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How many times have you heard or said, "I can't function without my coffee in the morning?" Caffeine, a stimulant that occurs naturally in some plants such as coffee, tea, and cocoa, is the agent responsible for this "wake up" effect. Caffeine effects the central nervous system and in excess it may cause miscarriage, birth defects, and behavioral changes in your baby. In addition, caffeine can make it more difficult to deal with stress, a common feature of pregnancy. High levels of stress during pregnancy may also be linked to birth defects.

The average per capita consumption of caffeine is 200 milligrams (mg) per day and 144 mg per day in pregnant women. With this level of consumption, current evidence suggests no observable effect of caffeine on normal growth and development. However, at levels equivalent to just 5 cups of coffee per day, about 650 mg caffeine, it has been linked to increased rates of miscarriage and stillbirths. At higher levels, caffeine has been associated with decreased growth, birth defects such as cleft palate, and subtle but lasting behavioral changes.

If you do not normally consume caffeine, during pregnancy is not a good time to start. Women who have a history of miscarriage should try to avoid or strictly limit caffeine to even lower daily consumption. In addition, reducing your stress levels can improve the odds of successful and healthy pregnancy.

If you need to cut down on caffeine, you should know that withdrawal symptoms of headache and fatigue can occur. Cutting back gradually over 2 to 4 weeks can help to minimize this problem.

Caffeine Content of Selected Foods and Beverages
Coffee (per 6 oz.) mg
Drip 175
Percolated 131
Instant 79
Decaffeinated 5
Tea (per 6 oz.) mg
5 minute brew 59
1 minute 36
Cocoa, Chocolate (per 6 oz.) 11
Ovaltine 0
Chocolate (per 1 oz.) mg
Baking chocolate 68
Sweet chocolate 45
Milk chocolate 20
Soft drinks (per 12 oz.) mg
Coca-Cola 65
Dr. Pepper 61
Mountain Dew 55
Tab 49
Diet Rite 32
Gingerale, Grape 0
Rootbeer, 7-up 0
Orange, Pepsi Free 0
Medications (per pill) mg
Vivarin 200
No Doz 100
Weight Control Aids 66-200
Cope, Midol, Anacin 33
Dristan, Sinarest 30

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