if I’m breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding a premature infant, medically fragile baby, or a newborn under 1 month old, it’s best to avoid caffeine. This is because these kiddos have a hard time metabolizing caffeine. If you have a healthy little one over 1 month old, LactMed tells us that it’s ok to go ahead and have caffeine, but it should be limited to about 300-500 mg per day (6). Always ask your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions on this.
You do not have to give up your favorite Starbucks drink (or any type of coffee drink for that matter) just because you are pregnant. However, it might be necessary to have a smaller amount of that drink than you would normally have (like a tall instead of a venti).
When in doubt, ask your barista for a list of caffeine content in their seasonal drinks.
And you don’t have to give up your favorite coffee at home either. It’s just important to remember to keep your total caffeine intake for the day below 200 mg which is the amount that is generally seen as safe.
Everyone is different, and while these are general recommendations, please talk with your doctor about what a safe caffeine limit is for your unique situation.