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.

In This Article

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 or caffeine-free coffee in moderation.

Hannah Whittaker, a pediatric and pregnancy dietitian from Liverpool, England, says, “I would recommend my clients to take decaffeinated coffee instead of the caffeinated one during pregnancy. The recommendations are a maximum of 200mg of caffeine per day. Excess consumption has been shown to have negative effects for both the mother and baby, including an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, growth restriction, and miscarriage.

protip_icon Be watchful
Decaffeinated coffee can stimulate fetal breathing and slightly decrease fetal heart rate. Avoiding decaf coffee can be a healthier choice (7).

How Much Caffeine Is Present In Decaf Coffee?

A cup of brewed decaf coffee usually contains 2 to 5mg of caffeine

Image: Shutterstock

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.

protip_icon Point to consider
The amount of caffeine may vary depending on the way it is prepared and the cup size in various brands (8).

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

    Excess intake of decaffeinated coffee while pregnant can cause heartburn

    Image: Shutterstock

  • 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. Therefore you must maintain caution when consuming 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any other alternatives to decaffeinated coffee while pregnant?

Some people may not enjoy the taste of coffee or choose to avoid it. Also, there are various substitutes that are less habit-forming and promote well-being. Green tea, Yerba mate, Matcha tea, cocoa, guarana, and Kombucha are popular replacements (9).

2. Does drinking decaffeinated coffee increase the risk of miscarriage or other pregnancy complications?

Studies have shown that expectant mothers who consume even a moderate amount of caffeine-containing drinks are at an increased risk of experiencing a spontaneous abortion (10). This suggests that consuming even one serving of decaffeinated coffee daily could possibly increase the risks of a miscarriage and adversely affect fetal and maternal health.

3. What are the potential mental and physical health benefits of drinking decaffeinated coffee while pregnant?

Numerous studies suggest that decaffeinated coffee may provide similar health benefits to regular coffee (11). The consumption of coffee can prolong an individual’s lifespan and its anti-inflammatory properties can effectively prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. Additionally, coffee intake can help the body process glucose and decrease the likelihood of type 2 diabetes. Scientific research has established that coffee consumption can reduce the chances of heart failure, colon cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, and also safeguard the liver and DNA. Moderate caffeine consumption in women may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke (12).

If you are craving caffeine, consuming decaffeinated coffee while pregnant in moderation might be safe. However, consider taking the beverage only after your doctor’s approval. Also, confirm with your doctor the amount of caffeine safe for you. Check the product’s label to ensure it meets the caffeine requirement when making a purchase. Since there are side effects to decaffeinated beverages, consume the drink in moderation. You may also ask your doctor for tips and advice to reduce caffeine cravings and a list of healthy alternative beverages.

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.
Decaffeinated Coffee While Pregnant_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

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.
  1. Coffee.
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee/
  2. Jingjing Qian et al.; (2019); Impacts of Caffeine during Pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7035149/#
  3. Caffeine During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/caffeine-intake-during-pregnancy/
  4. Caffeine In Pregnancy.
    https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy
  5. Moderate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy.
    https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2010/08/moderate-caffeine-consumption-during-pregnancy
  6. How Much Caffeine Can Be Safely Consumed In Pregnancy?
    https://www.ifwip.org/caffeine-tea-coffee-pregnancy-risk/
  7. H S Salvador And B J Koos; Effects of regular and decaffeinated coffee on fetal breathing and heart rate.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2729379/
  8. Edmund Hey; Coffee And Pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1804190/
  9. 8 Best Coffee Alternatives
    https://naturallybalanced.org/en/the-8-best-alternatives-to-coffee/
  10. Caffeine and Pregnancy
    https://www.bu.edu/articles/2015/caffeine-and-pregnancy
  11. Coffee | The Nutrition Source
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee/
  12. 9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-reasons-why-the-right-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you
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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.

Read full bio of Dr. Neharika Malhotra
  • Hannah Whittaker
    Hannah WhittakerBSc Hannah Whittaker is an expert pregnancy and pediatric dietitian with nearly 20 years of experience, the last seven years as a registered dietitian. She manages her private practice Bump2baby Nutrition in the UK, having done her graduation in community nutrition and dietetics from Liverpool John Moores University & University of Chester respectively.
    Hannah Whittaker is an expert pregnancy and pediatric dietitian with nearly 20 years of experience, the last seven years as a registered dietitian. She manages her private practice Bump2baby Nutrition in the UK, having done her graduation in community nutrition and dietetics from Liverpool John Moores University & University of Chester respectively.
Swati Patwal
Swati PatwalM.Sc. (Food & Nutrition), MBA
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade 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.

Read full bio of Swati Patwal
Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

Read full bio of Rebecca Malachi
Aneesha holds a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from USTM, Meghalaya and Master’s degree in Applied Microbiology from VIT, Vellore. With two years of experience, she has worked on different research projects in the field of Food Sciences.

Read full bio of Aneesha Amonz