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Can Drinking Caffeine During Pregnancy Decrease Birth Weight Of The Baby?

Coffee consumption is quite high in the United States. In fact, pregnant females drink at least one cup of coffee daily. What many pregnant females ask their gynecologists is that whether consuming coffee or other forms of caffeine has any effect on the fetus. For this a study was done to check the association of caffeine on pregnancy of a female. The study was aimed at looking at the risk of preterm delivery and birth weight. The main source of caffeine in these females was found to be coffee but some females consumed tea or chocolate as well.[1]

This was an exhaustive study with data from more than 50,000 females who consumed caffeine during pregnancy was analyzed. Especially the data during the 17, 22, and 30th week of pregnancy was studied the most.[1] The association of caffeine intake and the birth weight of the baby born is what that has been discussed in the article below.

Can Drinking Caffeine During Pregnancy Decrease Birth Weight Of The Baby?

Studies show that there is a clear association between caffeine consumption in pregnant females and low birth weight of the babies. This link has been based on research studies and has been published in the journal named BMC medicine. The research also suggests that there is also an increase in the gestational period due to consumption of caffeine during pregnancy.[2]

In the journal, it is mentioned that during the development stage of the embryo it is vital for the mother-to-be to have adequate nutrition for a healthy baby. This becomes important as many adults do not pay much heed to their diet and what they consume during pregnancy that may harm not only their health but the health of the fetus as well. Caffeine is one such drink that many pregnant females have. This drink is able to pass easily through the placental barrier like oxygen and other nutrients.[2]

However, caffeine unlike other nutrients affects the fetus and causes health concerns for the baby. It has been the recommendation of the World Health Organization that pregnant females should not consume more than 300 mg of caffeine every day. A normal cup of coffee contains around 200 mg of caffeine. This means that these females should not consume more than one medium sized cup of coffee on a daily basis.[2]

Regarding the effects of caffeine on pregnancy and the fetus, a research was carried out by Norwegian Institute for Public Health Data from about 60,000 pregnant females was analyzed. The information collected was about the daily diet of the female and the birth details over a period of the last 10 years. Data about consumption of caffeine through different sources like coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks was also collected.[2]

The researchers found out that there was a clear association between caffeine consumption and decreased gestational age at birth meaning that the baby was small when compared to its gestational age and having low birth weight. This finding was regardless of other factors like smoking and alcohol consumption. This proved that caffeine was the main culprit at play here.[2]

The team of the researchers states that even though smoking is the primary cause for various birth defects but the study clearly showed a clear association between caffeine and low birth weight. This was proved by analyzing the data of nonsmokers who consumed caffeine and has babies with low birth weight. The study showed that aside from low birth weight, the gestational period of the female was also significantly increased.[2]

It was observed that for every 100 mg of caffeine consumed during pregnancy the birth weight spiraled down by about 21 grams and there was a significant increase in the gestational period by around 5 hours. If only coffee was considered as a source of caffeine intake then the gestation period increased by more than 8 hours which is quite high.[2]

Children with low birth weight carried a risk for various health problems later on in life according to the study. This shows that the recommendations of the WHO in consumption of 300 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy needs a revision and made significantly less. There was another study conducted on the effects of caffeine on the fetus. This study was done on mouse model and it showed that drinking two cups of caffeine every day increased the chances of the baby having heart problems later on in life which may persist throughout the life of the child.[2]

In conclusion, caffeine consumption is quite common in pregnant female. However, very little do many females know that it may affect the overall health of the fetus. Studies have clearly established a link between caffeine and low birth weight and increased gestational period. The data was analyzed of over 60,000 females who drank caffeine during pregnancy. This happens because the fetus is not able inactivate the caffeine when it passes through the placental barrier unlike other nutrients.[2]

This is the reason why the WHO has recommended not more than 300 mg of caffeine every day for pregnant females. That being said, the research shows that every 100 mg of caffeine can decrease the birth weight by around 21 g which contradicts what the WHO states and calls for a revision. Thus it is recommended for pregnant females to avoid caffeine consumption, especially coffee and chocolate which has high concentrations of caffeine, till the time they deliver for a normal and healthy baby.[2]


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 11, 2019

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