Several recent studies have warned women about the health risks associated with drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages during pregnancy. However, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy may be linked with a lower risk of gestational diabetes.
“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 researcher Stefanie Hinkle, Ph.D.
How caffeine impacts pregnancy
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 2,500 pregnant women enrolled in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Fetal Growth Studies-Singleton Cohort. On a weekly basis, the women reported on how many caffeinated drinks they had; then, during week 10 and week 13 of pregnancy, they submitted blood samples so that more precise caffeine levels could be measured. The researchers also evaluated the women’s health outcomes, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and gestational hypertension.
Ultimately, the researchers learned that caffeine consumption during pregnancy wasn’t associated with an increased risk of any of the three conditions. In fact, during the second trimester, women who were drinking low to moderate amounts of coffee were nearly 50% less likely to develop gestational diabetes.
The researchers cite recommendations given by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that women shouldn’t exceed more than 200 mg of caffeine during pregnancy. That translates to one 12-ounce coffee per day. In this study, the benefits linked with gestational diabetes occurred when women drank 100 mg of caffeine per day.
While many studies have pointed to the risks linked with women consuming caffeine during pregnancy, the researchers explained that these current findings are likely associated with women who were regular caffeine drinkers before getting pregnant.
“It would not be advised for women who are non-drinkers to initiate caffeinated beverage consumption for the purpose of lowering gestational diabetes risk,” Dr. 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.”