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Women give up a lot during pregnancy: sleep, alcohol, comfort, their entire midsections. Some women give up half the foods they normally eat. Others give up mobility altogether (bed rest, anyone?). But there is one thing I refuse to give up entirely:
Coffee. The nectar of the gods.
When I’m not pregnant, I drink a pretty large amount of caffeine, probably the equivalent of three cups of coffee/day (between tea and coffee). When I’m pregnant, I don’t go above two cups/day. I have one in the morning, always, and maybe a black iced tea in the afternoon.
And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about it.
In fact, I’m always a little surprised when I hear women complaining about total coffee deprivation, mainly because it just isn’t necessary. While excessive caffeine intake has been linked in some studies (in others no link has been found) to miscarriage, the current “rule” is that it’s safe to consume up to two cups of coffee a day (source).
While I have, overall, adhered to this guideline, there have been days when three cups of coffee and an iced tea were the only way I got through. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about that either. Why? Well, because these studies and rules are not perfect, and while it’s good to be “safe rather than sorry,” it’s also good to be reasonable.
In the words of economist Emily Oster, who wrote a brilliant article in The Wall Street Journal called “Take back your pregnancy,” the negative effects (due to literally contradictory studies) “have not been proven. In the end, randomized experiments are difficult or impossible, and women who drink coffee tend to be different from those who don't. One big issue is that older women tend to drink more coffee, and age and miscarriage are closely linked” (source).
In other words, these studies lead to a body of knowledge and ever-evolving guidelines, but I just don’t believe it’s necessary to drop all caffeine (unless you want to).
I think we should research the data and weigh the options ourselves, with our own brains, balanced with our own experience. At some point it seems that we should just be reasonable: drink one or two cups of coffee/day. Occasionally have more (if you really need it).
Maybe don’t drink as much during the first 12 weeks, when the risk of miscarriage is higher. Don't be crazy.
Ultimately, I agree with Ms. Oster completely: "[Pregnant women] don't want categorical limits based on fuzzy science and half-baked research. They want to assess risks for themselves and make their own best decisions” (source).
And enjoy a cup of coffee.