Can I Drink Coffee While I’m Pregnant?

Never has the “yes!” answer to this question meant more to me than as a pregnant ObGyn resident trying to white-knuckle my way through a Gyn Oncology rotation. Did I ever tell y’all about the time I nearly went full on Fight Club on the (male) barista who refused to give me anything but decaf? I was 35 weeks, post-call, and already halfway to crazy town…definitely not my shining moment in life.

The old adage that caffeine and pregnancy don’t mix is based on historically flawed studies. Modern data fails to give us clear cutoffs, but does support the safety of ~200mg of caffeine per day (with some sources citing up to 300mg).

There are no clear, evidence-based links between moderate caffeine-consumption and miscarriage, malformations, or poor obstetric outcomes.

Despite that, this is one of the most common questions I’m asked as an ObGyn. The myth that coffee will lead to problems with a pregnancy is rooted in data from the 70s that associated coffee consumption with miscarriage. In review of that data, you’ll find the following:

    1. Confounding Tobacco Use
      • Many study participants were also smoking cigarettes, a confounding variable we now know is undeniably associated with poor obstetric outcomes.

    2. Excessive Caffeine Consumption
      • A disproportionate number of those studied were consuming far more than moderate or typical amounts of caffeine (6-10 cups of coffee or more per day in some cases).

    3. Follow-Up Data Supporting Safety
      • In the time since those studies were published a multitude of data, almost universally with better research methods and controls, has emerged supporting the safety of moderate caffeine consumption in pregnancy.


So, the bottom line is, I will not be taking away your coffee purely because you’re pregnant. Fatigue was my #1 pregnancy symptom, far worse than nausea or cravings. At times it truly interfered with my ability to function and do my job and there were seriously days where I relied on that cup of coffee to get me out the door.

That being said, some women tend to react more strongly to the side effects of coffee while they are pregnant, so you may want to give it up or cut back if you find that cuppa worsens your nausea or makes you jittery.

Avoiding excessive consumption of caffeine is still important. We aren’t absolutely sure that more than 200-300mg of caffeine is overtly harmful to mom or baby, but we don’t have good data to support it’s safety.

So, ask for that Starbucks latte with the good stuff, no judgement from this ObGyn…and caffeinate away mama, so long as your morning sickness can tolerate it.