Caffeine and pregnancy

I was shocked to learn that FDA in 1980 had determined that caffeine in amounts exceeding 300 mg could potentially be teratogenic (1). Teratogens are agents that cause fetal malformations or birth defects. Good thing caffeine does not harm the fetus when taken in smaller amounts, despite evidence in rats to the contrary (1-2).

However, after digging deeper, I found that the researchers did find that caffeine potentiated teratogenic effect of smoking and alcohol (2). The mechanism appears to be through inducing materno-fetal vasoconstrictions that lead to ischemia (2).

If caffeine potentiates effects of other teratogens in amounts less than 300 mg, I imagine it’s still wise of pregnant women to avoid caffeine altogether during pregnancy just in case they are exposed to teratogens of some kind and are unaware of it.

Reference List

1. Mitchell MK. Nutrition Across The Life Span. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2003.
2. Nehlig A, Debry G. Potential teratogenic and neurodevelopmental consequences of coffee and caffeine exposure: a review on human and animal data. Neurotoxicol Teratol 1994;16:531-43.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

One thought on “Caffeine and pregnancy

  1. According to one of the medical study on relation of caffeine and pregnancy if a pregnant woman consumed 500mg of caffeine during her pregnancy then the baby born would be with increased heart rate and blood pressure. The chance of miscarriage goes up to 56 percent if the pregnant women consume more than 200mg of caffeine in a day.

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