July 22, 2010

Pregnant Women OK To Drink Some Caffeine

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Thursday that a cup of coffee a day during pregnancy probably would not increase a woman's risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

Studies have had conflicting findings, until recently, about the effect of moderate caffeine consumption on pregnancy complications.

But, "I think it's time to comfortably say that it's okay to have a cup of coffee during pregnancy," Dr. William Barth, the chair of a College committee that reviewed the evidence, told Reuters Health.

The College's Committee of Obstetric Practice said that 200 milligrams of caffeine a day does not significantly contribute to miscarriages or premature births.  That definition of "moderate caffeine consumption" would also include drinking 8-ounce cups of tea or over 12-ounce cans of soda each day.

The committee also said the evidence was not clear on whether consuming over 200mg of caffeine a day would increase pregnancy risks.

The group observed results from two recent studies that each followed a group of 1,000 pregnant women.  Dr. David Savitz of The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York led one of those studies that did not find an increased rate of miscarriages for women who consumed low, moderate, or high levels of caffeine at different points in their pregnancy.

Dr. De-Kun Li and his colleagues at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland performed the other study that found a higher risk of miscarriages in women who consumed over 200 mg of caffeine per day, but not extra risk at lower levels.

The committee also pointed to two other studies where results showed a mother's moderate caffeine intake did not effect whether the baby came prematurely.

Research has shown that caffeine is able to cross the placenta, which led to worries that it could cause miscarriage or premature births. 

"It's not inert, it does have drug-like properties," Savitz, who was not involved in producing the guidelines, told Reuters Health. And, he said, "It justifiably deserves a close look because it's so widely used."

About 16 percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in miscarriage and about 12 percent of babies are born prematurely.

Barth said that previous studies were mixed and unclear about the link between caffeine and pregnancy risks.  He said it was the new findings from large groups of women that allowed the committee to feel confident that moderate caffeine intake was safe, and "try to bring some conclusion to the subject."

Savitz told Reuters that the committee statement is in line with the belief that caffeine is "not an all-or-nothing sort of thing."  He said that while some women may choose to cut out caffeine altogether during pregnancy, others might care a lot about that daily cup of coffee and just try to cut back a little

Li said that while the committee's report is balanced, he would recommend staying on the safe side.

Savitz told Reuters that the committee's opinion could help women make choices during pregnancy. 

"It's not either shocking or alarmist or changing radically what we thought before," he said. "But sometimes I think it's important for authoritative groups to issue these kinds of statements. I think it can be a helpful guideline to physicians and I also think it can be helpful to women themselves."


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