Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy Associated with Low Birth Weight Babies

By Kyla Miller, R.H.N;

Do you love your coffee? How about tea, soda, chocolate and/or other caffeinated beverages and foods? Are you breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant? It’s important to know that during pregnancy, caffeine can not only raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase insomnia, but it can also affect your growing baby.

Caffeine is able to freely pass the placental barrier in the same way that nutrients and oxygen do. Since a fetus does not possess the enzymes needed to process caffeine sufficiently, caffeine metabolites have been found to accumulate in the fetal brain and potential cause developmental problems. For this reason, limited caffeine consumption of 200-300mg/day during pregnancy is generally advised by most practitioners. However, a recent Norwegian study published in 2013 has found that even this limited amount (approximately 1-2 cups of medium strength coffee), might not be enough to prevent lower birth weight babies. The study also concludes that caffeine from coffee has the potential to increase the length of pregnancy.

The study included close to 60,000 pregnancies, in which information about the mother’s diets and birth details were collected over a 10-year period. The amount of caffeine and its sources (such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and other foods containing cocoa) were also monitored. What was found, was an association between caffeine consumption and the baby being small for gestational age at birth. This link was found regardless of whether the mother was a smoker, indicating that it was definitely solely due to caffeine consumption.

For every 100mg of caffeine consumed, the birth weight went down by about 21-28 grams and the gestation period lengthened by 5 hours. Interestingly, caffeine consumed from coffee, increased the gestational period by 8 hours. Therefore, given the finding of this study, it looks as though the recommended limit of 200-300mg of caffeine per day may need to be revised.

The one major issue that I have with this study is that it relies exclusively on self-reported data without a biological marker to confirm the accuracy of estimated caffeine exposure. It is possible that some women may have had difficulties reporting the frequency and amount of caffeine consumption for the whole period correctly. This being said, this study is by far the largest study performed so far on the association between caffeine intake and pregnancy outcome and it is supported by many other smaller studies that have had similar conclusions. It is clear to me that caffeine does have a negative effect on fetal growth and development and should be avoided as much as possible during this stage of life.

Your question: Have you ever drank coffee while pregnant? (post your comments below)


About the Author : Kyla Miller is the co-founder of and founder of She has overcome illness through dietary/lifestyle changes, and practicing a positive mindset daily. Kyla is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is currently studying to become a Reiki Master.


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