Many women dread having to give up coffee during their pregnancy, but new research suggests that consuming a little caffeine while expecting might not necessarily be a bad thing.
"While we were not able to study the association of consumption above the recommended limit, we now know that low-to-moderate caffeine is not associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or hypertension for expecting mothers," said study author Stefanie Hinkle. She is an assistant professor of epidemiology at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
For the study, the researchers looked at prospective data from over 2,500 pregnant participants who were enrolled in a U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study conducted at 12 U.S. clinical centers between 2009 and 2013.
The study measured concentrations of caffeine in the participants' blood plasma when they were 10 and 13 weeks pregnant, as well as asking women to report weekly intake of caffeinated coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks.
The team then matched that information to clinical diagnoses of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system).
The investigators found that drinking caffeinated beverages at 10 to 13 weeks' gestation was not related to gestational diabetes risk. Not only that, drinking up to 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day -- about one 6-ounce cup -- was associated with a 47% reduction in diabetes risk during the second trimester.
The researchers did not find any statistically significant differences between those who did or did not drink caffeine during pregnancy in terms of blood pressure, preeclampsia or hypertension.
The findings were published online recently in JAMA Network Open.
While the findings are consistent with other studies that have found that caffeine is associated with improved energy balance and decreased fat mass, it may also be the phytochemicals or other ingredients in coffee and tea that are impacting inflammation and insulin resistance.
Past studies have shown that caffeine consumption during pregnancy, even in amounts less than the recommended 200 mg per day, was associated with smaller babies, Hinkle said.
"It would not be advised for women who are non-drinkers to initiate caffeinated beverage consumption for the purpose of lowering gestational diabetes risk," Hinkle said. "But our findings may provide some reassurance to women who already are consuming low-to-moderate levels of caffeine that such consumption likely will not increase their maternal health risks."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg daily. The recommendations are based on studies that suggest potential associations with pregnancy loss and fetal growth at higher caffeine consumption levels, the study authors noted in a university news release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on pregnancy and health.
SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, news release, Nov. 11, 2021