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Health & Pregnancy

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Some Coffee OK Late in Pregnancy

Caffeine and Pregnancy May Mix -- Danish Study Shows No Impact on Preterm Delivery, Birth Weight
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 25, 2006 -- Good news for pregnant women who can’t bear the thought of giving up their daily coffee.

One of the most rigorous studies ever to examine the issue found no link between moderate caffeine consumption late in pregnancy and either preterm delivery or low birth weight.

The Danish study compared pregnancy outcomes among women who mainly drank decaffeinated instant coffee during the second half of their pregnancy and those who drank at least three cups of caffeinated instant coffee a day.

No significant differences were seen in gestation times or birth weights among babies born to the two groups.

“I think we can say that moderate caffeine intake does not impact birth weight or pregnancy length,” lead researcher Bodil Hammer Bech, MD, PhD, tells WebMD.

However, the study did not address the safety of caffeine consumption during the early months of pregnancy or the impact of consuming very large amounts of caffeine.

An earlier study from the same Danish research group suggested a link between very high coffee consumption and stillbirth.

“It would be reasonable to advise pregnant women to drink no more than three cups of coffee a day due to the fact that high (caffeine) intake may increase the risk of fetal death,” Bech says.

No Major Differences

The Danish investigation looked at 1,200 healthy pregnant women who reported drinking at least three cups of caffeinated coffee a day, and who were less than 20 weeks pregnant when they entered the study.

The women were divided into two groups, with one group drinking mostly caffeinated instant coffee and the other group drinking instant decaffeinated coffee.

The women didn't know what kind of coffee they were given by the researchers.

Also, they were not advised to avoid intake of other caffeinated items -- such as tea, chocolate, cola, or other coffee. However, caffeine intake from these and other food and beverage sources was monitored closely.

The researchers adjusted for other risk factors for poor pregnancy outcome, including the mother’s age, weight, and smoking status.

The average daily intake of caffeine for women who drank mostly decaffeinated coffee was 117 milligrams a day -- roughly the amount of caffeine found in three 12-ounce soft drinks.

Women in the caffeinated-coffee group ended up consuming about 317 milligrams of caffeine a day -- the equivalent of four cups of instant caffeinated coffee, or two and a half cups of brewed coffee.

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