Is It Safe To Drink Decaffeinated Coffee When Pregnant?

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Coffee is a stimulating beverage that pregnant women often crave. But since caffeine intake during pregnancy isn’t advisable, many consider switching to decaffeinated coffee while pregnant.

Decaffeinated coffee or decaf has almost the same flavor as regular coffee but contains 97% less caffeine (1). This unique quality of decaf makes it a good choice for people who react badly to even small doses of caffeine.

Read on to know more about decaf coffee, how safe it is for pregnant women, and its potential side effects for the mother and fetus.

Is It Safe To Drink Decaf Coffee During Pregnancy?

Health care experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggest decaffeinated coffee since it has less caffeine. It is a good choice for pregnant women to satiate their coffee cravings (1). However, it’s important to note that decaf coffee still contains caffeine.

The metabolic rate of caffeine decreases during pregnancy, slowing down its clearance from the body. This increases the risk of excess caffeine if you drink too much decaf coffee (2). Therefore, pregnant women must consume decaf coffee in moderation.

How Much Caffeine Is Present In Decaf Coffee?

A cup (eight ounces) of brewed decaf coffee usually contains two to five milligrams (mg) of caffeine (4). However, this amount could vary based on the brand and the type of coffee beans used. A few decaf coffee brands may have as much as 15mg of caffeine per cup (eight ounces) (5). Therefore, check the packaging or the manufacturer’s website to know the exact amount of caffeine in the decaf coffee.

How Much Decaf Coffee Can You Drink During Pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (5). In most cases, you may stay within the safe limits of caffeine consumption with decaf coffee.

You may keep your decaf coffee consumption limited to two to three cups per day. Remember to check the caffeine content of the decaf coffee before consumption. Do not overdrink coffee just because it is decaffeinated. The reason is that there are several other caffeinated food items, such as chocolate, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, which you may consume in a day. If you consume other sources of caffeine, you may cut down your decaf coffee servings to stay within the safe caffeine intake limit.

What Are The Side Effects Of Excess Decaf Coffee Consumption During Pregnancy?

Excess decaf coffee consumption may raise several health concerns due to excess caffeine intake. Here’s a list of adverse effects that excess caffeine intake may cause(5) (7).

  • Upset stomach and heartburn
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased urine output, resulting in dehydration
  • Rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure

Caffeine can pass through the placenta to the baby, accumulating in the baby’s tissues. Excess caffeine may cause complications, such as low birth weight, preterm birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage, as babies lack enzymes to metabolize caffeine.

Excess coffee consumption, including decaf coffee, may cause caffeine dependency. If you try to cut down your coffee intake, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, reduce coffee intake gradually and keep an eye on the following withdrawal symptoms.

Decaffeinated or decaf coffee is a coffee type that tastes the same as regular coffee but contains less caffeine. While consuming decaf coffee is highly unlikely to cause any adverse effects, its excess consumption should be avoided. Check the caffeine content in a decaf coffee brand and keep consumption under moderation to avoid any adverse effects on your and your baby’s health.

Infographic: Other Ways To Reduce Caffeine Consumption

Decaffeinated versions are effective in cutting down caffeine consumption per serving. However, you should calculate the total caffeine intake per day to make sure it does not exceed the recommended levels. The infographic below makes a handy reference for calculating caffeine intake from various beverages.

count your caffeine intake [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Decaf coffee has less caffeine than regular coffee and is considered a better choice for pregnant women.
  • However, the amount of caffeine present in decaf coffee may vary based on the coffee beans type and manufacturing process involved.
  • Excess decaf coffee intake can cause caffeine excess, resulting in adverse effects, such as heartburn and difficulty sleeping.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different... more

Dr. Neharika Malhotra

(MD)
Dr. Neharika Malhotra is a practicing obstetrician at Malhotra Nursing and Maternity Home and an infertility consultant at Rainbow IVF, Agra. She has more than 12 years of experience in Ob/Gyn.  Dr. Malhotra is an active member of RCOG, FOGSI, and several other institutions and has been the youngest chairperson of FOGSI. In addition, she has published books, articles, chapters... more