Coffee is a popular caffeinated drink known for its energy-boosting and stimulating effects.
However, pregnant women may prefer to reduce or eliminate caffeine to avoid potential health risks.
Decaf coffee is a popular alternative that can provide the taste of coffee without the high amount of caffeine.
Yet decaf coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine, which may lead some women to wonder whether it’s safe to drink during pregnancy.
This article tells you all you need to know about decaf coffee and pregnancy.
Caffeine and pregnancy
Caffeine is a stimulant found in various plants, including coffee, cocoa, and guarana, which may have positive effects on neurological conditions, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
However, caffeine is broken down more slowly during pregnancy and can cross the placenta, entering the growing baby’s bloodstream — where it cannot be broken down.
Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, some studies have associated a high caffeine intake during pregnancy with low birth weight, growth restriction, miscarriage, and a higher risk of excess weight during childhood.
Yet, the exact relationship of caffeine to adverse pregnancy outcomes is still an active area of research, and its effects may vary significantly between individuals.
Given the current level of knowledge, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine from all sources per day.
One cup (240 mL) of brewed black regular coffee contains 96 mg of caffeine. Therefore, most guidelines recommend limiting regular coffee intake to about 2 cups (475 mL) per day.
Summary: Caffeine is a stimulant found in various plants, including coffee, cocoa, and guarana. A high caffeine intake may be associated with some adverse birth outcomes, so it’s recommended that pregnant women restrict caffeine to 200 mg per day.
How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?
“Decaf” stands for “decaffeinated” and refers to coffee with at least 97% of the caffeine removed from the beans during processing.
Although most of the caffeine is removed, a tiny amount remains.
A brewed cup (240 mL) of decaf coffee contains about 2.4 mg of caffeine, and a decaf espresso (60 mL) about 0.6 mg.
Compare this to the amount of caffeine found in other food and drinks:
- Regular espresso: 127 mg per 2-ounce (60-mL) serving
- Regular brewed coffee: 96 mg per 8-ounce (240-mL) serving
- Dark chocolate: 80 mg per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving
- Energy drinks: 72 mg per 8-ounce (240-mL) serving
- Brewed black tea: 47 mg per 8-ounce (240-mL) serving
- Cola: 33 mg per 12-ounce (355-mL) serving
- Hot chocolate: 7 mg per 8-ounce (240-mL) serving
The amount of caffeine in decaf coffee is minimal compared to other caffeine-containing products.
However, it’s important to note that some commercial decaffeinated coffee may have higher amounts of caffeine. For example, one study found that commercial decaf coffee harbored up to almost 14 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce (475-mL) serving.
While these amounts are still small, if you drink a lot of decaf coffee or consume other caffeine-containing products, it may be a good idea to double-check the caffeine content of the type you buy.
Summary: Decaf coffee contains 2.4 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce (240-mL) cup. This is significantly less than what is found in regular coffee and other sources of caffeine, such as dark chocolate, energy drinks, tea, and cola.
How much decaf coffee is safe during pregnancy?
There are no official guidelines on decaffeinated coffee and pregnancy.
Nonetheless, the very low amounts of caffeine in decaf coffee make it most likely safe to drink in moderation during pregnancy.
However, some assert that decaf coffee increases the risk of miscarriage.
Suggested read: What is caffeine, and is it good or bad for health?
Most of these claims appear to be based on a 1997 study, which found that women who drank three or more cups (710+ mL) of decaf coffee during the first trimester of pregnancy had a 2.4 higher risk of miscarriage than women who drank none.
One 2018 study had similar findings.
Still, it’s important to note that the studies’ authors stated that the results were likely due to a bias within the study data set — not the decaf coffee itself.
Therefore, replacing your morning cup of coffee with decaf should not cause concern.
If you wish to avoid caffeine entirely during pregnancy, choose caffeine-free hot drinks like pregnancy-safe herbal and fruit teas, hot water with lemon and honey, golden milk, and alcohol-free mulled cider.
Summary: Although no official guidelines exist for decaf coffee during pregnancy, it’s likely safe in moderation because the amounts of caffeine are minimal.
Decaf coffee is coffee that has been processed to remove 97% of the caffeine content.
It’s recommended that pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day to reduce the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and growth restriction.
Decaf coffee contains only a minimal amount of caffeine, with 2.4 mg in an average brewed cup (240 mL). Therefore, it’s most likely fine to drink in moderation during pregnancy.
However, if you prefer to consume no caffeine, you would be better off sticking to completely caffeine-free alternatives, such as some pregnancy-safe herbal teas.