US researchers said Monday they have conclusive proof to show that women who drink a lot of caffeine on a daily basis in the early months of pregnancy have an elevated risk of miscarriage, settling a longstanding debate over the issue. To be absolutely safe, expectant mothers should avoid caffeinated beverages of any kind during the first five months of pregnancy, the researchers said in a paper published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The study defined high intake as 200 milligrams or more a day, the equivalent of two 7.5 ounce cups of coffee or five twelve ounce cans of soda. In the study, women who ingested 200 milligrams of caffeine a day had twice the likelihood of miscarriage as those who abstained from caffeine.
Although more than a dozen studies have illustrated a link between caffeine and miscarriage, numbers from earlier research were likely distorted by the number of women who avoided caffeinated beverages early in pregnancy due to morning sickness but drank them in later months. Subjects in this study maintained a constant level of consumption throughout pregnancy.
Though the researchers believe that the first five months of pregnancy are the most vulnerable time for fetal development, they recommend women avoid caffeine throughout pregnancy. Regardless of trimester, caffeine freely crosses the placenta to the fetus, which is unable to process the stimulant. Because caffeine also temporarily narrows blood vessels, blood flow (and its inherent oxygen and nutrients) is reduced to the placenta. They stress that there is no “safe” dose of caffeine during pregnancy.
We here at MDA understand the lure of our good friend, Joe, and we’ve even sung his praises for the flavonoids he offers. (Not to leave out tea and cocoa: we love you too, guys. Soda, not so much. Sorry, Charlie.) But this study is a useful (albeit unpopular) wake-up call (pardon the pun) to expectant moms everywhere. As recently as a couple of years ago, doctors were largely still citing an older Danish study that suggested up to four cups of coffee a day was acceptable. It pays to be a skeptic!
What’s a gal to do without the extra motivation in the morning? Check out this week’s entry on “Natural Energy Elevators,” and talk to your doctor or midwife about your ideas for kick starting your day.