Pregnancy is a time when women need to carefully consider the effects of caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to rapidly cross the placental barrier and be present in the fetal bloodstream in concentrations similar to the mother. During pregnancy, a woman’s body is more sensitive to caffeine and slower to detoxify it. Women who are pregnant will want to carefully evaluate what they take in and how it would affect their developing baby.

Caffeine and the Developing Infant

  • The stimulant effects of caffeine have a greater impact in utero. The half-life of caffeine is extended in pregnant women, meaning that their bodies take longer to detoxify caffeine while pregnant. (McKim, 1991) In the second and third trimester, the length of time it takes to detoxify caffeine can triple. (Kuczkowski, 2003)
  • Caffeine also remains longer in the system of the developing fetus, since their liver is not yet mature and able to detoxify caffeine fully. The enzymatic pathways specific for metabolizing caffeine doesn’t reach maturity until the first seven to nine months after birth. (Aldridge, et al, 1979), (Cazeneuve, et al, 1994)
  • Coffee drinking during pregnancy increases body movement and fetal breathing rates; the effect on breathing is seen even in consumption of decaffeinated coffee. (Salvador and Koos, 1989); (McGowan, et al, 1987)
  • Caffeine also affects pancreatic cell development, which may influence childhood diabetes. (Tuomilehto, et al, 1990)
  • Caffeine consumption during pregnancy has also been shown to restrict the growth of the fetus in utero. This correlation continues throughout pregnancy. Surprisingly, the correlation is stronger in women who have the gene type that metabolizes caffeine faster than those with the gene type that more slowly clears caffeine from their bodies. (CARE Study Group, 2008)

Effects of Caffeine Consumption after Birth

  • A number of studies show that women who consume caffeine during pregnancy have infants with statistically lower birth weights. (Balat, et al, 2003); (Boylan et al, 2008)
  • Just as adults experience withdrawal after giving up coffee or caffeine, even after short periods of time, babies born to women who had high caffeine intake during their pregnancy exhibit signs of caffeine withdrawal after birth. Symptoms include reduced sleep, irritability, jitteriness and vomiting.(McGowan, et al, 1988); (Devoe, et al, 1993)
  • Withdrawal experiences have been demonstrated from yerba mate as well as coffee. (Martin, et al, 2007)

Coffee Drinking Affects A Pregnant Woman’s Health

  • Cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, can often occur during pregnancy. Studies suggest that coffee drinking is linked to an increased risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias and heart papitations. You can limit this risk by avoiding caffeine during pregnancy. (Lochen and Rasmussen, 1996); (Shirlow and Mathers, 1985); (Rosmarin, 1989); (Gowda, et al, 2003)
  • Coffee and caffeine interfere with the absorption of minerals and increase the excretion of several vital minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. (Bergman, et al, 1990) (Kynast-Gales, et al. 1994)
  • Studies show that caffeine, along with other ingredients, found in coffee including decaf coffee, can reduce iron availability up to 50%, which may contribute to iron deficiency anemia.(Hallberg, et al.1982) (Hurrell, et al,1999)
  • Drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages is not advisable for pregnant women because it is vital for them to absorb all the minerals in their diet. Their bodies have a higher demand for minerals in order to produce healthy babies with strong bones and teeth. Additionally, pregnant women need to protect the strength of their own bones and teeth by making sure they get an adequate supply of minerals in their diet.

References (by alphabetical order)

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Bergman, E.E., Massey, L.K., Wise, K.J. and Sherrard, D.J. 1990. Effects of dietary caffeine on renal handling of minerals in adult women. Life Sciences. 47(6):557-64.

Boylan, S., Cade, J.E., and Dolby, V.A., et al. 2008. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of fetal growth restriction: a large prospective observational study. British Medical Journal Nov 3: 337.

CARE Study Group. 2008. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of fetal growth restriction: a large prospective observational study. British Medical Journal, Nov 3: 337:a2332.

Cazeneuve, C., Pons, G., Rey, E., Treluyer, J.-M., Cresteil, T., Thiroux, G., D’Athis, P. and Olive, G. 1994. Biotransformation of caffeine in human liver microsomes from fetuses, neonates, infants and adults. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 37: 405-12.

Devoe, L.D., Murray, C., Youssif, A. and Arnaud, M. 1993. Maternal caffeine consumption and fetal behavior in normal third-trimester pregnancy. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 168(4):1105-11.

Gowda, R.M., Khan, I.A., Mehta, N.J., Vasavada, B.C. and Sacchi, T.J. 2003. Cardiac arrhythmias in pregnancy: clinical and therapeutic considerations. International Journal of Cardiology. 88(2-3):129-33.

Hallberg, L. and Rossander, L. 1982 Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals. Human Nutrition. Applied Nutrition. 36(2):116-23.

Hurrell, R. F., Reddu, M. and Cook, J.D. 1999. Inhibition of non-heme iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. British Journal of Nutrition. 91(4):289-95.

Kynast-Gales, S.A. and Massey, L.K. 1994. Effect of caffeine on circadian excretion of urinary calcium and magnesium. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 13(5):467-72.

Kuczkowski KM. 2003. Social drug use in the parturient: implications for the management of obstetrical anesthesia. Medical Journal of Malaysia. 58:147–154.

Lochen M.L., Rasmussen K. 1996. Palpitations and lifestyle: impact of depression and self-rated health. The Nordland Health Study. Scandinavian journal of social edicine. 24(2):140-4.

Martin, I., Lopez-Vilchez, M.A., Mur, A., Garcia-Algar, O., Rossi, S., Marchei, E., and Pichini, S. 2007. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome after chronic maternal rinking of mate. The Drug Monitor. 29(1) 127-9.

McGowan, J., Devoe, L.D., Searle, N. and Altman, R. 1987. The effects of long- and short-term maternal caffeine ingestion on human fetal breathing and body movements in term gestations. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 157(3):726-9.

McGowan, J.D., Altman, R.E. and Kanto, W.P. Jr. 1988. Neonatal withdrawal symptoms after chronic maternal ingestion of caffeine. Southern Medical Journal. 81(9):1092-4.

McKim, E.M. 1991. Caffeine and its effects on pregnancy and the neonate. Journal of Nurse Midwifery. 36(4):226-31.

Morck, T.A., Lynch, S.R. and cook, J.D. 1983. Inhibition of food iron absorption by coffee. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 37(3):416-20.

Rosmarin, P.C. 1989. Coffee and coronary heart disease: a review. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 32(3):239-45.

Salvado, H.S. and Koos, B.J. 1989. Effects of regular and decaffeinated coffee on fetal breathing and heart rate. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 160 (Pt 1): 1043-7.

Shirlow, M.J. and Mathers, C.D. 1985. A study of caffeine consumption and symptoms; indigestion, palpitations, tremor, headache and insomnia. International Journal of Epidemiology. 14(2):239-48.

Tuomilehto, J., Tuomilehto-Wolf, E., Virtala, E. and LaPorte, R. 1990. Coffee consumption as trigger for insulin dependent diabetes mellitus in childhood. British Medical Journal. 300(6725): 642-3.