By The First Lady of I Love Decaf

Should pregnant mums-to-be go decaf with their tea and coffee drinking? 

This isn’t medical advice – you should discuss that with your doctor – but don’t be surprised if you find they think you should at least cut down on your caffeine intake while you are pregnant, as well as when you are breast-feeding.

We already give up so much stuff when we are pregnant; alcohol, all of our free time, like, forever and the ability to lift anything heavier than a bag full of cake. I know, I tried. Of course, cross-fingers, it all turns out great and we get to become a mum, but there are often sacrifices to be made – some are enthusiastically embraced, others, less so.

Then there are the cravings (mine was wasabi peas with custard slices) Mums-to-be cravings range from biscuits and cakes, through to chalk (quite common, it seems) and the smell of tyres. One poor soul reported she had an overwhelming, powerful and relentless craving for something. She didn’t know what, but she did know she really, really wanted it. Fortunately, that passed after a week.

Decaf tea and coffee in pregnancy

Some cravings are less easy to make sense of. For instance, decaffeinated tea and coffee weren’t a bother for me, I could not even face a cup of coffee or tea, decaf or regular, from almost as soon as I got pregnant. It was visceral, almost like it was an anti-craving. 

The only hot drink I could enjoy was completely caffeine-free herbal teas. The kitchen smelled like a wildflower meadow at times.

Decaf coffee during first trimester

Caffeine raises blood pressure and pulse and because the first trimester (week 1 to 13) is when the majority of miscarriages happen, you should give caffeine as wide a berth as possible. The generally accepted level of caffeine for pregnancy is around 200mg a day. You’d easily burn through this with just a few cups, but if you still savour the taste of coffee or tea, decaf is the way to go with at least 97% of the caffeine taken out by the various processes of decaffeination

Another caffeine consideration is that it makes you pee and you risk dehydration from drinking too much regular tea or coffee. Apart from keeping hydrated, you’ll be glad you cut down or quit later on, because if there’s one thing I remember from pregnancy after the first trimester it was a more or less constant march to the bathroom. Nearly all women experience this more as baby grows and the uterus pushes on the bladder.

If you read that and are adamant that you want no caffeine, do what I did and discover the huge range of delicious fruit and herbal teas that have no caffeine in them at all. Some of them may even help with some of the less-pleasant sides of pregnancy like sore tummies or difficulty getting comfortable for sleep. 

Try decaf when you try for a baby

If you are trying to get pregnant, it might be worth easing off on the caffeine beforehand, because there are a few temporary withdrawal effects of a sudden cut in caffeine. Mostly, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches, fatigue, and irritability. It may be hard to separate some of these symptoms from some of non-caffeine-related side-effects of pregnancy itself, so you might find that herbal tea is the way forward and kill two birds with one stone.

Breast feeding and decaf

The first thing I saw after I enjoyed some skin-to-skin with my eldest, was a steaming cup of tea which I drank while my partner held her. After a few weeks, it was clear she was having trouble sleeping and, of course, that meant I was too. The health visitor advised me to drink less tea and coffee as caffeine finds its way into breast milk and some infants are affected by it. If that sounds like your new family’s situation, you should try what I tried and go decaf. It helped putting her down for sleeps – I was much less ‘wired’ and baby was the same.Caffeine is the world’s most common and popular mind-altering drug. It’s relatively mild and often does no harm in moderation for those who can tolerate it. Your baby, however, is likely to be much more sensitive to its effects than you are. Fortunately there are many options for reducing your caffeine intake by a huge amount and even cutting it out altogether.

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