Bump Alert: Embracing Coffee Moderation, Confronting My Addiction and Rediscovering Coffee

Several months ago I had to cut my coffee consumption way back. Though, on any normal day, I drink 4 to 6 cups a day, for the first few months of my pregnancy, I had to cut back, because according to the medical literature, coffee is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.

In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2007, 1063 women were followed by Dr. De-Kun Li and his colleagues. Their goal: determine whether there was a correlation between coffee intake and miscarriage. Women were divided into three categories: no caffeine; some caffeine, but less than 200 mg per day, and consumption of more than 200 mg per day. The miscarriage rate among the 200 mg-plus group was 25%, compared with 12% for the non-caffeine drinkers. So it seems that 200mg, or two cups, is the safety threshold. Note that the results were adjusted to take into consideration other risk factors.

For a long time, I was in deep denial about the correlation between drinking a lot of coffee and facing an increased risk of miscarriage. But I wasn't pregnant then. I also could not imagine that the very smell of coffee could send paroxysms of displeasure down my spine. So counterintuitive! But then, quite a bit about pregnancy is counterintuitive and quite honestly, not at all fun. Though the entire thing is quite worth it.

During the time I couldn’t drink coffee, I missed it and all of the paraphernalia that goes with it. I missed the hissing brew and the chugging of the coffee. I missed the morning ritual--- trying to decide between an oversize glass mug with blue appliqué flowers, or the mug from Mystic Seaport with an image of a seaman drinking an oily cup of hardcore 19th century java.

Because I have spent the past 5 years tracking the medical benefits of coffee, on one level I felt less healthy because I was not drinking it. I know, based on the data, that coffee significantly decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease and depression. Coffee is full of health-bestowing chlorogenic acids.

Coffee has always been my favorite antidepressant. Mornings can be hard, and coffee is a trusted antidote. It works. Not all at once, but like a stealth bomber. Lying in bed in the morning, the list of things to do can seem overwhelming and completely discouraging, but coffee uncovers ambition for the quotidian. Coffee makes it possible to move forward and get everything done.

In contrast, coffee-free pregnancy felt like a prelude to death. A sad place without drive. I went approximately 1 week without any coffee. I became so completely de-energized that I existed like a vapor. When I came back to it, it was a very well considered decision. That is, the experts suggested that less than 200 mg per day (of caffeine) would be appropriate. That meant that 1 large steaming mug of coffee, with a little skim milk, would be safe. Less safe, I started to understand, was to consign myself to months of stunning depression and inactivity. Rather, it made sense to drink a much smaller than normal amount of coffee and feel better. And finally, I did.

So after a coffee-free week, I brewed myself a cup, and it was incredibly good. I was talking on the phone with a friend at that moment, explaining the depth of my depression.

“I would like it to end,” I said. “What?” he responded. “All of it,” I said. “I am sick of everything.” Then, between complaints, I mentioned, “By the way, I'm having a cup of coffee.”

“Good,” my friend said. Several moments passed—not minutes, but moments. “You know I am starting to feel better already,” I said more enthusiastically.

The conversation shifted away from my on-the-verge-of-wanting-to-die remarks to something different. Ambition and energy and a renewed sense of purpose---all thanks to the effects of coffee. Meaning, even if I have a bad morning, with lots of nausea, and whimpering on the sofa in despair and fatigue, in reality I can go to the gym. The gym always helps. Always.

Therefore, commitment to coffee and the gym---though definitely modulated and dialed back a bit during this pregnancy continued. Sometimes, less is more…


Anonymous said…
All i can say is WOW Nicole! i do enjoy receiving your newsletter. I love learing new stuff everyday and each one is better than the last!! Keep rocking!!! Long live Drinking Coffee All The Time!
Nicole Gray said…
Hey Luann!
Wow back at you. Being well caffeinated definitely makes us more productive and ambitious. You are the epitome of productivity, btw....a true coffee-drinking pro!
Anonymous said…

What you've described is both; very typical symptoms of Depression and an addictive dependency. Obviously you've recognized this in yourself.

I suggest that you consider taking a longer time without the coffee. During this time, perhaps keeping a journal would be helpful. Attempt to get along without your drug, even it makes you feel uncomfortable.

If, after a reasonable amount of time to condition yourself to alternatives, healthy alternatives, you still feel these symptoms of Depression or the feelings are worse, you should seriously consider talking to a professional.

This type of condition is completely curable. I'm fairly certain that you can operate on a high level and be productive and ambitious without your drug of choice.
Anonymous said…

Dateline Western Hemisphere, Earth...

I just picked up some Kicking Horse Coffee (visit them on the web) or Amazon (the website not the rainforest, although you may want to pop on down to the rainforest to see what all fuss is about).

It is certified Organic (no Ganic in there), and certified Fair Trade (whatever the hell that means, it certainly sounds as if it could be a good thing)!

There are several kinds available. I am firing up the 454 Horse Power blend in a few short hours. My crack team of brewmasters and baristas are silently plotting their tactics as I write this missive.

Soon, and by that I mean later, I will be basking in caffeine induced hyper-activity.

From Amazon (the website, not the place with all that rain), some reviews;

Pam Potter of Blaine, Wa. USA (Earth), writes; Yummy!

Cathy Shuhler of Bellingham, Wa. calls it; "a must try"!

