OB/GYN Dr. Millie Behera joins The Doctors to discuss a study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health which found that the more coffee a woman drinks during pregnancy, the more likely her child might be overweight.
So should pregnant women never drink caffeine? Dr. Behera says the key to this study is the excess amount of caffeine. She says it is hard to find a study that shows the harm in levels below 200mg of caffeine. This lets pregnant women have about one cup of a coffee a day, which on average has about 100mg.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon is of the belief that pregnant women shouldn’t risk drinking any caffeine. “Caffeine is a drug, it’s a stimulant, why take the chance!” he exclaims. Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra jumps in to say that for most women, pregnancy is exhausting and that one cup of coffee, just a little, is okay.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork loves his coffee and points out that several years ago it was considered bad, but now we know people who drink coffee regularly have lower rates of dementia, lower rates of diabetes, and it’s the greatest source of antioxidants in American’s diets.
He notes that just like alcohol, you know when you’ve had too much and can feel those effects. Whether you are pregnant or not, man or woman, you should know when you get to that point! On that note, Dr. Batra says that with many things, in moderation they can be atonic but in excess, they can be a poison.
Dr. Behera dives further into dissecting the study and notes that while it had a huge test group, 50,000 women, it was self-reported, which makes it hard to get complete accuracy. Dr. Batra says that pregnant women in Norway were asked at 22 weeks to report all of the caffeine they consumed from all sources (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda).
The study then looked at their children from six weeks to eight years of age and found that over time women in the very high caffeine group, 300mg or more per day, had babies with a higher chance of being in the 75th percentile of weight. Beyond eight years of age, other factors like lifestyle, diet and exercise impacted obesity so the effects of the caffeine tempered out and weren’t as important.
Dr. Travis points out that most people have no idea how much caffeine is in their cup of coffee and thinks if you are pregnant, the takeaway from this discussion should be to find out how much caffeine you're drinking. Dr. Behera adds that women should also know that a lot of caffeine during pregnancy may affect the baby’s ability to sleep after birth, and high levels can affect miscarriage risk and preterm labor, so sip with caution.