Maternal Caffeine Linked To Miscarriage and Leukemia

32 studies prove diverse negative pregnancy outcomes

Pregnancy

Pregnancy

Pregnant women have been advised that consuming a small amount of caffeine daily will not harm their baby.

The latest studies prove it wrong. Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should be advised to avoid caffeine because the evidence suggests that maternal caffeine consumption is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes and that there is no safe level of consumption, say researchers writing in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.

The UK NHS, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set this level at 200 mg caffeine, which approximates to roughly two cups of moderate-strength coffee per day.

This study undertook a review of current evidence on caffeine-related pregnancy outcomes, to determine whether the recommended safe level of consumption for pregnant women is soundly based.

Professor Jack James, of Reykjavik University, Iceland, identified 1,261 English language peer-reviewed articles linking caffeine and caffeinated beverages to pregnancy outcomes.

These were whittled down to 48 original observational studies and meta-analyses published in the past two decades reporting results for one or more of six major negative pregnancy outcomes: miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, preterm birth, childhood acute leukemia, and childhood overweight and obesity.

A total of 42 separate findings were reported in 37 observational studies; of these 32 found that caffeine significantly increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and 10 found no or inconclusive associations. Caffeine-related risk was reported with moderate to high levels of consistency for all pregnancy outcomes except preterm birth.

Maternal caffeine consumption was associated with increased risk for four adverse outcomes: miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, and childhood acute leukemia.

Professor James concludes that there is “substantial cumulative evidence” of an association between maternal caffeine consumption and diverse negative pregnancy outcomes, specifically miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age, childhood acute leukemia and childhood overweight and obesity, but not preterm birth.

As a result, he adds, current health recommendations concerning caffeine consumption during pregnancy are in need of “radical revision.”

“Specifically, the cumulative scientific evidence supports pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy being advised to avoid caffeine,” he says.

Reference Jack E. James. Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be. BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, 2020 DOI: 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111432
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