Caffeine During Pregnancy Lowers Baby Birth Weight
February 20, 2013

Just A Cup Of Joe A Day For Pregnant Women Lowers Infant Birth Weight

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to a new study published in BMC Medicine, laying off caffeine is one more thing you could do during pregnancy to ensure that your baby doesn't have a low birth weight.

After studying information about mother's diet and birth details in 10 years worth of data, researchers found that caffeine is not only linked to a low birth weight but caffeine specifically derived from coffee is also linked to an increased length of pregnancy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests a limit of 300mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy, but some countries recommend a limit of 200mg, which is less than a single cup of coffee from most cafes.

A team of researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Public Health tracked almost 60,000 pregnancies for their study, excluding women with medical and pregnancy-related conditions. All sources of caffeine were monitored during the study, including coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and even some foods like chocolate.

"Although caffeine consumption is strongly correlated with smoking which is known to increase the risk for both preterm delivery and the baby being small for gestational age at birth (SGA)," said Dr Verena Sengpiel, from Sweden´s Sahlgrenska University Hospital. "In this study we found no association between either total caffeine or coffee caffeine and preterm delivery but we did find an association between caffeine and SGA."

She says the association remained even when they considered non-smoking mothers, which indicates that the caffeine itself is having an effect on birth weight.

They found that caffeine from all sources tended to reduce birth weight. For a child with an expected average birth weight of 7.9 pounds, the infant´s birth weight decreased by between 0.7 and 0.9 ounces per 100 mg of caffeine consumed by the mother per day.

While the specific source of the caffeine did not appear to influence birth weight, it did have an effect on other pregnancy outcomes, said the researchers. Caffeine from all sources increased the total length of pregnancy by an average of 5 hours per 100 mg caffeine per day. However, caffeine from coffee increased the length of pregnancy by 8 hours for every 100 mg of caffeine per day.

Infants with a low birth weight are at a higher risk of both short-term and lifelong health problems. Because researchers saw a decrease in birth weight at 100 mg, they say that the current recommendation of 200 to 300 mg of caffeine may need to be reevaluated.

Just recently researchers published a groundbreaking study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives detailing how pollution is linked to low birth weights.

“In the United States, we have shown over the last several decades that the benefits to health and wellbeing from reducing air pollution are far greater than the costs,” said co-principal investigator Tracey J. Woodruff, who is also director of Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment Department at the University of California. “This is a lesson that all nations can learn from.”