Pregnancy and Caffeine

What You Should Know about Coffee and Women's Health During Child Bearing Years

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 unborn baby’s bloodstream in concentrations similar to the mother.

During pregnancy, a woman’s body is more sensitive to caffeine and the liver is slower to detoxify it. In fact, the amount of time that caffeine stays in the blood stream is tripled in the last two trimesters of pregnancy. This can lead to your infant experiencing caffeine withdrawal after birth. Help your baby adjust to life outside of your womb by staying caffeine-free while you’re nursing.

If you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or suffering from premenstrual syndrome, you may find that quitting caffeine can greatly improve your health and well-being. Here are the top 5 reasons that kicking the coffee habit can protect your health and your baby:

1) Caffeine Decreases a Woman’s Ability to Become Pregnant

Studies show that drinking caffeinated beverages can affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Caffeine intake during the first trimester has shown a strong association between late miscarriage/stillbirth and consumption of more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (1 cup of coffee) in a group of more than 2,000 women studied in the U.K.

Genetic differences affect the rate of metabolism of caffeine in the liver. Some studies suggest that these differences in genetics may increase the risk of miscarriage in people with the slow caffeine metabolizing gene when combined with higher caffeine intake. Additionally, caffeine has been shown to interfere with the ability of the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus, a process that is necessary for pregnancy to progress.

2) Coffee Drinking Is Associated with an Irregular Heart Rate During Pregnancy

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. The amount of time that caffeine circulates in the blood stream before being detoxified in the liver of a pregnant woman is tripled in the last two trimesters. This further intensifies caffeine withdrawal symptoms in infants after birth. You can limit this risk by avoiding caffeine during pregnancy.

3) Caffeine Affects Fetal Development

Drinking caffeinated beverages during pregnancy can restrict the growth of the fetus in utero. 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.

One of these effects is lower infant birth weight. Low infant birth weight is associated with an increased risk of birth defects and infant mortality. Infants born to women who consumed caffeine while pregnant have also been shown to sleep less and exhibit irritability, jitteriness and vomiting, due to caffeine withdrawal after birth.

Drinking coffee during pregnancy is also shown to increase fetal breathing rates; this effect is seen even with consumption of decaffeinated coffee. It is recommended to eliminate caffeine during pregnancy to ensure optimal health for your baby.

4)Coffee Interferes with Mineral Absorption

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. Caffeine also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, magnesium and potassium. During pregnancy, these nutrients are absolutely essential to your fetus’ growth. In fact, drinking caffeine during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with weak bones because of poor calcium absorption. Caffeine consumption can also lead to future osteoporosis and inflamed gums for both you and your baby.

5) Caffeine Affects Breastfeeding Babies

What a woman eats and drinks while breastfeeding influences her child’s health as substances pass from her bloodstream into her breast milk. Coffee consumed becomes part of the breast milk and it has been detected in breast milk even days after a woman has ingested it.

A baby’s liver before the age of 6 months does not have enough liver enzyme capacity to detoxify caffeine efficiently and thus caffeine stays in a baby’s system for 80 to 100 hours in comparison to a typical adult who can process caffeine in 4-8 hours. Caffeine also affects pancreatic cell development, which may influence childhood diabetes.

Works Cited


  1. McKim, 1991
  2. Kuczkowski, 2003
  3. Jensen, et al, 1998; Florack, et al, 1994; Wilcox, et al, 1998
  4. Greenwood, D.C., et al, 2010; Weng, et al, 2008
  5. Karypidis, A.H., et al, 2006
  6. Pollard, et al, 1999
  7. Lochen and Rasmussen, 1996; Gowda, et al, 2003
  8. CARE Study Group, 2008
  9. Balat, et al, 2003; Boylan et al, 2008
  10. McGowan, et al, 1988; Devoe, et al, 1993
  11. Salvador and Koos, 1989; McGowan, et al, 1987
  12. Hallberg, et al.1982; Hurrell, et al,1999
  13. Bergman, et al, 1990; Kynast-Gales, et al. 1994
  14. Aldridge, et al, 1979; Cazeneuve, et al, 1994
  15. Tuomilehto, et al, 1990


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