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Study links caffeine to miscarriages

The Baltimore Sun

Too much caffeine during pregnancy could increase the risk of miscarriage, a new study says, and the authors suggest that pregnant women might want to reduce their intake or cut it entirely.

Many obstetricians advise women to limit caffeine, though the subject has long been contentious, with conflicting studies, fuzzy data and various recommendations given over the years.

The new study, being published today in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds that pregnant women who consume 200 milligrams or more of caffeine a day - the amount in 10 ounces of coffee or 25 ounces of tea - may double their risk of miscarriage.

Pregnant women should try to give up caffeine for at least the first three or four months, said the lead author of the study, Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

"If, for whatever reason, they really can't do it, think of cutting to one cup or switching to decaf," Li said. "Stopping caffeine really doesn't have any downside."

Professional groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine have not taken official positions on caffeine, representatives said.

On Friday, the March of Dimes Web site said most experts agreed that the amount of caffeine found in 8 to 16 ounces of coffee a day was safe. It noted that some studies had linked higher amounts to miscarriage and low birth weight, but stated: "However, there is no solid proof that caffeine causes these problems. Until more is known, women should limit their caffeine intake during pregnancy."

Now, having reviewed the new study, the March of Dimes plans to change its message, to advise women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to limit their daily caffeine intake to 200 milligrams or less, said Janis Biermann, its senior vice president of education and health promotion.

"Women do need good guidance," she said.

Li's study included 1,063 pregnant women who were interviewed once about their caffeine intake. At the time of the interview, their median length of pregnancy was 71 days. But 102 had already miscarried - not surprising, because most miscarriages occur early in pregnancy. Later, 70 more women miscarried, for a miscarriage rate of 16 percent for the group - a typical rate.

Of 264 women who said they had used no caffeine, 12.5 percent had miscarriages. But the miscarriage rate was 24.5 percent in the 164 women who consumed 200 milligrams or more per day. The increased risk was associated with caffeine itself and not with other known risk factors like the mother's age or smoking habits, the researchers said.

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