Caffeine is a stimulant present in beverages like tea, coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks and some foods. It is also used in some medications and supplements meant to provide relief from headaches, colds, flu, menstrual symptoms and weight loss. The amount of caffeine varies from product to product.
Caffeine is consumed worldwide in the form of tea or coffee because of its potential health benefits. It is a part of the morning beverage for many because it acts as a mood elevator, alters our mind and improves concentration.
Caffeine is also popular among active people and athletes for boosting their metabolic rate as it augments the utilisation of fatty acids to derive energy during intense exercise sessions. In fact, studies have shown that carbohydrates consumed along with caffeine post-workout speed up the rate of recovery of glycogen stores. It also provides relief from pain and muscle cramps.
But in this article, we will specifically discuss the effect of caffeine intake during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are usually advised to either restrict or limit their caffeine intake up to 300 mg per day. This is because several kinds of the literature suggest that caffeine intake might lead to miscarriage, obstruct foetal growth and cause deformities.
The reason to limit the caffeine intake among pregnant women is that caffeine contains tannins that inhibit or block the iron absorption affecting foetal growth. Lack of adequate iron during pregnancy is associated with birth defects and formal growth retardation. Thus caffeine intake might reduce iron absorption hence it should be avoided, specifically with meals. It may also lead to a rise in heartbeat, anxiety, blood pressure and cause abdominal discomfort.
The metabolism of caffeine reduces among pregnant women and the body has to work more for its elimination. In addition, caffeine has the ability to cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of the growing foetus which can affect the growth adversely. Some studies suggest that excess caffeine intake might affect fertility as well. A European study conducted on 3187 women found that women who consumed 500 mg or more caffeine per day had higher chances of delayed conception.
The association between caffeine intake among pregnant women and low birth weight is also not conclusive. Numerous studies suggest that it can cause low birth weight or deformities but some researches did not find any significant effect. For example, a Brazilian study conducted on 885 women found no behavioural difference in children, when their mothers consumed less than 300 mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy.
To sum up, although the evidence is insufficient of caffeine to cause negative implications on the foetus the possibility of causing harmful effects cannot be completely ruled out. As suggested by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the American Institute of Medicine, it is better to limit the amount to 200 mg/day. Some women also prefer to opt for herbal teas like ginger tea, tulsi tea, etc. It is better to consult your doctor consuming caffeine or any specific herbal tea.
World Health Organization. (2019, February 11). Restricting caffeine intake during pregnancy. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/caffeine-pregnancy/en/
Morgan, S., Koren, G., & Bozzo, P. (2013). Is caffeine consumption safe during pregnancy?. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 59(4), 361–362.
Caffeine during pregnancy. (n.d.). Pregnancy Birth and Baby. https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/caffeine-during-pregnancy
Caffeine and Pregnancy | FAQs |The Food Safety Authority of Ireland. (n.d.). Food Safety Authority of Ireland. https://www.fsai.ie/faq/caffeine_and_pregnancy.html
Wierzejska, R., Jarosz, M., & Wojda, B. (2019). Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy and Neonatal Anthropometric Parameters. Nutrients, 11(4), 806. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040806