Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Put Down the Coffee, Mama: Caffeine Causes Miscarriages?

We've been hearing caffeine causes miscarriages. I certainly wondered about it as I sipped decaf through three pregnancies. Not that I could even have tolerated smelling let alone drinking coffee during the first four months. But when I got the urge to go back on it, I took the high road and chose decaf. Partly because I'd already decaffeinated myself, partly because of the supposed ill-effects of caffeine, and partly because I suffered reprimands at Starbucks for ordering even the decaf - because it too has some small amount of caffeine. Imagine the brouhaha if I'd ordered the full-on mocchiata. Anyhow, I'm glad to have some more info to root through on the issue...

Looks like caffeine's a no-no now according to the latest study by Kaiser Permanente. Women who drank two cups of coffee a day (or other equivalent amounts of caffeine) were twice as likely to have miscarriages as women who drank none in the first months of pregnancy. All the news reports say "200 milligrams of caffeine'' - in other words, about 10 ounces of brewed coffee or 5 cans of 12-ounce soda. The researchers controlled for factors that might play a role in miscarriage, including known risk factors like maternal age and smoking, which BTW, were higher risk factors for miscarriage than caffeine intake. Researchers also asked the women if they suffered from morning sickness and took it into account. I'm surprised, but I guess there were some nauseated women out there drinking caffeinated coffee or tea or soda. Because the researchers say they controlled for morning sickness and still found the link between caffeine and miscarriage. In other words, among both groups of women (i.e., those with morning sickness; those without it), those who drank more caffeine had higher rates of miscarriages.

So how good is this evidence? Is it 'definitive proof" as I heard the NBC medical correspondent declare last night? Not sure about that. I'd like to see another large-scale study accounting for a lot more risk factors. I can't help but think there might be other "good user" or "health mom-to-be" behaviors that might make some women less likely to drink two cups of coffee a day while pregnant. And I haven't seen the data yet. The report will soon be online at the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

William Saletan summarizes the issue in "Fetal Overdose" over at Salon.com. Love the title. Do you think he'd reduce his caffeine intake if he were preggers?

Hey and what about our fave purveyors of the evil bean? Perhaps Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks and all the other coffee dealers can capitalize on this seemingly bad news. Maybe a new drink just for moms-to-be: a frothy mommy brew with a mere 5 milligrams of caffeine, a daily dose of prenatal vitamins, and a shot of Omega 3's and 6's. The Mamma Latte? Can't you see the ads?


Do something good for your baby. Do something good for yourself. The Mamma Latte.

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