Overview

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Early pregnancy is often associated with the onset of nausea, vomiting and appetite loss (this is often referred to as the ‘pregnancy signal’), which in turn may cause a reduction in coffee consumption, and hence, caffeine intake from coffee1,6,7.  Research suggests that women experiencing viable pregnancies are more likely to reduce their caffeine intake in response to the pregnancy signal than women who have a miscarriage1. Therefore, reduced caffeine consumption may be a consequence of pregnancy viability.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in its Scientific Opinion on Caffeine concluded that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake from all sources to 200mg per day during pregnancy26. Research suggests that moderate caffeine consumption of 200mg/day* does not increase the risk of any reproductive or perinatal complication26. This conclusion is based on prospective cohort studies showing a dose-dependent positive association between caffeine intakes  during  pregnancy  and  the  risk  of  adverse  birth  weight-related  outcomes  (i.e.  foetal growth retardation, small for gestational age)26. It is nevertheless difficult to define the association between caffeine and reproductive health as confounding factors such as changes in diet, smoking, and incorrect or imprecise assessment of the duration of exposure to caffeine may limit the ability to draw clear conclusions1.

Research suggests that coffee consumption is not associated with reduced fertility1,3-5, pre-term labour15,17,18, or foetal death1; or significantly associated with congenital malformations2,21-25, although further investigation is needed to confirm any suggested association with congenital malformations. Research on pregnancy loss10-16 and foetal growth1,2,13,20 gives some conflicting results and further work is required. For example, while one paper suggests that moderate (i.e. less than 200mg/day) caffeine intake does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage15, another suggests that greater caffeine intake (300mg/day or more) is associated with increases in late miscarriage, although the authors note remaining uncertainty in the strength of association14.

The content in this Overview was last edited in June 2017. Papers in the Latest Research section and further resources are added regularly.

* A typical cup of coffee contains approximately 75-100mg caffeine

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