Caffeine and Pregnancy

This country loves caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, chocolate—you name it, we’ll eat it! Come on, have you been in a diner lately? Half the tables are filled with high school kids slurping down cups of Joe—hook them while they’re young! Now, we all know Dr. Fuhrman thinks caffeine consumption is a bad idea, but kicking it can be a real nightmare. Take coffee for example, from Eat to Live:
The body can heal itself when the obstacles to healing or stressors are removed. The reason people can’t ever make complete recoveries is that they are addicted to their bad habits and unhealthful ways of eating and drinking.


Imagine if you were drinking ten cups of coffee daily. You stopped drinking coffee, you would feel ill; you might get headaches, feel weak, even get the shakes. Fortunately, this would resolve slowly over four to six days, and then you would be well.

So, if your were this heavy coffee drinker, when do you think you would feel the worst? Right after eating, upon waking up in the morning, or when delaying or skipping a meal?

You are correct if you answered either upon first waking up or when delaying or skipping a meal. The body goes through withdrawal, or detoxification, most effectively when it is not busy digesting food. A heavy meal will stop the ill feelings, or you’ll feel better if you take another cup of coffee, but the cycle of feeling ill will start all over gain the minute the caffeine level drops or the glucose level in the blood starts to go down.
Okay, but what about caffeine and pregnancy? Well, it’s a tough topic. In Disease-Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman explains that drinking coffee isn’t a smart move if you’re pregnant, but, even he admits the research isn’t always clear. Check it out:
Caffeine has been a controversial topic for decades. Evidence clearly concludes that heavy coffee drinkers have an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight infants, but evidence is not clear for moderate users of caffeine.1 Nevertheless, is wise to stay away from as many potentially harmful substances as possible. The bottom line, if in doubt, don’t do it.
I like that advice—why bother? But in case you’re an information hound, take a gander at this New York Times investigation. Anahad O’Connor examines the evidence for and against caffeine consumption when you’re pregnant. Look:
One of the more unnerving studies was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2000. It looked at more than 1,000 pregnant Swedish women and found that those who drank the equivalent of one to three cups of coffee a day had a 30 percent increased risk of miscarriage, while those who had the equivalent of at least five cups had more than double the risk.


But a majority of studies have suggested that any risk might apply only to high levels of caffeine intake. One study carried out by the National Institutes of Health in 1999 looked closely at the blood levels of caffeine in tens of thousands of pregnant women and found that those who consumed the equivalent of more than five cups of coffee a day did have an increased risk, while those who drank one or two cups did not. Other studies have had similar findings.
I don’t know about you, but this just seems like more running around a problem and not really doing anything about it. Now, if there’s even the slightest chance something you eat can hurt you or your child, do you really need to have it? Probably not.

For more on this topic, don't forget about this previous post: Caffeine, Risk, and Babies.
1. Bracken MB, Triche EW, Belanger K, et. Al. Association of maternal caffeine consumption with decrements in fetal growth. Am J Epidemiol 2003; 157(5): 456-466. Vik T, Bakketeig LS, Trygg KU, et al. High caffeine consumption in the third trimester of pregnancy: gender-specific effects on fetal growth. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2003; 17(4):324-331. Rasch V. Cigarette, alcohol, and caffeine consumption: risk factors for spontaneous abortion. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2003;82(2): 182-188.
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