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Originally published September 20 2010

Caffeine intake leads to smaller babies

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Drinking the equivalent of six or more cups of coffee a day while pregnant can lead to lower birth weight and length, according to a study conducted by researchers from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers followed 7,300 women from the first weeks of their pregnancies through delivery, using an ultrasound scan to estimate fetal length at the end of the first and second trimesters. At the end of each trimester, the women also reported their coffee- and tea-drinking habits, allowing the researchers to estimate their average daily caffeine intake.

The researchers found that women who consumed the caffeine equivalent of six cups or more of coffee per day -- 2 to 3 percent of all mothers -- gave birth to infants that were shorter than women who had consumed less caffeine. Their infants were also significantly shorter at the end of the first and second trimesters.

"Caffeine intake seems to affect length growth of the fetus from the first trimester onwards," researcher Rachel Bakker said.

Women who consumed the most caffeine were also significantly more likely to give birth to a child that was underweight for its age. Because only seven underweight babies were delivered during the course of the study, however, the researchers warned that this correlation might be coincidental.

The researchers also warned that their study should not be construed to mean that drinking five cups of coffee a day while pregnant is safe.

"We only studied the effect of caffeine on fetal growth," Bakker said. "Future studies on possible other effects of maternal caffeine intake are therefore needed."

The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, the amount found in a single 12-ounce cup of coffee (the size usually sold in the United States as "small"). This recommendation is based on research suggesting that caffeine may increase a woman's risk of miscarriage.

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