- Current guidelines recommend limiting your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day if you are pregnant.
- Research suggests that caffeine intake is unlikely to increase your risk of gestational diabetes.
- Additional research shows that moderate caffeine intake may even be associated with a lower risk of the condition.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy. An estimated 2-10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected annually by gestational diabetes.
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are some diet changes you can implement to help manage your blood sugar levels.
Though research is mixed on whether or not caffeine may help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, the most recent evidence suggests that it may be safe to drink coffee in moderation if you have the condition.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling to help you meet your blood sugar and gestational diabetes needs. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can occur in a pregnant person who did not have diabetes prior to becoming pregnant. It occurs when the body is unable to make enough insulin during pregnancy. With inadequate insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar levels.
The condition usually surfaces during the middle of pregnancy and often causes no symptoms, which is why doctors often test for the condition between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can pose potential risks for your baby. These risks include:
- A higher birth weight (9 pounds or more)—which may increase labor and delivery complications.
- Preterm birth, which is also associated with certain complications.
- Increased risk of low blood sugar at birth.
- Increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) during embryonic development.
Most often, gestational diabetes goes away on its own after the delivery of your baby.
But having gestational diabetes can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
In fact, roughly 50% of people with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes after the birth of their baby, which is why it’s important to get your blood sugar tested regularly after having gestational diabetes.
Can I Drink Coffee While Pregnant?
Most evidence suggests that drinking moderate amounts of coffee while pregnant is safe.
The maximum recommended caffeine consumption during pregnancy is less than 200 mg per day, or the equivalent of one 12-ounce cup of regular coffee.
Decaf coffee, on the other hand, can have as little as 2 mg of caffeine per cup.
Despite some studies that indicate it is safe, a recent analysis suggests moderate caffeine intake while pregnant (less than 200 mg per day) may be associated with lower birth weights and limited growth throughout childhood.
More research is needed to better understand the relationship between moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy and possible risks to the fetus and child.
Can I Drink Coffee with Gestational Diabetes?
According to current guidelines, people with gestational diabetes can drink coffee following the same recommendations as other pregnant people: no more than 200 mg of caffeine (including coffee and from other sources like energy drinks and chocolate) per day.
A study also shows that moderate caffeine intake from coffee and tea was not associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes.
Effect of Caffeine on Gestational Diabetes
Caffeine affects people differently. For most healthy adults, caffeine may not affect blood sugar levels.
But if you have gestational diabetes or another form of diabetes, some data show that caffeine may increase blood sugar levels and extend the period of time blood sugar levels remain high. However, more research is needed to understand the effect caffeine may have on the body in someone with gestational diabetes.
In addition to increasing blood sugar and making it harder to bring down blood sugar levels, caffeine may pose additional risks to people with gestational diabetes, including:
- Increase in blood pressure levels: According to the American Heart Association, caffeine can raise blood pressure, which may pose a risk for people who may already experience high blood pressure levels as a result of gestational diabetes.
- Increase in cortisol levels: Caffeine can increase cortisol levels in the blood. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can increase insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, which can put you at a higher risk of diabetes complications.
Though evidence is mixed, one cohort study of nearly 3,000 pregnant people found that low-to-moderate caffeine consumption in the second trimester was associated with a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Tips for Drinking Coffee Safely with Gestational Diabetes
Reducing caffeine consumption is recommended for anyone in pregnancy, including those with gestational diabetes. But people with gestational diabetes should also be mindful of the kind of coffee they drink and its potential effects on their blood sugar levels.
The best types of coffee for gestational diabetes will include coffee with little or no added sugars.
Because added sugars can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, it’s best to stick to black coffee or coffee with milk or a milk alternative, such as unsweetened almond milk. If you desire sweetness in your coffee, you may choose non-nutritive sweeteners that won’t impact your blood sugar, such as stevia or monk fruit.
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, Nourish can connect you with a Registered Dietitian specialized in diabetes management. If you need help optimizing your diet, consider booking a virtual appointment today.
Coffee Alternatives for Gestational Diabetes
If you’ve been advised to skip coffee and caffeine altogether, or if you want to try eliminating coffee from your diet while pregnant, there are some alternatives you can consider.
Many types of tea contain less caffeine than regular coffee. For example, an eight-ounce cup of green tea contains roughly half the amount of caffeine as the same size cup of regular coffee, or about 28 mg.
In fact, one study suggests that the consumption of green tea and its polyphenol, epigallocatechin gallate, may help lower the risks of neural tube defects associated with gestational diabetes.
Herbal teas, including chamomile, mint, and ginger teas, are a caffeine-free alternative to coffee or green tea. However, it is often best to discuss with your healthcare team if it is okay for you to drink certain herbal teas while pregnant.
Water (including carbonated or unflavored water) is an excellent, hydrating alternative to coffee for people with gestational diabetes.
Though the condition doesn’t often cause symptoms, some people with gestational diabetes may feel excessively thirsty. If you’re experiencing increased thirst while pregnant with gestational diabetes, consider increasing your water intake.
Other non-sweetened beverages
In general, you may want to consider drinking beverages with no carbohydrates or added sugars if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Choosing beverages without added sugars or carbohydrates won’t increase your blood sugar levels, which can cause adverse effects for people with gestational diabetes. Examples of these alternatives include:
- Flavored water (no added sugar).
- Fruit or herb-infused water (like those that include lemon or mint).
- Unsweetened iced tea bottled drinks.
- Zero-calorie sports drinks.
- Diet sodas.
Though more research is needed to determine the effects of caffeine on gestational diabetes, guidelines suggest that people with gestational diabetes can drink up to 200 mg of caffeine per day.
But, it is best not to consume more than that. People with gestational diabetes should consider monitoring their blood sugar levels often, as well as their intake of drinks and foods that can spike their blood sugar levels after consumption.
In addition to monitoring your diet and making changes to what you eat and drink, engaging in regular physical activity can also help to keep blood sugar levels low when you have gestational diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regularly engaging in moderately-intense activities, like brisk walking, to help keep you and your baby healthy.
Managing Gestational Diabetes with an RD
Pregnancy can be a worrying time for many people, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like gestational diabetes.
But having gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you have to give up on all of the foods and drinks you enjoy, including coffee.
In many cases, making certain adjustments to your diet can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Working with a specialist can help you understand what dietary changes to make to reduce you and your baby’s risk of health complications.
Book an appointment with Nourish and see a registered dietitian through your insurance.
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