There's a reason Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts locations multiply like rabbits: We're a nation of caffeine fiends. But while coffee in general and caffeine in particular offer many health benefits — such as helping to protect you against Type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and Parkinson's disease — during pregnancy, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
Most experts recommend that during pregnancy you limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams a day. That's about the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Bear in mind that's not the serving size typically handed out a drive-thru window.
The March of Dimes advises that if you're breastfeeding, you should limit caffeine to no more than two cups of coffee a day.
Besides coffee, caffeine is also found in lesser amounts in tea, chocolate and soda — and of course Red Bull and other energy drinks. If you drink tea, it's best to avoid green tea and herbal teas. Many herbs have medicinal effects, and it's not known how they might affect pregnancy.
Here's what our Mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — do to reduce their own caffeine during pregnancy.
"During my pregnancy, cutting back on caffeine was easy because I developed an aversion to coffee! I couldn't stand the smell of it, let alone the taste," says Ann Kulze, M.D., a mom of two grown daughters and two grown sons; the author of the best-selling book series "Eat Right for Life"; and a nationally recognized nutrition expert, motivational speaker and family physician in Charleston, South Carolina.
"When I got pregnant, I was working in an emergency room. I lived on caffeine," says Christy Valentine, M.D., a mom of one, a specialist in pediatrics and internal medicine and the founder of the Valentine Medical Center in Gretna, Louisiana. "But as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I quit drinking coffee right away. I thought that it would be difficult, but it wasn't. It was amazing that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, my baby's needs were paramount. I couldn't drink coffee anymore because I couldn't do anything that might hurt her."
"I drink a significant amount of coffee — four or five cups a day," says Gina Dado, M.D., a mom of two daughters and an OB-GYN with Arizona OBGYN Affiliates, Paradise Valley Branch, in Scottsdale, Arizona. "You can drink one or two cups of coffee daily during pregnancy, so during my pregnancies, I made a pot with half decaf coffee and half regular. That way, I could still drink four cups, but I'd only get two cups of caffeinated coffee each day."
"In preparation for getting pregnant, I was careful to be as healthy as possible," says Siobhan Dolan, M.D., MPH, a mom of three, an adviser to March of Dimes and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, in New York City. "For example, prior to getting pregnant, I had been drinking quite a lot of coffee. Before I started trying to get pregnant, I cut back to one cup a day. I couldn't get down to zero, but I did cut back significantly."
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Christoph at Pixabay