Reports to follow...
Anonymous said…

Glad to hear of your knocked-upedness (sorry, it's not easy to keep up with phrases like; "paroxysms of displeasure").

May I suggest a name?

Since your child is likely to be born in the Year of the Dragon.
How about Bruce Lee Gray-Chan? B.L. was both born and died in the year of the Dragon as I'm sure you're well aware.

Or possibly, Juan Valdez Gray-Chan? The multi-cultural international coffee ramifications of such a name are simply mind-boggling!

Obviously, Dorian Gray-Chan is much too obvious. It would probably make you think twice about having a portrait done as well.

Earl Gray-Chan? No, no, no!

Hmmmm? Maybe these choices are too eclectic. How about Joe? You could have a cup 'o' Joe w/ Joe. Wait, I've got it! Java!!!!
Java Gray-Chan!, Yes!

Java, a name, a life-giving drink, AND a programming language! All bases covered. Java, that's it. I believe it means; grand, high, exalted mystic ruler in Dutch.


Alternatively, Flossie has nice ring to it and it would remind your progeny to take oral hygiene seriously.
Lisa D said…
Love coffee. Did not give up when pregnant, just cut back to 1 (okay sometimes 2 a day. Montclair still lacks a decent coffee shop though. Love the ritual of making my morning coffee - sometimes stovetop espresso and sometimes French press.
Nicole Gray said…
Very interesting comment stream. Thanks. Note that I am first and foremost a well-trained Medical Writer. I focus primarily on pharmaceutical marketing. We tend to know our way around the evidence (peer-reviewed clinical data)---because otherwise, the information I provide in conjunction with broader teams of people could compromise the health and well-being of people and compromise me professionally.

My entire stance is that coffee is good for you, so I have absolutely no interest in giving it up. I am, however, well aware of the evidence base---both positive (the vast majority) and negative (there is some data). In fact, I use evidence to promote pharmaceuticals, so am well aware of pharmacologic interventions. The pharmaceutical industry is wonderful and I am a fan---100%. For me, however, my drug of choice is coffee---and by extension I love being productive, making money and attaining all of the rewards that come with that.

Regarding names--we're having a girl and sticking with the Old Testament, but thanks for the ideas!
Anonymous said…
OK, Old Testament. Hmmmm?

Shay or Shai, meaning gift in Hebrew, or maybe...
Ariel or Ariella, meaning Lioness of God. Lioness of God! That's about right, that about covers it. Lioness of God.
Nicole Gray said…
Ariel has been discussed (I like that name!)---as has Giliah, Naomi, Isabel, Noa, and Micah. With the exception of Naomi, those names are gender-ambiguous. We will, of course, stick with Old Testament names, but we have no idea yet which way we will go.

I may need a cup of coffee to finalize my decision. I was at a service for a beloved family member yesterday at the Unitarian Church in DC and a woman said to me, "A child should come into this world with a name." Well said. I was moved by her words, but the secular humanity of those around me, and the jazz that resounded throughout the church.
Anonymous said…
Sorry to hear of your loss, every ending is new beginning.

Ariel, has certain beauty, a softness. I once knew a girl named Sharon and I absoulutely loved the sound of her name. A name needs to sound pleasing to ear.

Also, I think that one needs to anticipate that people may make one name into another, such as Giliah into Gil or Gilly or Nicole into Nicky-Wicky.

I once knew a guy with the last name; Hibbert, he became Bert, then Bertos, then Burnt Toast, then Toastaminos. Isabel is nice, but God only knows what that might turn into...Izzy, Bell, Bella-Stella!

By all means, coffee before deciding, just so it's not a super-size Mocha-Latte w/ a double Expresso shot, or you might end up naming the child Krakatoa in a geographic fit of pique.

P.S. If the next child is a boy, Javan (Java for short) is in the O.Testament.
Nicole Gray said…
Javan---who knew? What does that mean?

Becoming caffeinated to the point of naming our child Krakatoa would have so many downstream, not-good consequences. The budget set aside for Yale would have to be waylaid for all of the therapy bills.

I'll do the latte (skim) without the espresso shots...sometimes less is more....
Anonymous said…
Javan. I believe it means; "Jumping Elk," in Yiddish. Although, I am not multi-lingual, or "born to command," for that matter, as are some people.

Javan was the 4th son of Noah's son. That means he probably had to sit at a separate table on feast day.

I believe the Scripture reveals he (Javan) and the 5th son; Benny, were none too happy about the hand-me-downs. They and the 6th son; Morty, broke away from the family after the whole flood thing and settled in the Garment District.
Anonymous said…
Krakatoa is near Java, and you always want to be near Java, (not always near Joe, I'll grant you). Let's not quibble over Semantics.

My cousin named her child; Fern. Which, I think, tells you all you need to know about my cousin. Perhaps, a Frappuccino would have helped prevent this tragedy.
Anonymous said…
Yale, hmmmm?

While I'm a firm believer in; "anywhere but Princeton," Yale seems a long way from Wharton, if you get my drift. That Trump girl finished top of her class at Wharton and believe me, you don't want to tangle with that chick.

Perhaps, Paris-Sorbonne. Cambridge, maybe. You know Richard Feynman taught at Cal Tech. I think one must consider how many student uprisings have ocurred at a given institution and decide accordingly. There's nothing quite like burning someone in effigy to prepare a young mind.
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