If you have a bun in the oven, you might want to rethink your daily coffee habit: New research shows that drinking too much caffeine while you’re pregnant could result in a lower birth weight for your baby.
Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden asked 59,000 pregnant women to complete questionnaires about their health, lifestyle, and diet habits at various stages throughout their pregnancy. Then, during the 22nd week of their pregnancy, they completed a food frequency questionnaire—including how much caffeine they consumed per day. Researchers analyzed the results, as well as data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, which contains each baby’s birth weight. What they found: More than 10 percent of participants consumed an excess of 200 mg of caffeine per day (about what you’d get from drinking two cups of coffee). These women were 20 to 60 percent more likely to have a baby who was small for gestational age (SGA). As newborns, SGA babies have trouble staying warm. They’re also more likely to have lower neurodevelopment scores throughout their childhood and to remain small as adults, says Verena Sengpiel, MD, PhD, one of the study authors.
It’s important to note that, while a low birth weight was associated with caffeine intake, that doesn’t prove causation. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, FACOG, an OBGYN and clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, recommends setting up a pre-pregnancy consultation with your OBGYN if you plan on becoming pregnant. That way, you can map out what kind of new health habits (including reduced caffeine consumption) you may need to establish. If you do decide to cut back on caffeine, don’t go cold turkey. Wean yourself off of it gradually so that you don’t experience withdrawal headaches, suggests Minkin.
One trick to try: Water down your regular cup of joe by pouring yourself a cup of half regular coffee, half decaf.
Still need an energy boost (sans java)? Try these tips and strategies.