Is coffee is safe to drink while pregnant? Genetic study finds no harmful effects

BRISBANE, Australia — Pregnant women with a taste for coffee can rejoice, a new genetic study finds the popular beverage is perfectly safe to drink while women are with child. Researchers from the University of Queensland found that consuming coffee in moderation does not increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth.

“Current World Health Organization guidelines say pregnant women should drink less than 300mg of caffeine, or two to three cups per day,” explains Dr. Gunn-Helen Moen in a university release. “But that’s based on observational studies where it’s difficult to separate coffee drinking from other risk factors like smoking, alcohol or poor diet. We wanted to find out if coffee alone really does increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and the research shows this isn’t the case.”

Your genes can reveal how much coffee you like to drink

Dr. Daniel Hwang adds that someone’s coffee-drinking tendencies partially come down to genetics. In fact, specific gene variants can impact how much coffee people like to drink.

“We showed that these genetic variants not only affect coffee consumption in the general population but also in pregnant women,” Hwang reports.

Specifically, study authors used a technique called Mendelian Randomization, which used eight genetic variants that predict a pregnant woman’s coffee drinking behavior. From there, they compared these variants to the group’s pregnancy outcomes.

“Because we can’t ask women to drink prescribed amounts of coffee during their pregnancy, we used genetic analyses to mimic a randomized control trial,” Dr. Hwang explains.

A morning coffee won’t put your baby at risk

Results reveal that women who drink coffee during their pregnancies are at no greater risk for complications than women who don’t consume coffee.

“When it comes to diet during pregnancy women are often advised to cut things out, but this study shows they can still enjoy coffee without worrying about increasing the risk of these pregnancy outcomes,” Dr. Hwang says.

The team notes that their genetic analysis only examined certain pregnancy risks. They caution that too much coffee consumption could still affect other pregnancy factors, like fetal development in the womb. For that reason, study authors continue to recommend pregnant women keep their coffee drinking at a low to moderate level for those nine months.

The study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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