Coffee consumption and pregnancy Part 1

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This is the first of two blog posts focusing on the topic of coffee consumption and pregnancy, concentrating on recommended coffee intake and fertility. Coffee and Health also houses further information on this topic as well as current scientific information on a wide range of coffee-related topics.

Evidence for reducing coffee intake during pregnancy

Current recommendations are that caffeine intake should be restricted during pregnancy. However at present, there are limited numbers of robust intervention studies looking at the relationship between coffee consumption and pregnancy. One well-designed, intervention study carried out in Denmark in 2007 compared caffeinated instant coffee with decaffeinated coffee and it was found that reducing the caffeine intake of regular coffee drinkers (3+ cups per day) during the second and third trimester by an average of 182 mg/day did not affect birthweight or time of gestation.

Official recommendations for caffeine intake during pregnancy

Recommendations for caffeine intake during pregnancy differ between countries. The UK Food Standards Agency and March of the Dimes in the USA both suggest an upper limit of 200mg caffeine per day from all sources. The American Dietetic Association however suggests maintaining the frequently accepted limit of 300mg per day as a safe upper limit in its 2008 Position Paper. This is in line with the EU Scientific Committee on Food which states “While intakes (of caffeine) up to 300mg/day appear to be safe, the possible question of effects on pregnancy and the offspring at regular intakes above 300mg/day remains open.”

Caffeine intake and fertility

Studies suggesting that caffeine may be a factor in the amount of time it takes to conceive, and in infertility related to ovarian function, have limitations and their results are uncorroborated by further studies. A Danish study showed little relation between ability to conceive and caffeine or coffee intake and evaluations of semen quality have also consistently failed to find any adverse effects of caffeine intake. This means that overall, there is little evidence to link caffeine with fertility issues. What evidence there is remains inadequate to provide any pre-conception coffee consumption advice.

Caffeine intake and pregnancy

Caffeine consumption tends to decrease during the early weeks of pregnancy, corresponding with increasing pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and aversions to smells and tastes. These symptoms were responsible for a 59% decrease in caffeine intake from coffee observed between weeks five and six in a group of pregnant women. There was also no evidence shown of a relationship between both nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and fetal growth when compared with maternal caffeine intake in data from the UK Caffeine and Reproductive Health Study (CARE).

The reduced caffeine consumption observed is, therefore, likely to be a response to a healthier pregnancy with higher concentrations of pregnancy hormones, rather than a higher caffeine intake being related to any reproductive complication.

For more information on coffee and pregnancy, and to view information sources, click here.


Please also note that the Pregnancy topic has recently been updated on the Coffee and Health website to include the most recent published research. To view the updated content please click here.

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