Can caffeine be consumed during pregnancy?
Is it wise to consume caffeine if you are pregnant, and is it safe for the baby?
Recent studies have eventually correlated caffeine intake with the risk of miscarriages, premature births or the birth of low birth weight babies in pregnant women.
For these reasons, this psychoactive stimulant alkaloid is the focus of several pediatric research studies. Knowing the factors that predispose to pregnancy failure is essential, since not only the life of the fetus is at risk, but also the physical and emotional integrity of the mother and the family unit.
It is clear that the consumption of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs stigmatized by society is deleterious to the health of the fetus developing in the mother's womb. The reality is that caffeine is an addictive substance that is much more established in our culture, but it is not free of side effects. Find out here if it is possible to consume caffeine during the pregnancy.
Can caffeine be consumed during pregnancy: a gray scale
According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE), a drug is defined as "any substance or medicinal preparation with a stimulant, depressant, narcotic or hallucinogenic effect". According to this description, there is no doubt that caffeine is a drug.
This alkaloid of the xanthine group, which has a bitter taste, has various effects on the human body.. Some of them are the following:
- It stimulates the central nervous system, which produces a temporary effect of restoring alertness and reducing drowsiness.
- Increases Blood pressure.
- It has a diuretic effect, that is, it facilitates the elimination of water and salt by promoting urine production.
Caffeine is the most widespread psychoactive substance in the world.It is estimated that an average of 120,000 tons per year are consumed throughout the world. In more specific regions, such as North America, it is estimated that 90% of adult individuals consume caffeinated products on a daily basis.
How much caffeine is too much?
The half-life of caffeine (i.e. the time that this compound remains in the blood) varies according to the characteristics of the individual who consumes it. It is a fact that the elimination of this substance from the bloodstream of pregnant women is a slower processIt is a fact that the elimination of this substance from the blood of pregnant women is a slower process, since it is encompassed in a time range of 9 to 11 hours, while in adult non-pregnant individuals this time is from 4 to 9 hours at the most.
Caffeine is metabolized in the liver, so people with severe liver disorders can suffer complications in which the compound remains in the blood for up to 96 hours.
The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day to avoid the risk of fetal loss during gestation, but how is this amount reflected in energy foods?
It is estimated that a cup of coffee has a wide range of this compound, from 95 to 200 milligrams per dose.. On the other hand, a cup of tea contains much less concentration of caffeine, since it is calculated from 14 to 60 milligrams per dose.
Thus, the consumption of three cups of tea a day should not pose a long-term problem for a pregnant mother, but two "well loaded" coffees may already exceed the maximum dose recommended by the World Health Organization. It is certainly possible to consume caffeine during pregnancy, but being careful with the doses is essential to avoid serious unpleasant surprises.
Despite being widespread ideas in the general population, several studies have tried to elucidate the effect of caffeine on the fetus during the first trimesters of pregnancy, and surprising as it may seem, many results are inconclusive.
This is due, in part, to the fact that the mechanisms by which this substance is correlated with spontaneous abortions are not yet known, although there is evidence that caffeine is associated with spontaneous abortions.However, there is evidence that the compound crosses the placental barrier and reaches the fetus. It is estimated that the concentration of caffeine in the bloodstream of the fetus would be similar to that of the mother, with the added complication that its permanence in the baby's blood would be even greater, since the liver enzymes capable of degrading it appear after the eighth month of gestation.
Even so, in general it is complex to establish a direct correlation between caffeine and complications during pregnancy, since other essential roles are also played by other factors.Other factors such as the symptoms of the pregnant woman or fetal viability also play essential roles.
In spite of all these impediments, after extensive bibliographic reviews with considerable sample groups of pregnant women (more than 1,500 participants, some who suffered spontaneous abortions and others who did not), the following results can be elucidated:
- Caffeine intake during the first trimester of pregnancy correlates with miscarriages of fetuses with normal karyotypes.
