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Pregnancy comes with a lot of confusing dos and don’ts—especially when it comes to food. Suddenly, you’re anxiously reading labels and googling ingredients at the grocery store and at restaurants. Does this fish contain too much mercury? Can pregnant women drink coffee—or should I just switch to decaf? Is all pasteurized cheese safe? While some pregnancy food rules are cut and dry, others aren’t, and all this advice—and sometimes-conflicting information—can really depend on who you ask.
Many pregnant women are concerned about their coffee intake, whether they're struggling through fatigue with a first pregnancy or trying to keep up with an active toddler while expecting another child. Here's the official answer: Caffeine has been linked to low birth weights, and it does cross the placenta, so Health Canada recommends pregnant women consume no more than 300 mg daily. (This may not be a problem if you suffer from morning sickness; many women don’t want coffee when they’re feeling nauseated.)
But it’s important to note that not all coffee is caffeinated equally. “The caffeine content varies by type of coffee and method of preparation,” says Heather Lovelace, a registered dietitian who sets the nutritional practice standards for care of women and children at BC Women’s Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Drip coffee contains the most (typically 140 to 240 mg of caffeine per eight ounces, or 240 mL), followed by brewed coffee, and then instant. As a general rule, expectant mothers can have two small cups of brewed coffee each day. But be aware of other sources of caffeine, like pop and chocolate, and the size of the cup—some mugs hold the equivalent of two cups of coffee. (A Starbucks grande brewed coffee, for example, which holds 16 oz. or 473 mL, is already 330 mg of caffeine—over the daily max.) Decaf can help satisfy those cravings after you’ve hit your daily limit.
Check out our full pregnancy food guide for more information and a printable cheat sheet.