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Caffeine & Low Birth Weight Babies

These studies begin to point the way to the more permanent damage that coffee drinking can inflict on the unborn. The use of caffeine during pregnancy has been widely studied. There is much evidence to suggest that caffeine is associated with low-birth weight and related problems.

For example, one recent (1997) study of about 1,000 women in Yugoslavia showed that, among nonsmoking mothers, a "significant reduction" in birth weight was observed in babies whose mothers drank just 71 mg of caffeine a day - less than one cup. Low birth weight is generally considered to be newborn babies weighing less than five pounds.


Interestingly, the average caffeine intake of these subjects was 133 mg per day, or nearly double that at which low-birth weight incidences begin to appear. Part of the problem caused by mothers who use caffeine is the way the female body clears caffeine during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that during their first trimester of pregnancy, coffee-drinking women clear caffeine from their bodies in the same way that nonpregnant women do. But after that, the half-life of caffeine (the time it takes to eliminate half of the ingested caffeine from the body) almost doubles - from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hours. Therefore, since caffeine remains in the body for a longer period of time, it courses through the veins of the fetus for longer periods of time.

It's not unusual, then, for studies to consistently report that there is a significant increased risk of miscarriage and low-birth weight when pregnant mothers drink coffee. And the increased risk starts at extremely low amounts - with just one or two cups a day. And why is all this talk about low-birth weight important? Lower birth weight is linked to increased risk of dying in early infancy.

Marina Kushner is the founder of the Caffeine Awareness Alliance, the first non-profit organization dedicated solely to educating consumers about the dangers of caffeine intoxication. She is a reformed coffee drinker, leading investigative journalist and speaker. She is president of Soy Coffee, LLC, makers of the popular caffeine-free coffee substitute "Soyfee", which is made from soybeans. Certified organic, its brewed just like coffee and comes in 8 delicious flavors like hazelnut, mocha, french vanilla & house blend. Its available at select health food stores or online at

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