coffee cravings: top tips for cutting down on caffeine in pregnancy

Are you a coffee lover – or a self-confessed caffeine fiend? Join the club. But you've probably been told that cutting down on your favourite cuppa is part and parcel of taking care of yourself and your bump. Too much caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight, which can lead to other health problems later on.

If the idea of facing the day without your usual latte or espresso fills you with dread, don't despair! You may find that you simply go off coffee when you're pregnant – some mums-to-be do (it's alright for some). But if you're craving caffeine as I did, don't worry; here are some tried-and-tested tips on how to cope. And don't worry – it'll be OK.

Expectant mum cutting down on caffeine in pregnancy

how much is too much?

Here's a bit of good news: you don't have to give up caffeine completely. Wait – you can drink coffee when pregnant? Yes, as long as you stick to the guidelines. Doctors recommend that you limit your intake to 200mg of caffeine a day for those nine months. In other words, that’s two mugs of instant coffee or one filter coffee. That may not sound a lot, but hey – it's better than none!

Do remember that cafés usually make your cuppa stronger (and yes, much tastier) than you would at home, so it's a good idea to opt for something else. Try changing your usual tipple to a light fruity drink or a soothing hot chocolate when you're out and about. Just try not to lean across to inhale your friend's cappuccino fumes. That's a bit weird. Not that I've ever done it. Honest.

what else do i need to limit?

When you think of caffeine, you immediately think of coffee. But other products contain it too, even if it’s just a small amount. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s caffeine in chocolate! In fact, dark is a worse offender than milk. Black tea has traces too, as well as some energy drinks and protein bars. If you’re avoiding it altogether, remember to check the labels when you’re doing your weekly shop. Just remember, chips and pizza contain no caffeine at all. And nine months isn't so long. Nine. Whole. Months.

how can i fool my tastebuds?

It's normal to feel more tired than usual when you're pregnant. After all, your body's creating a whole new person – which is pretty amazing. For a little pick-me-up, you could try some caffeine-free alternatives – and there are plenty out there. I can confirm that decaf coffee is the perfect replacement for your elevensies, and you probably won't be able to taste the difference. In fact, I carried on drinking it even after my little ones arrived (cue smug face).

New mum drinking caffeine-free coffee

Supermarket shelves are also bursting with caffeine-free herbal teas, with many claiming health benefits. Ginger tea is said to be good for digestion and nausea, while chamomile is known for its calming effect. You could also try making some refreshing soft drinks with cordial and sparkling water.

what about the withdrawal symptoms? making it easier on yourself

Coffee is a powerful stimulant. You probably knew that already. And as we coffee drinkers know, cutting back suddenly on our usual caffeine fix can be unpleasant. You're doing your best for your bump, but what about those nasty withdrawal symptoms: headaches, sleepiness, even the 'jitters'? Well, they're rare – and you can help stave them off.

Distract yourself by getting outside for a brisk walk, which is great for lifting your energy and mood. It's also a good idea to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water to avoid headaches. Do make sure you listen to your body and get plenty of rest if you’re feeling drained – it'll make the world of difference. And if all else fails, there's always bubble baths, followed by a nice chicken Tikka Masala.


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