Recommendations for caffeine intake during pregnancy

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Limiting caffeine during pregnancy – an intervention study

A review of the literature looked at the clinical basis for restricting the caffeine intake of mothers on fetal, neonatal and pregnancy outcomes29. After a thorough search of databases for published or unpublished studies, randomised controlled trials, including quasi-randomised trials and cross over studies, the authors identified just one study that met their criteria, thus highlighting the lack of good quality research in this area. The authors selected one Danish study meeting the criteria for a controlled study: women less than 20 weeks pregnant were randomly assigned to drinking caffeinated instant coffee (568 women) or decaffeinated instant coffee (629 women). The study found that reducing the caffeine intake of regular coffee drinkers during the second and third trimester by an average of 182mg/day (approximately 2 regular cups of coffee) did not affect birth weight or length of gestation. According to the study, there is insufficient evidence to confirm or refute the effectiveness of caffeine avoidance on birth weight or other pregnancy outcomes and high-quality, double-blind randomised controlled studies are needed to determine whether caffeine has any effect on pregnancy outcomes29.

Official recommendations for caffeine intake during pregnancy

A paper by Weng et al. published in 200811 created a degree of confusion surrounding the safe level of caffeine intake during pregnancy and led various organisations to provide different advice.

Following research30 carried out in the UK around the same time, the Food Standards Agency suggests an upper limit for pregnant women of 200mg of caffeine* per day from all sources, and this level is the same as that recommended by the March of Dimes in the USA. EFSA published their Scientific Opinion on Caffeine in 2015 and also advised that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200mg per day26.

*A regular cup of coffee contains approximately 80-85mg caffeine.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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