The effect of caffeine on pregnancy is dose related and we suggest limiting your intake to one cup of coffee or two cups of tea a day (100mg).
Caffeine is also present in cola drinks and “energy” drinks often in a concentrated form. For example, Red Bull contains 33mg of caffeine per 100ml, and Lucozade has 12mg/100ml. As well as drinks, caffeine can be found in chocolate, cocoa, coffee flavoured products (like ice-cream), some drugs and some mints, gums and sweets particularly those that claim to increase your energy.
Caffeine crosses the placenta and potentially reduces blood flow to the baby, putting him or her at risk of growth restriction.
While restricting caffeine intake to 100mg per day is wise, it is important that the reduction is not compensated for by sweetened drinks or alcohol.
If you have alcohol it will enter your blood stream and cross the placenta to the baby, or if you are breastfeeding will enter the baby through breast milk.
Scientists have not been able to establish an alcohol consumption threshold beyond which detrimental effects occur in the baby. Therefore the safest course of action is to avoid all alcohol while pregnant. The more alcohol you have the greater risk of an effect on the baby.
A baby affected by alcohol is smaller at birth and may have physical problems including heart problems. In a small number of cases babies suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and have cognitive problems with learning, speech, attention span and hyperactivity.
As well as beer, wine and spirits alcohol is also contained in some products including vanilla extract, angostura bitters (used in lemon lime and bitters), liqueur chocolates, some cooking additives and processes eg rice wine or red wine based sauces, and when you “flame” a christmas pudding. Not all the the alcohol used in cooking will be burnt off in the cooking process.
Other drinks to be wary of
You should be careful of some drinks because of the potential for them to have bacteria or other contamination that might affect you or your baby. For example, unpasteurised milk (eg direct from a farm) or juices or water that may not be properly treated. These may not directly affect the baby like caffeine and alcohol but will affect the mother’s health.
As always, if you have any questions please discuss them with your doctor.