Welcoming a baby into the world is an exciting time in any woman’s life. Knowing that a life is growing inside you instantly changes the course of your future while simultaneously making you reexamine your current situation. Suddenly, it’s time to change the way you care for yourself. You’re no longer eating, drinking, and living for one. You’re caring for two. For caffeine lovers, this change can be a bit difficult. The thought of giving up your coffee is practically heartbreaking! Luckily, being pregnant isn’t the end of all caffeine in your life. It’s simply a decrease.
According to the March of Dimes, a pregnant woman should limit her caffeine intake to 200 milligrams or less per day. For coffee drinkers, this equals 1½ regular 8-ounce cups. It’s important to remember, however, that caffeine is a natural stimulant found in many foods and drinks we consume. Let’s take a more in-depth look at caffeine and pregnancy so moms-to-be know what to expect.
What Is Caffeine?
Most of us hear everyone talk about caffeine’s dangers and benefits. While it’s clear that caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soda, and even chocolate most of us don’t consider other foods and drinks that may have hidden amounts of this naturally occurring stimulant. While eating a chocolate bar may make us randomly think about the caffeine inside, what about chocolate ice cream or chocolate cookies? Yes, they all include caffeine. You’ll also find some protein bars or shakes marketed to provide energy feature caffeine. It’s even found in some of the medications we take. This is why pregnant women must be careful about the amount they enjoy throughout the day.
Caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic. It can also be considered addictive. Caffeine provides our bodies with a burst of energy, mental clarity, and is even known to help improve our moods. Fortunately, most people who take in the FDA-recommended daily allowance of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day don’t experience many of the negative side effects caffeine can cause. It’s usually people who ingest high levels of caffeine that suffer from the negative effects. They may feel their heart rate increase, nausea set in, jitteriness, headaches, or even insomnia. For those who feel these types of effects from caffeine, it is best to avoid foods, drinks, and medications with large amounts of the stimulant.
Caffeine and Pregnancy
While an expecting mother may have shown no issues with caffeine before her pregnancy, her baby’s body is still growing. This means their heart, liver, and brain can’t handle tons of caffeine as their mother can. Caffeine crosses the placenta when ingested by the mother and finds its way to the baby. Experts aren’t 100% certain or in agreement with what caffeine may do to a baby’s development, there are a few things they do know. Let’s take a look at those effects below.
The Mother’s Blood Pressure
With caffeine’s ability to raise your heart rate, it also raises blood pressure. For an expecting mother, this can be quite dangerous, especially if they have suffered from high blood pressure in the past.
Caffeine raises an adult’s heart rate when they ingest it. Of course, the same is true for a baby still developing in the womb. This heart rate increase can affect the baby’s sleep patterns and even cause an irregular heartbeat.
Too much caffeine can also stimulate an unborn baby. Mothers may feel the little one moving more after they’ve had caffeinated drinks or foods.
Due to caffeine being a natural diuretic, mothers who have regular caffeine intake will visit the bathroom more frequently. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous and lead to dehydration if not carefully monitored.
Birth Defects and Miscarriages
Several studies have been conducted to determine whether caffeine can cause pregnant women to suffer from miscarriages or babies to be born with birth defects. Unfortunately, due to so many conflicting results, it is still impossible to determine whether this is true. For this reason, most doctors recommend pregnant females lower their caffeine intake.
As we mentioned, caffeine can be addictive. If an unborn child is exposed to high levels of caffeine in the womb, they may experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. This may include tremors, crankiness, and even strange sleep patterns.
Unfortunately, research is still ongoing when it comes to the effects of caffeine on pregnancy. For now, however, most experts agree on a small amount of caffeine is safe during pregnancy. If you’re an expecting mother limiting your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams or less per day is an ideal way to give your baby a healthy start. When you have a craving for chocolate ice cream, try to avoid that soda or cup of coffee. By remembering that caffeine is found in several of our favorite treats you can limit your intake and keep your baby healthier.
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