Should you limit or halt intake of caffeine during pregnancy? Some experts advise limiting caffeine consumption. Others say to stop taking caffeine altogether. After many years of study into the risk of caffeine during pregnancy, scientists are still divided. But all agree that pregnant women should have no more than moderate amounts of caffeine.
One scientific study found taking too much caffeine during pregnancy carries some risk. Another study found no risk of miscarriage. But why put the fetus in danger of birth defect or even miscarriage?
But experts advise limiting caffeine intake to less than 200 or 300 mg per day, or about the equivalent of a 12-ounce mug of coffee.
Caffeine stimulates the woman's heart to work harder and it raises blood pressure, both of which are advised against during pregnancy, says the American Pregnancy Association in an article on its website.
In addition, caffeine can enter the fetus through the placenta. Says the article:
Although you may be able to handle the amounts of caffeine you feed your body, your baby cannot. Your baby's metabolism is still maturing and cannot fully metabolize the caffeine. Any amount of caffeine can also cause changes in your baby's sleep pattern or normal movement pattern in the later stages of pregnancy. Remember, caffeine is a stimulant and can keep both you and your baby awake.
The Baby Center says because the fetus is still developing, it takes much longer for it to process this stimulating chemical. The mother may seem to process it normally, but the baby might take a long time to calm down.
The American Pregnancy Association says to keep in mind that caffeine is not just in coffee. It is in tea, chocolate, over-the-counter medications, soda and energy drinks.
Many studies on animals have found that caffeine can cause low-birth weight offspring, birth defects, premature labor and preterm delivery. Caffeine in animals also causes reduced fertility and other reproductive problems. Studies have not conclusively shown these problems in humans, but the association says it is better not to take the risk.
In humans, studies have found a link between high intake of caffeine a delay in conceiving children.
The American Pregnancy Association article states that two studies, both in 2008, found conflicting outcomes on miscarriage:
In one study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it was found that women who consume 200mg or more of caffeine daily are twice as likely to have a miscarriage as those who do not consume any caffeine.
In another study released by Epidemiology, there was no increased risk in women who drank a minimal amount of coffee daily (between 200-350mg per day.)
Due to conflicting conclusions from numerous studies, the March of Dimes states that until more conclusive studies are done, pregnant women should limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day. This is equal to about one 12 oz. cup of coffee.
Another study, reported on here in the Washington Post, looked at 3,439 children to determine if caffeine intake during pregnancy had any effect on their behavior. The study looked at coffee, tea and soft drinks only and did not include chocolate, energy drinks or medication. Also, the consumption of caffeine was assessed just once during the pregnancy and may have varied over the course of gestation.
The Post wrote:
The children's conduct was assessed at age 5 and included whether they exhibited emotional difficulties, had trouble interacting with peers, were hyperactive or inattentive or had general behavioral problems. Virtually no difference in conduct was found between children whose mothers had consumed the most caffeine and those who had consumed the least. In both groups, for instance, about 5 percent had emotional issues and 8 percent were hyperactive or inattentive.
The Post did note that women are told to limit caffeine intake because scientists have found it may increase miscarriage risk or cause or a fetus to grow more slowly than normal. Caffeine also may raise the fetusâ€™s heart rate. The Postpoints out that studies in humans have been contradictory, but studies in animals show caffeine does reach fetal brains and may affect behavior and even development.
The American Pregnancy Association issues a statement that says "Pregnant women should not consume ANY caffeine." Experts say moderate amounts of caffeine, that is 150 to 300 mg per day, have not been noted to effect pregnancy. But the association says it's better to speak to a doctor before trying any caffeine:
The less caffeine you consume, the better. Some experts say more than 150 mg of caffeine a day is too much, while others say more than 300 mg a day is too much.
Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is your safest course of action. If you must get your fix, it is best to discuss this with your health care provider to make the healthiest choice for you and your baby.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada, did an assessment of caffeine consumption during pregnancy. On its website, the college wrote:
Question I have a pregnant patient who experienced a miscarriage in the past and who has asked me whether her consumption of 2 cups of coffee per day could have caused it. What should I tell her?
Answer There are conflicting data on the fetal safety of dietary caffeine consumption during pregnancy, particularly at levels of 300 mg/d or greater. Although it is difficult to assess the risk of spontaneous abortion with caffeine consumption, most of the data do not suggest an increased risk of adverse pregnancy, fertility, or neurodevelopmental outcomes with caffeine consumption of 300 mg/d or less from all sources. Therefore, consumption of 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day is not expected to be a concern
You are dealing with the health or perhaps even the survival of your little baby. So maybe it's better to just forgo the caffeine altogether during pregnancy.
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