Caffeine, Decaf and Pregnancy

Pregnant belly and coffee


Caffeine, the stimulant in coffee, is generally regarded as safe. It may even provide some health benefits, when consumed in moderate amounts. The magic number for healthy adults is 3 cups of joe a day.

What are the caffeine recommendations for pregnant women?

Some studies have shown that excess caffeine consumption may negatively impact baby.  Caffeine passes through the placenta to the fetus, whose organs cannot process it as effectively as those of an adult. The caffeine is stored in the baby’s body and can accumulate to dangerous levels. Caffeine can also increase the baby’s heart rate and movement in utero.

Caffeine’s diuretic properties can have an effect on the baby’s nutrient absorption, decreasing iron and calcium intake. This could have detrimental effects on fetal development. Because caffeine is a diuretic, it can cause a pregnant mother to lose fluid as well, increasing fatigue.

The current scientific consensus is that pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg of coffee a day. That’s between 1 to 2 cups at most.

Is Decaf coffee a better choice?

Decaffeinated coffee has only 3% caffeine left after being processed to remove the stimulant. So, theoretically, decaf is a good solution.

Unless the process by which caffeine is removed creates new problems

There are several methods to extract caffeine from coffee. This is not a trivial task, as a coffee bean contains hundreds of elements responsible for its aroma, taste, and flavor. The removal of caffeine should not have any effect on those.

In the past, chemicals solvents such as benzene were used to remove the caffeine. But today, most of the extraction methods use either heated water or carbon dioxide at various temperature and pressure levels to reach the desired result.

A 1999 study at the University of California, Berkeley showed no difference in baby weight or chances of preterm delivery when comparing women who drank decaf coffee to women who drank no coffee.

Bottom line

Small amounts of coffee are deemed safe for pregnant mother and baby. Decaffeinated coffee produced with modern processing techniques seems safe as well.