Moms-to-Be: Cut the Caffeine for a Healthy Pregnancy

Healthnotes Newswire (January 31, 2008)—For pregnant women, energy boosters such as nutritious beverages, protein snacks, and exercise may be a safer option than caffeine. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that drinking caffeinated beverages might increase miscarriage risk. “The main message for pregnant women is that they probably should consider stopping caffeine consumption during pregnancy,” says De-Kun Li, MD, the study’s lead investigator. “This research provides clearer and stronger evidence that high doses of caffeine intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.”

The new study included 1,063 pregnant women who were members of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. The women were interviewed early in their pregnancies regarding their intake of caffeine-containing beverages (including coffee, tea, soft drinks, and hot chocolate) and about pregnancy-related symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Women who drank 200 mg of caffeine per day—the amount found in 10 ounces of coffee or 25 ounces of tea—or more were over two times as likely to have a miscarriage than were those women who didn’t drink any caffeinated beverages. Drinking less than 200 mg per day also raised the risk, but to a lesser extent.

Caffeine crosses the placenta and may interfere with normal growth of the unborn baby. Most healthcare practitioners advise pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake, but until now specific recommendations about caffeine consumption during pregnancy couldn’t be made.

Women with morning sickness are known to be less likely to miscarry, and many of these women might also avoid caffeine because of their nausea. This has led to confusion about whether women with morning sickness are less likely to miscarry because they avoid caffeine or because they have healthier pregnancies overall. The new study helped to sort this out, finding that caffeine increased miscarriage risk—regardless of the presence of morning sickness.

Many pregnant women struggle with decreased energy during their pregnancies, especially during the first trimester. Thankfully, there are safer options than using caffeine that can help boost energy during these months.

Energy lifters for the mother-to-be

• “Perk up with natural energy boosts like a brisk walk, yoga stretches, and snacking on dried fruits and nuts,” suggests Tracy Flanagan, MD, director of Women’s Health, Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

• Keep blood sugar levels up with small, frequent meals and snacks that include a protein source like a hard boiled egg, slices of lean deli meats, a protein bar, or a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

• Make sure to get plenty of rest—this is key to avoiding the need for an artificial energy spike.

• “Stay hydrated by replacing caffeinated drinks with more nutritious fluids,” offers Michelle Palmer, certified nurse-midwife. “Lemon water is a refreshing pick-me-up.”

(Am J Obstet Gynecol doi 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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