In the News: Caffeine intake linked to small babies

For many years now I’ve been urging pregnant women (and women aiming to conceive) to cut down or better still avoid caffeine altogether because even relatively small amounts of caffeine have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. And now the Government Food Standard’s Agency (FSA) is warning women to limit their consumption of caffeine from three cups to two cups a day.


This warning coincides with a study linking caffeine to smaller babies. And earlier this year research in the US published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that drinking more than 200mg of coffee a day also doubled the risk of miscarriage.

Previously studies have indicated that more than three cups of coffee a day to an increased risk of miscarriage but now the FSA is lowering the recommended limit of 300 mg a day to 200 mg, the equivalent of two average sized mugs of instant or two cups of brewed coffee a day. It has also identified other products, such as tea, coffee and cola, containing caffeine that count towards the 200 mg.

Researchers from Leicester and Leeds universities monitored the daily caffeine intake of 2,500 pregnant women using questionnaires. They compared this with the birth weight of the baby, taking into account the weight and ethnic background of the mother. The research, published in the British Medical Journal found that women with a caffeine intake of more than 200mg a day were more likely to give birth to smaller babies.

There have also been studies linking just one cup of coffee a day with an increased risk of infertility so even though the FSA currently advises no more than two cups a day my advice to pregnant women and women trying to conceive remains the same: avoid caffeine altogether and replace with healthy alternatives such as herbal teas. It is also important to be aware that some coffee sold in coffee shop chains contains higher levels of caffeine than assumed in the FSA guidelines, which state that an average mug of coffee contains 100mg. A small cafe latte can contain as much as 240mg of caffeine, meaning a pregnant woman would exceed the recommended daily caffeine intake in one drink.

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