It's a trick question, people. A pregnant woman can have as much caffeine as she wants to take into her body! Is it advisable, medically, for a pregnant woman to drink as much caffeine as she wants? That really depends on how much caffeine she wants to drink, doesn't it? In other words: a pregnant woman can do whatever she wants. No one can force her to do something against her will. In the words of people who are fighting for birth justice, "you're not allowed to not allow me."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has an official stance on caffeine consumption during pregnancy. It's not advisable for a pregnant woman to drink or eat more than 250 mg of caffeine per day. So, how many cups of coffee is that? Well, it depends on the cup of coffee! Not all cups are equal. Also consider that caffeine comes from more sources than just coffee or tea.
Before we go into different sources of caffeine, and different approximate doses per source, I want to touch on the medical reasoning behind why pregnant women are discouraged from drinking caffeine indiscriminately. Let's call a spade a spade: caffeine is a drug! It's a legal drug, a fairly unregulated drug, but a drug all the same. It acts on your mind and body in ways that alter your state of consciousness and your physical biomarkers. Specifically, caffeine is sometimes contraindicated for people who have ADHD - funnily enough, other times it's recommended for people who have ADHD! it really depends on how that individual person's body processes and responds to caffeine. One of the common changes that caffeine creates in the body is an increased heart rate. Now in adults, an increased heart rate isn't usually too great of a concern. Although caffeine is a drug, it's not so much of a stimulant that moderate/average consumption will cause an unsafe rise in heart rate.
But while caffeine is perfectly safe for almost any adult, it can have a detrimental effect on the heart rate of unborn children. If a baby's heart rate increases too quickly or to a dangerous level, the baby could suffer stress on their developing heart. Not to be a fear monger, but an excess of caffeine can actually cause tachycardia and essentially a heart attack in unborn children.
Wait! Before you go throwing that coffee cup out of your hand, know this: you would have to drink a lot of coffee in order to cause tangible harm to your unborn child. The average person, pregnant or not, doesn't take that much caffeine into their system on a regular basis. If you're a Red Bull or energy drink consumer, maybe? But not likely.
You might wonder which foods or drinks are some of the several sources of caffeine. Obviously coffee, the lifeblood of all mothers of toddlers. There's also tea - anything that isn't strictly herbal tea, like a black tea or green tea. Even chocolate has a little bit of caffeine in it! Of course, there are also caffeine supplements and even some over-the-counter pain relief NSAIDs that contain caffeine: think Midol or Excedrin Migraine.
In order to stay safely under the 250 mg limit per day, most doctors will recommend cutting back your average caffeine consumption to one or two cups of coffee or tea per day. Now, as much as I love coffee, I also love myself some good old Diet Coke. Most soft drinks contain caffeine (including my beloved Diet Coke). So I wanted to make sure that I could have my coffee and drink my soda, too. My research brought me to a website, you can find it here, that lists the approximate caffeine content of some of the most common drinks. My favorite part is that it doesn't assume all coffees are made equally! In fact, Starbucks Coffee contains more caffeine per ounce than does Dunkin' Donuts. That's just one example. If you really want to stay under that 250 mg of caffeine, I highly recommend you choose your favorite sources of caffeine, cross-reference this website, and add up how much you're taking in on a regular basis.
Odds are, you won't have to make drastic changes to your caffeine consumption! Like most things, you can find a happy middle ground. "Everything in moderation", even caffeine during pregnancy.
Did you drink coffee during pregnancy? Or did you avoid it entirely? Tell me why on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #CaffeinatedPregnancy.