A few months ago, I wrote that I was giving up the java. Although I didn’t want to publically admit it at the time, one of the major motivating factors was that we were gearing up to try to get pregnant. I was a serious coffee drinker, consuming 2 – 4 cups a day, and figured that I should probably cut back before conception.
Cutting way back on coffee wasn’t as terrible as I originally thought it would be. So much of my coffee ‘addiction,’ I realized, was about the ritual of coffee, not the actual caffeine itself. I used other quit techniques to whittle myself down to a coffee or two a week and a cup of tea fives a week. After a few weeks, I got to the point that I didn’t even NEED the caffeine to function. I never thought that would happen – trust me!
Giving up coffee in advance of actually getting pregnant worked out pretty well – I really can’t imagine combining morning sickness with coffee withdrawals and crankiness.
A few people have asked me what my views are on drinking caffeine while pregnant. I’ll admit – even though I chose to give up my daily cup(s) of coffee, I have pretty relaxed views on caffeine intake while pregnant (actually, I have pretty relaxed views about a lot of stuff while pregnant, but that’s a post for another day).
The issue with caffeine consumption is that caffeine crosses the placenta and is ingested by the baby; a small amount might not impact you, but the tiny baby certainly feels it. High levels of caffeine consumption has been linked to birth defects, preterm delivery, and low-birth weight in animal testing; there’s also a link between high caffeine and delayed conception (source). Other studies have shown an inclusive link between high caffeine and fetal growth restriction (source). And, scarily enough, many studies (but not all) demonstrate a link between high levels of caffeine and miscarriage (source).
Now, when I say that I have ‘relaxed’ views about caffeine during pregnancy, I don’t mean to imply that I’m slamming espresso. I have broken down and had coffee three times over the past nine weeks (and it tasted SO good), and I’ll drink tea nearly every single day. I do, however, try to limit my caffeine intake to less than 100 milligrams when I drink it (side note: Did you know that Starbucks decaf actually contains about 25 milligrams of caffeine?) . Most doctors will recommend you keep your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams or less, so I’m definitely erring on the side of caution.
Why am I drinking caffeine at all? Dude – I’m only human. I totally respect women who become pregnant and eat and drink like saints. More power to you… I just can’t do it all the time. When I’m running on 5 hours of sleep and need to drive 40 miles to the Connecticut airport, you can bet I’m going to drink a small cup of coffee – otherwise, I’ll fall asleep at the wheel!
As part of this journey, I’m trying hard not to beat myself up for not being the ‘perfect’ pregnant person… I think this is an easy trap to fall into, and I know I don’t need to start the mommy guilt already. There’s always something to fear and obsess over when you’re pregnant, and the added stress of such guilt certainly isn’t doing me or the baby any favors. So I’m really trying to take a moderate approach to things like caffeine because 1) the evidence that it’s 100% horrible in moderation is very inconclusive; 2) I’m making the effort to reduce my intake; and 3) my emotional health is perhaps just as important as my physical health.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re also preggers or a momma. Did you give up coffee? Did you eat and drink like a saint or play it more moderately? How did you balance physical health with all those ‘guilty’ feelings?