Caffeine linked to low birth weight babies

February 18, 2013

Maternal nutrition is important to a developing embryo and to the health of the child later in life. Supplementing the diet with specific vitamins is known to increase health of the foetus for example folic acid (vitamin B9) reduces the risk of spina bifida. However not everything an adult might consume is beneficial to a developing baby. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine shows that caffeine is linked to low birth weight babies and that caffeine from coffee in linked to increasing length of pregnancy.

Along with nutrients and oxygen, feely passes the placental barrier, but the developing embryo does not express the enzymes required to inactivate it efficiently. The WHO currently suggests a limit of 300mg per day during pregnancy but some countries recommend a limit of 200mg, which can be less than a single cup of coffee from some high street cafes.

To investigate the impact of maternal caffeine during pregnancy on babies, a research team from the Norwegian Institute for Public Health used information about mother's diet and birth details collected over ten years. After excluding women with medical and pregnancy-related conditions almost 60,000 pregnancies were included in the study. All sources of caffeine were monitored in the study: coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, as well as food including cocoa-containing cakes and deserts and chocolate.

Explaining their results, Dr Verena Sengpiel, from Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden, who led the project said, "Although caffeine consumption is strongly correlated with smoking which is known to increase the risk for both and the baby being small for at birth (SGA). 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. This association remained even when we looked only at non-smoking mothers which implies that the caffeine itself is also having an effect on ."

In fact they found that caffeine from all sources reduced birth weight. For a child of expected average weight (3.6kg) this equates to 21-28g lost per 100mg caffeine per day. But it was not just caffeine, but the source of caffeine, which affected pregnancy outcomes. Caffeine from all sources increased the length of the pregnancy by 5hr per 100mg caffeine per day, but caffeine intake from coffee was associated with an even longer gestational length - 8hr extra for every 100mg caffeine per day.

This association means that it is not just the caffeine in coffee which increases gestational length but either there must be a substance in coffee which is responsible for the extra time or there is a behaviour associated with coffee drinking not present in women who drink only tea (for example). SGA babies are at higher risk of both short term and lifelong health problems and it seems from these results that since even 200-300mg caffeine per day can increase the risk of SGA by almost a third these recommendations need to be re-evaluated.

Explore further: Can consuming caffeine while breastfeeding harm your baby?

More information: BMC Medicine 2013, 11:42

Related Stories

Can consuming caffeine while breastfeeding harm your baby?

February 21, 2012
Babies are not able to metabolize or excrete caffeine very well, so a breastfeeding mother's consumption of caffeine may lead to caffeine accumulation and symptoms such as wakefulness and irritability, according to an interview ...

Prenatal caffeine intake not linked to children's behavior

July 9, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Maternal prenatal caffeine intake is not associated with behavior problems in young children, according to a study published online July 9 in Pediatrics.

Coffee, caffeine not linked to psoriasis in U.S. women

March 21, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Coffee and caffeine are not associated with psoriasis incidence after adjustment for smoking, according to a research letter published in the March issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Caffeine improves recognition of positive words

November 7, 2012
Caffeine perks up most coffee-lovers, but a new study shows a small dose of caffeine also increases their speed and accuracy for recognizing words with positive connotation. The research published November 7 in the open access ...

Recommended for you

Study shows a significant ongoing decline in sperm counts of Western men

July 25, 2017
In the first systematic review and meta-analysis of trends in sperm count, researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ...

Women exposed to smoke while in womb more likely to miscarry

July 13, 2017
Women exposed to cigarette smoke while in their mothers' wombs are more likely to experience miscarriage as adults, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

Lack of a hormone in pregnant mice linked to preeclampsia

June 30, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Singapore, the Netherlands and Turkey has isolated a hormone in pregnant mice that appears to be associated with preeclampsia—a pregnancy-related condition characterized by ...

Aspirin reduces risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

June 28, 2017
Taking a low-dose aspirin before bed can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth and, in extreme cases, maternal and foetal death.

The biology of uterine fluid: How it informs the fetus of mom's world

June 22, 2017
A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother's uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, ...

New clues in puzzle over pre-eclampsia and cholesterol regulation

June 21, 2017
Scientists studying a mystery link between the dangerous pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia and an increased risk of heart disease in later life for both mother and child have uncovered important new clues.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.