Medical experts advise women who are pregnant to avoid drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, and even skipping the hot tubs and saunas. In addition, coffee should be limited.
Past research has suggested women should also limit caffeine intake to 300 milligrams daily because larger quantities of caffeine could harm the fetus.
But now, experts are saying to cut it out entirely. Yes, no more morning cups of coffee or midday work-runs: pregnant women should cut out coffee completely, according to a major new study focusing on caffeine and pregnancy.
A study published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine said coffee should be avoided at all costs due to there being no safe level of caffeine consumption during pregnancy, which contradicts the 200 mg caffeine level set by the UK NHS, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the European Food Safety Authority.
Two hundred milligrams of caffeine is roughly around two cups of coffee per day, or 12 ounces of coffee, which was deemed safe for pregnant women to consume, but this research says otherwise. Reykjavik University professor Jack James went through 37 analysis’ and studies on caffeine consumption and pregnancy over the past two decades for his analysis and found that the studies highlighted six negative pregnancy outcomes: miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, preterm birth, childhood acute leukemia, and weight issues for children.
Of the 37 studies examined, caffeine was found to impact all listed negative outcomes but one — preterm birth. Here’s a rundown of some of the findings, per The Guardian:
Four out of five observational studies on stillbirth – the loss of an unborn child after 20 weeks – reported increased risk related to caffeine, with the risk increasing by as much as five times in women consuming high doses. Seven out of 10 studies on low birth weight reported a link.
While James’ work is described as an observational study, he told Popular Science that the benefits of caffeine during pregnancy is yet to be seen.
“There is a large body of consistent evidence from well-controlled studies pointing to caffeine as a source of harm during pregnancy,” James told the outlet via email. “Certainly, there is no evidence to suggest that caffeine benefits either mother or baby.”
The report wasn’t met with open arms by critics in the coffee industry. One company said pregnant women should adhere to existing guidelines set by health organizations because of the study’s lack of “cause-and-effect link.”
“The current evidence given by the NHS is based on a comprehensive review of all the scientific evidence available on coffee and health, which shows that pregnant women should limit caffeine intake to 200mg per day or less, and at these levels does not increase the risk of reproductive complications,” a British Coffee Associated spokesperson told The Guardian.
“This new study is an observational study, so importantly does not show any direct cause-and-effect link and also is subject to confounding factors such as cigarette smoking and wider dietary issues, which may limit its ability to draw clear conclusions.”
Dr. Like Grzeskowiak of the University of Adelaide told Yahoo! News that the study should be viewed with caution.
“The author’s conclusion that all pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy should avoid caffeine is overly alarmist and inconsistent with the evidence,” Grzeskowiak told the outlet.
“There are so many dos and don’ts associated with pregnancy and the last thing we need is to cause unnecessary anxiety. At the end of the day, women should be reassured that caffeine can be consumed in moderation during pregnancy.”