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Caffeine is a daily ritual for many of us. It’s built into every pillar of our culture, from work to hanging out with friends and family.

It’s not surprising that the thought of giving up caffeine can create a tremor of panic in even the calmest of women.

Thankfully, you don’t have to give up caffeine altogether when you are pregnant. Drinking a little bit of caffeine throughout your pregnancy won’t hurt your unborn baby. However, it’s best to reduce your caffeine intake, especially if it’s over two lattes a day.

The problem with caffeine during pregnancy

Current studies show that a little bit of caffeine each day doesn’t harm babies in the womb. The biggest problem that caffeine poses is when pregnant women consume it in high doses.

This is because, like alcohol, caffeine crosses the wall of the placenta. When you sip your coffee or munch on a bar of chocolate, the caffeine increases your heart rate and metabolism, and makes you feel more alert. The caffeine is affecting your baby in the same way. It’s not unusual to feel your baby becoming unsettled after you’ve had your caffeine hit.

Consuming large amounts of caffeine, say more than 500mg per day, will have an impact on your baby. Some studies have shown that babies of mums who consumed high levels of caffeine generally:

  • had faster heart rates
  • had increased breathing rates
  • spent more time awake

Caffeine can also over-stimulate the production of stomach acid, which can cause cramps and pains or diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can become dangerous in pregnancy when it starts to dehydrate you and your baby.

Your safest option

Studies vary on how much caffeine is a safe amount for pregnant women. However, on average, 200mg of caffeine each day poses almost no risk to your baby.

Caffeine replacement suggestions

Avoiding or reducing your caffeine intake can be tough, especially if you truly love your daily strong long black. But who knows, it’s common in early pregnancy for your tastebuds and cravings to change. You might go off tea and coffee altogether.

If not, try not to despair. There are some great alternatives and ways to help make the transition easier for you.

Milk, fresh fruit juice, some herbal teas and water are all great healthy alternatives for caffeinated drinks, during pregnancy. Be careful, if you choose to switch to herbal teas though because some contain caffeine too.

If the thought of going cold turkey on caffeine stresses you out too much, try these simple tips for reducing your daily intake of caffeine:

Brew your tea for less time. Instead of after four or five minutes, pull your teabag out after a minute or two to reduce the amount of caffeine you drink.

Ask for a weak coffee next time you order one

Experiment with decaffeinated tea and coffee

Other sources of caffeine to avoid

Tea and coffee are the most obvious sources of caffeine. Caffeine is found in a bunch of other products though, so make sure you check the labels on products like:

  • Cola drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Some over-the-counter drugs
Ask your healthcare professional or pharmacist for advice before you take any take any supplements or medicines.