- A positive association is also found between smoking and the probability of miscarriage.
- Caffeine intake is not found to be related to risk of miscarriage of fetuses with abnormal karyotype.
As we can see, we are faced with relatively contradictory results. This is further complicated when the study underlines that in women smokers and caffeine consumers (both at the same time) no positive correlation was found between these habits and the production of miscarriages. What is the point of this if both factors separately seem to promote pregnancy complications?
Another reason that makes us doubt a 100% reliable correlation between caffeine and miscarriages is that both parameters were not related in fetuses with abnormal karyotypes, i.e. with an atypical number of chromosomes (such as Down's syndrome). These results are counter-intuitive to say the least, since it would be expected that the genetic mutations of the baby would predispose it to fatal events after interaction with caffeine.
For all these reasons, the studies stress that the results should be taken with extreme caution, but nevertheless, not consuming caffeine during pregnancy or reducing its intake will always be the most prudent option, according to them. according to them.
Caffeine and fetal growth
In any case, we are not moving in a black and white terrain (life or abortion), since the effects of caffeine on the fetus can manifest themselves in a wide range of grays.
Other studies have found, for example, that caffeine consumption does correlate with decreased newborn weight. is correlated with decreased birth weight in newborns.. This could be explained by the fact that the compound increases placental and fetal adrenaline concentration, which promotes vasoconstriction and hinders direct nutritional supply through the bloodstream to the fetus.
In countries such as Uruguay, where it is estimated that more than 32% of pregnant women consume more than the maximum amount of caffeine established by the WHO (in the form of mate, above all), knowing a clear correlation can be key to raising awareness among the population of healthier habits, especially during the maternal gestation period.
Even so, these studies themselves show that in spite of having shown concordant results between both parameters, not all the research carried out has reached the same result. This, rather than detracting from the credibility of the observed facts, could highlight the fact that there are many more factors that condition fetal viability beyond caffeine intake that there are many more factors that condition fetal viability beyond caffeine intake: nutrition, stress, health structure and other parameters that are difficult to quantify. that are difficult to quantify.
As you will have seen, we do not have a completely conclusive answer to the question of whether caffeine can be consumed during pregnancy. Such is the world of research, where nothing can be considered as an inalienable dogma or reality unless irrefutable evidence is presented.
What is clear is that a high consumption of caffeine on a daily basis is correlated with health disorders in the patient, which of course would also extend to the integrity of the fetus in a pregnant woman.
Although the results are not entirely conclusive in many studies, it is always a good idea not to exceed the WHO limit of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day in pregnant women. in pregnant women. After all, a cup of coffee and a cup of tea a day will in most cases have the desired effect, and will not lead to a possible miscarriage or an underweight fetus.
- Caffeine, Medlineplus.gov Retrieved September 1 from https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/caffeine.html
- Duro Mota, E., Causín Serrano, S., Campillos Páez, M. T., & Vallés Ugarte, M. (2001). Caffeine consumption and risk of spontaneous abortion in the first trimester. Medifam, 11(8), 105-108.
- Lozano, R. P., García, Y. A., Tafalla, D. B., & Albaladejo, M. F. (2007). Caffeine: a nutrient, a drug, or a drug of abuse. Addictions, 19(3), 225-238.
- Magri, R., Míguez, H., Parodi, V., Hutson, J., Suárez, H., Menéndez, A., ... & Bustos, R. (2007). Alcohol and other drug use in pregnant women. Archivos de Pediatría del Uruguay, 78(2), 122-132.
- Moraes, M., Sosa, C., González, G., Umpiérrez, E., Berta, S., & Borbonet, D. (2014). Relationship between mate consumption in pregnancy with birth weight. Archivos de Pediatría del Uruguay, 85(1), 18-24.
- Restriction of caffeine intake during pregnancy, World Health Organization (WHO). Retrieved September 1 from https://www.who.int/elena/titles/caffeine-pregnancy/es/.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)