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Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy Linked to Low Birth Weight

Katlyn Joy |11, March 2013


Hold the coffee? According to a February 2013 study based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, caffeine has a significant impact on unborn babies.

According to the researchers, caffeine intake even below recommended limits resulted in increased risk of giving birth to a child with a lowered birth weight or being small for gestational age but not necessarily a decrease in length.

The researchers looked at data obtained from over 59,000 who had uncomplicated pregnancies, which meant resulting in only single live births, not multiples. The women self-reported their caffeine intake and were asked about their caffeine intake at weeks 17, 22 and 30 of their pregnancies.

Prior to pregnancy, the average caffeine intake level for the women in the study was at 126 milligrams a day. At week 17 the median caffeine level for the respondents was at 44 milligrams a day. By week 30 the level was at 62 mgs. a day for those in the study.

Researchers found no correlation between caffeine intake from any source and preterm delivery. However, the authors of the observational study found consistent results of lowered birth weight with caffeine consumption. They also found a connection between caffeine intake and being small for gestational age.

Caffeine from coffee but not other sources was found to result in marginally increased length in gestational duration or length of pregnancy.

The main source of caffeine intake in the pregnant women in the study was coffee. However, for those with lowered caffeine intake, the main sources were tea and chocolate.

The study could have an impact on recommendations for safe caffeine levels for pregnant women. According to the study even women who took in fewer than 300 mg. of caffeine a day on average had an increased risk of giving birth to a baby who was small for gestational age. The current maximum recommended level of caffeine in the US is 200 mg a day and for the World Health Organization the amount is 300 mg.

Researchers noted that babies were at risk of being born in the category of small for gestational age at the 200 to 300 mg a day caffeine intake level, but those increased odds were not seen in women who took in 0 to 50 mg. of caffeine a day.

Women of course should take results of any study with caution but should be encouraged to make healthy choices for both themselves and their babies. Erring on the side of caution is also a great idea, especially since you'll only be pregnant a relatively short time in your life. Consider caffeine-free versions of your favorite indulgences or go with another hot drink like herbal tea or hot water with lemon. Curb a sweet craving with some fruit and yogurt instead of chocolate for instance.

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