The main source of caffeine for most adults is coffee; however, caffeine is naturally produced by a variety of plants, and also found in many different kinds of foods, beverages and medications.

Is caffeine safe during pregnancy? Most experts agree small amounts of caffeine, which equal to about one to two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day, appears safe during pregnancy. The safety of larger amounts is questionable.

There have been some studies to suggest a high caffeine intake, which equals to about 3 or more cups of coffee a day, may increase the risk of miscarriage and infants with low birth weight. To date, there is no solid proof that caffeine causes these problems. Experts recommend women to limit their caffeine intake during pregnancy until more solid proof is found.

Common foods and beverages that contain caffeine include:

• Coffee
• Tea
• Some soft drinks
• Chocolate
• Coffee-flavored products such as yogurt and ice cram
• Chocolate syrup
• Hot cocoa

The amount of caffeine in foods and beverages varies. The way in which coffee or tea is prepared and the type of beans or leaves used affects caffeine content. Brewed coffee contains the highest amounts of caffeine. Chocolate generally contains low amounts of caffeine.

Medicines that contain caffeine include:

• Some medicines used for pain relief, migraines, colds and delaying sleep

The Food and Drug Administration requires medication labels that list the amount of caffeine they contain. Some herbal products such as guarana contain caffeine. The Food and Drug Administration does not require herbal products carry a label saying how much caffeine they contain. Amounts of caffeine in herbal products can vary.

Pregnant women should avoid medications containing caffeine as well as herbal products. Caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus during pregnancy. Some studies have shown that caffeine may affect the fetal heart rate and breathing patterns, although the changes are not felt to be harmful. Pregnant women may also be more sensitive to caffeine because they take longer to clear caffeine from the body than individuals who are not pregnant.

The affects of caffeine on the body include:

• Increases alertness
• Slightly increases blood pressure and heart rate
• Increases urine production
• Some people may feel jittery, have indigestion or have trouble sleeping

For the most part, studies have shown small amounts of caffeine probably do not reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. There have been a few studies that suggest women who consume more than 300 mg per day may be more likely to have trouble conceiving, but this has not been proven.

Studies about caffeine consumption affects in pregnant women show:

• Low levels of caffeine consumption (less than 300 mg per day probably does not increase the risk of miscarriage
• Women who consume large amounts of caffeine (500 mg a day or more) may be twice as likely to miscarry as women who consume less
• Some studies report no increased risk of miscarriage, even with high caffeine intake
• A Danish study done in 2003 suggested women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day may be at increased risk of having a stillborn baby, and women who drank eight or more cups a day had a 3 times higher risk of stillbirth than women who drank no coffee.
• Some studies suggest high levels of caffeine consumption may slightly reduce a baby’s birth weight, however, if caffeine consumption does affect a baby’s birth weight, the effect is most likely to be very small

Women who breast-feed

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is safe for women to consume caffeine while breastfeeding. They also say a small amount of caffeine does get into the breast milk and could cause babies to become more irritable or have difficult sleeping.

Based upon the studies done so far, it seems as if the consumption of caffeine during pregnancy and breast feeding is safe, however, one should still use caution and consume caffeine moderately during pregnancy and breast feeding until there are more proven results of the use of caffeine in pregnant and breast feeding women.

Source: March of Dimes Association

Disclaimer: *This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your health care provider about any kind of a health problem and especially before beginning any kind of an exercise routine.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box. Article written 5-2007.

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