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New research suggests caffeine raises stillbirth risk in pregnancy

News 18 November 2020

Scientists from Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at the University of Manchester have studied more than 1,000 mothers across 41 UK hospitals between 2014 and 2016.

They combined information typically used to measure stillbirth risk with an interviewer-led questionnaire about mothers’ consumption of various caffeinated drinks, as well as other risk factors like alcohol and cigarettes that have confused previous studies, to see if and when stillbirth may have been linked to caffeine.

This new study reports a 27% increase in stillbirth risk for each 100mg consumed, suggesting that safe limit guidelines of 200mg as recommended by NHS guidance need to be reconsidered. 

Commenting on the research, Dr Jo Mountfield, a consultant obstetrician and Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“This study adds to the body of evidence that supports limited caffeine intake during pregnancy. The study highlights the importance of women being made aware of the risks linked to consuming high levels of caffeine while pregnant, as well as being provided with clear advice about limiting their intake during pregnancy.

“The study also highlights that woman are not always aware of the caffeine content in the food and drink they consume, in particular high energy drinks, and therefore helping woman to access this information more readily is also important.

“The recommended daily caffeine intake of below 200mg for pregnant women – the equivalent to two cups of instant coffee – is based on extensive evidence in this area, however the RCOG would support a review of these limits in light of this new study.

“Any women who have concerns or worries about their or their baby’s health – including the baby's movements - should seek medical advice from their midwife or hospital immediately.”