The Royal College of Midwives has commented on a link between caffeinated beverage consumption during pregnancy and low birthweight, which has been found by researchers at University College, Dublin.
The study suggests that current guidance on the amount of caffeine that is ‘safe’ to consume on a daily basis is inaccurate. It shows that even drinking ‘safe’ levels can cause lower birthweights and can also reduce the size of the newborn’s head and the gestational age at birth.
Since 2008, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has recommended that pregnant women keep their caffeine intake to under 200mg a day, regardless of its source. This accounts for no more than two cups of coffee or three cups of tea per day.
Caffeine is found in tea and coffee, cola, other soft beverages such as energy drinks and chocolate. A mug of tea has around 75mg and a bar of plain chocolate has around 25mg.
The researchers looked at data associated with 941 mother/baby pairs and their caffeine consumption habits during pregnancy. They found that for each additional 100mg of caffeine a woman drank per day during the first trimester, there was a reduction in birthweight by 2.5oz.
They also found that the women who consumed the most caffeine had babies who were on average 6oz lighter than babies born to women drinking the least amount of caffeine.
The results contradict the suggested ‘safe’ levels of caffeine consumption that have previously been reported.
The researchers advise that pregnant women reduce their intake of caffeine as much as possible during pregnancy.
The study, Associations of maternal caffeine intake with birth outcomes: results from the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.