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Science: New scientific study advises pregnant women to avoid caffeine completely

It has long been known and advised to cut caffeine intake for pregnant women and those trying to conceive.

For example, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' advice is to limit caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day - the equivalent to two cups of instant coffee.

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But in a 2020 study, scientists advised to cut caffeine completely instead of limiting caffeine intake.

What was the Study?

Conducted by Reykjavik University in Iceland, led by Professor Jack James and published in the BMJ Evidence Based Medicine Journal, the research was a “study of studies” examining data from 37 previous observational studies on caffeine and pregnancy.

What was its findings?

After analysing data from 37 studies then using Big Data analysis, the scientists found that caffeine significantly increased the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including stillbirth, miscarriage and low birth weight.

There was also a higher chance of children being overweight or obese when born to mothers who consume caffeine during pregnancy and an increased risk of childhood acute leukaemia.

Professor James who led the study wrote:

"Current advice such as that issued by the NHS is not consistent with the level of threat indicated by biological plausibility of harm and extensive empirical evidence of actual harm…

…Accordingly, current health recommendations concerning caffeine consumption during pregnancy are in need of radical revision…

Specifically, the cumulative scientific evidence supports pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy being advised to avoid caffeine."

Daghni Rajasingham, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, countered in response to the results of the study

 "The findings of this study add to the large body of evidence that supports limited caffeine intake during pregnancy, but pregnant women do not need to completely cut out caffeine, as this paper suggests….

…This paper does not supersede all the other evidence that has found that a limited intake of caffeine is safe for the majority of pregnancy women."

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, responded:

 "There is a need to ensure that women are able to make informed choices about what they eat and drink during pregnancy, and midwives will support women to do that, taking into account this latest research…

…It is important that all available evidence is considered to shape UK recommendations, and we hope the current guidance will now be reviewed in light of these findings."

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