The latest research on caffeine taken during pregnancy or in the pre-conception period (when looking for a baby) suggests that avoid caffeine, despite the guidelines allow for a maximum limit of 200 mg per day.
Can caffeine be consumed during pregnancy?
Expectant mothers, also due to the fatigue that pregnancy entails especially in the first months, would like to wake up and get going in the morning with a good coffee (provided that it has not gone out of favor due to nausea).
On the topic caffeine in pregnancy the debate is very open and the studies follow one another frenetic and more and more updated.
The World Health Organization recommends pregnant women drink less than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, while the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and our Ministry of Health suggest no more 200 milligrams per day.
Caffeine is contained not only in coffee but also in tea and cocoa as well as in drinks with this substance added.
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which looked at 941 births in Ireland, women who consume caffeine during pregnancy have more likely to have younger than average babies at birth or to have premature births.
And this too if you follow these guidelines recommended of a maximum of 200 mg per day.
In fact, it has been seen that for every additional 100 milligrams of caffeine taken per day, during the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a reduction of 70 grams in the weight of the baby at birth. Women who took caffeine towards the maximum threshold (200 mg) had babies, at birth, who weighed about 170 grams less than those who ate very little coffee or tea.
In the study it was found that not only weight but also the height and circumference of the head were affected, as well as the gestational age in which the birth took place.
“High caffeine intake can cause limited blood flow in the placenta which can subsequently affect the growth of the fetus“Study lead author Ling-Wei Chen explained in an interview. “Caffeine can cross the placenta quickly, and as caffeine clearance slows as pregnancy progresses, accumulation of caffeine in fetal tissues can occur.“.
(NB: by simplifying clearance, we mean the time it takes our body to dispose of the caffeine in the circulation).
The study authors believe that many women are unaware that some teas have a considerable amount of caffeine, and some black teas, for example, may contain nearly as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Until the guidelines are updated according to the evidence of the new studies, we would like to recommend that you minimize the caffeine you introduce daily through coffee, tea or foods that contain it.
No caffeine in the preconception phase?
A further study published in August 2020 in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine concludes that both pregnant women and those seeking a baby, they should completely avoid caffeine.
Caffeine occurs naturally in some foods and drinks, such as tea, coffee, and chocolate. It is also added to some energy drinks, some cold and flu remedies, and some soft drinks.
The research, by Professor Jack James, of the University of Reykjavik in Iceland, involved the analysis of 48 published studies on the subject and, according to the author, provides evidence of the increased risk from maternal caffeine consumption for at least five main negative outcomes:
- perinatal death
- low birth weight
- acute childhood leukemia
- childhood overweight and obesity.
According to prof. James “current health recommendations regarding caffeine consumption during pregnancy need a radical overhaul. “
Daghni Rajasingham, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, of different opinion, said: “The findings of this study add to the vast body of evidence that supports limited caffeine intake during pregnancy, but pregnant women do not need to completely eliminate caffeine. as this research suggests.
As the study notes, high levels of caffeine during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and to babies who have a low birth weight, can lead to excess weight gain during the baby’s early years, which can increase the risk of health problems later in life.
However, other research – potentially more reliable – has concluded that pregnant women do not need to completely eliminate caffeine because these risks are extremely low, even if recommended caffeine limits are exceeded.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ advice is to limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day. This study does not replace all other evidence that found limited caffeine intake to be safe for most pregnant women.to “.
Of the same non-alarmist opinion Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak, a pharmacist at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Interviewed by the BBC he stated that Prof. James’s research paper was “overly alarmist” and inconsistent with the accepted evidence, stating that “women should be reassured that caffeine can be consumed in moderation during pregnancy“.
Basically, given the conflicting opinions, the watchword is caution.
Ling-Wei Chen, Roisin Fitzgerald, Celine M Murrin, John Mehegan, Cecily C Kelleher, Catherine M Phillips, Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study,Associations of maternal caffeine intake with birth outcomes: results from the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqy219, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy219 Published: 19 October 2018
Ministry of Health: http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_opuscoliPoster_261_alnex.pdf
James JE, Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-beBMJ Evidence-Based Medicine Published Online First: 25 August 2020. doi: 10.1136 / bmjebm-2020-111432