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Is There a Link Between Caffeine and Miscarriages?

Caffeine has been blamed for a host of medical problems, but a big mystery has been whether healthy pregnant women really needed to go cold turkey from their morning cup of coffee. Some doctors have long suspected a connection between caffeine intake and miscarriages and have urged pregnant women to avoid caffeine.  But until recently, there wasn't a strong body of research to address this question.  A recent study of women in the first three months of pregnancy in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (2000) showed that drinking five cups of regular coffee per day more than doubles a pregnant woman's risk of a miscarriage. They also found that drinking the equivalent of one-to-three cups of regular coffee increased the risk of miscarriage by 30%.

Most doctors agree that genetic abnormalities are responsible for most miscarriages in early pregnancy, and this study does not refute that.  This study also suggested a link between cigarette smoking and early miscarriage, which is also consistent with other research.

One criticism of the study is that the participants drank Swedish coffee, which typically contains nearly twice as much caffeine per cup than a typical American cup of coffee. Tea, cocoa and sodas in equal volumes normally contain less caffeine than coffee. But the study also suggests a similar effect on miscarriage for these drinks and in caffeine-carrying medications, if enough is consumed.

The Food and Drug Administration and the March of Dimes, which funds research on birth defects, have both advised pregnant women to cut out caffeine, which can also be dehydrating, cause calcium loss, and increase the risk for preterm labor.  Interestingly, women with morning sickness often develop an aversion for coffee anyway.

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Created: 4/6/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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