Coffee when Pregnant?
What's the Real Rule?


For years now, most pregnant women have automatically and strictly cut all variations of caffeine from their diet, including, most notably: coffee.  This started to change dramatically, however, with a breakthrough release in August, 2010.   A new report from the American College of Obstreticians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that a moderate intake of caffeine during pregnancy (under 200 milligrams) would not increase the risk of preterm births or miscarriages, as evidenced in the news release by William H Barth Jr., MD, the chair of ACOG's committee on obstretic practice: "After a review of the scientific evidence to date, daily moderate caffeine consumption doesn't appear to have any major impact in causing miscarraige or preterm birth." 

The research came from two separate studies, both of which were comprised of over 1,000 women.   The first, by the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, found no increased rate of miscarriage for women consuming low, moderate or high levels of caffeine during different stages in the pregancy; and the other, Kaiser Permanent's Division of Research out of Oakland, reported higher levels of miscarriage in women consuming above 200 mg of caffeine per day, but there was no associated risk at lower levels.  This final study is also supported by another study done by the American Journal of Obstretics and Gynecology in 2008, which showed that women who consumed over 200 mg of caffeine daily were twice as likely to have a miscarriage as those who consumed none.

Should you Drink Coffee When Pregnant?

While chances are nearly 100% that you will still never find a doctor who recommends drinking coffee when pregnant, but  health professionals will now suggest that a cup of coffee during pregnancy isn't going to harm your baby.  The confusion now primarily stems in "moderate" amounts of caffeine.  With coffee and caffeine lovers who are pregant and missing their daily cup of coffee, it's crucial to be aware of just how much caffeiene might be lurking within that coffee cup.  Unfortunately, one cup of coffee is not equivalent to another.  Depending upon the beans, the roast, the brew, etc., one cup of coffee can greatly vary in caffeine content from the next. While we hear that the daily rule is generally one 12 oz. cup of coffee while pregnant, a good example of knowing the importance of which coffee is which is Starbucks 16 oz. cup of regular drip coffee that packs a powerful 320 milligrams of caffeine.  Bottom line, desiring to drink coffee when pregnant requires you to do your homework.

How much Coffee when Pregnant?

If you're willing and/or in desperate need of just a little caffeiene when pregnant, you clearly want to stay under 200 mg mark. The following chart adapted from Baby Center makes this easier to stick to and shows just how high the caffeine level is in coffee relative to other caffeinated beverages, soda and energy drinks in particular.

Beverage Ounces Caffeine (mg)
Generic coffee, drip brewed 8 102-200
Starbucks coffee, drip brewed 16 330
Dunkin' Donuts drip brewed 16 206
Starbucks latte /cappuccino 16 150
Generic espresso shot 1 30-90
Starbucks espresso shot 1 75
Decaffeinated coffee 8 3-26
Black tea 40-120 
Green tea 30-50 
 Pepsi 12  35 
Coke  12  35 
Mountain Dew  12  54 
Red Bull 8.3 80 
SoBe Essential Energy  48  

Tips to Replace Caffeine

If you're not willing to risk a cup of coffee at any point but find yourself craving that flavor and caffeine, here are some tips to make the adjustment easier.  Before getting pregnant, or if you're already pregnant but a die-hard caffeine lover, try mixing half-and-half regular coffee with decaf to lessen the withdrawal symptoms slowly.  Eventually switch to decaf completely.  Although it does contain trace amounts of caffeine, the levels are very low. Try green tea or white tea, the least caffeinated of all the teas.  Try warm milk, it's soothing, warm and high in protein.

Often, morning sickness eliminates the desire for coffee altogether, which is a bit of a blessing and a curse. 

The Real Rule of Coffee when Pregnant?

While you'll always get varying reports of how much is too much, for the safest bet out there, cut caffeine completely and eliminate any chance of risk.  And, if you occasionally grab a latte, you probably don't need to worry too much.  Moderation, like in everything, seems to be the key.


1)  American Pregnancy. Retrieved 28 April, 2011.

2)  Baby Center. Caffeine During Pregnancy.  Retrieved 28 April, 2011.

3)  March of Dimes.  Retrieved 28 April, 2011.

4)  Reuters: Pregnant Women given OK to Drink a Coffee a Day.  Retrieved 28 April, 2011.

5)  WebMD: Moderate Coffee Drinking OK in Pregnancy. Retrieved 28 April, 2011.