Caffeine: Harmful to baby-to-be?

I am eight weeks pregnant and have been drinking a cup of coffee every day since conception. I just can't give it up. I keep hearing conflicting reports regarding the effects of caffeine on a fetus. Some say that one or two cups a day is fine while others recommend elimination of all caffeine because it has been linked to SIDS in newborns. My doctor isn't concerned, but he tends to be very laid back with issues like this. Should I be worried?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

I think that the reason there is so much conflicting information out there is that we just don't yet know precisely what impact caffeine may have. Studies are ongoing. Because we see heavy users of caffeine giving birth to presumably normal offspring, we know that the effects are subtle, and may be individual.

A 1996 published review on this issue reports that heavy caffeine use (300 mg. per day or more) during pregnancy is associated with small reductions in infant birth weight that may be especially detrimental to premature or low-birth-weight infants.

Some researchers also document an increased risk of miscarriage associated with caffeine consumption prior to and during pregnancy. However, overwhelming evidence indicates that caffeine does not cause birth defects, nor does it affect the incidence of preterm labor and delivery.

I, too, have heard about the implication of caffeine with SIDS, but I believe that other variables may come into play here also. Caffeine and smoking are two common co-variables. I understand that researchers said that the risk starts with four "cups" of coffee per day. It would be more helpful to give a dose risk rather than "cups" of unknown type of coffee.

So, the bottom line is that's it's probably safe to go ahead and enjoy your morning cup of coffee, but it's prudent to keep your caffeine intake to under 300 milligrams a day.

As you can see below, coffee varies in caffeine content. Even the size of the cup is variable, so it does no real good to say that pregnant women should limit their intake to a cup per day because interpretations of one cup vary.

One tablespoon of cocoa or one eight-ounce cup of chocolate milk contains approximately 10 to 17 milligrams (mg.) of caffeine, whereas a cup of coffee contains:

drip coffee:
percolated:
instant:
decaf:
137 to 153 mg.
97 to 125 mg.
61 to 70 mg.
0 to 4 mg.
coffee (5 oz.) 85 mg. for ground roasted coffee
60 mg. for instant
3 mg. for decaffeinated
tea (5 oz.): 30 mg. for leaf/bag
20 mg. for instant
colas: 18 mg./6 oz. serving
cocoa/hot chocolate: 4 mg./5 oz.
chocolate milk: 4 mg./6 oz.
chocolate candy: 1.5 to 6.0 mg./oz.

I would go ahead and continue to enjoy your one cup per day; perhaps you could mix it half-and-half with decaf or milk.

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