I was listening to the news last week, and I was surprised to hear about a new study on the effect of Caffeine during pregnancy and that mums should now avoid. But the experts say that this is an alarmist suggestion due to the observational nature of this study.
As a coffee lover and have enjoyed a daily flat-white throughout all 3 of my pregnancies, I wanted to research this latest study in more depth. Up until now, moderate amounts are suggested as safe.
The controversial research paper, published in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, looked at 48 studies on the topic.
The author of that paper, Prof Jack James, a psychologist at Reykjavik University in Iceland, acknowledges that the work is observational, so can’t prove definitively that any caffeine in pregnancy is harmful.
But he says his analysis, which links caffeine with harm, suggests avoiding drinks like tea and coffee entirely would be the best advice for mums-to-be and women trying to get pregnant.
Experts are tending to strongly disagree with this latest study, saying it’s overkill. This perhaps allows us all to breathe a big sigh of relief as I know for many Kiwis today and busy mums that coffee is often a necessity!
Just as the NHS does in the UK, the European Food Safety Authority and the American and UK Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend limiting, but not eliminating, caffeine consumption during pregnancy.
There is no need for “immediate change to the current guidance” based on this research, said Dr. Christopher Zahn, vice president of practice activities for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Our guidance remains that moderate caffeine consumption, less than 200 mg per day, does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth,” Zahn told CNN in an email statement.
The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provided a similar statement.
“(The) advice to limit caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (mg) per day — the equivalent to two cups of instant coffee — still stands,” stated obstetrician Dr. Daghni Rajasingam, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
“This paper does not supersede all the other evidence that has found that a limited intake of caffeine is safe for the majority of pregnant women.”
Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak, a pharmacist at the University of Adelaide, Australia, said the research paper was “overly alarmist” and inconsistent with accepted evidence.
“There are so many dos and don’ts associated with pregnancy, and the last thing we need is to cause unnecessary anxiety. Women should be reassured that Caffeine can be consumed in moderation during pregnancy.”
Prof Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at Kings College London, said some of the studies in the analysis might be flawed because they rely on women recalling caffeine intake. Also, he said, it is difficult to exclude other risk factors that tea or coffee drinkers might be indulging in, such as cigarette smoking.
He said: “Caffeine has been in human diets for a long time.
“Like many substances found in a regular diet, harms in pregnancy can be found with high doses.
“However, the observational nature of this data with its inherent bias does not indicate with any certainty that low doses of caffeine are harmful, and the current advice to avoid high doses of caffeine is unlikely to change.”
The NHS and many other organizations say consuming 200mg or less a day should not pose any significant risk in terms of miscarriage or growth of the baby while in the womb.
What is 200mg of Caffeine?
And let’s not forget that the recommended 200mg includes all caffeinated produce.
From the above research, I would still enjoy a flat white during pregnancy, but our choice is personal. During our pregnancies, we have to follow our own beliefs; that’s what I feel makes us confident about our options.