Coffee consumption does not lead to an increased risk of pregnancy, genetic study reveals
Researchers from the University of Queensland have found that enjoying a daily latte or a long black does not increase the risk of pregnancy.
Dr. Gunn-Helen Moen, Dr. Daniel Hwang and Caroline Brito Nunes from UQ The Institute for Molecular Bioscience used genetics to analyze coffee drinking behavior, and their results show that limited coffee consumption during pregnancy does not increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth.
According to current guidelines from the World Health Organization, pregnant women should drink less than 300 mg of caffeine, or two to three cups a day.
But this is based on observational studies where it is difficult to separate coffee consumption from other risk factors like smoking, alcohol or poor diet.
We wanted to find out if coffee alone really increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and research shows that it doesn’t.”
Dr. Gunn-Helen Moen, UQ Molecular Bioscience Institute
Dr Hwang said coffee drinking behavior is partly down to genetics, with a specific set of genetic variants affecting how much coffee we drink.
“We have shown that these genetic variants not only affect coffee consumption in the general population but also in pregnant women,” he said.
The researchers used a method called Mendelian randomization that used eight genetic variants that predicted coffee drinking behavior in pregnant women and examined whether these variants were also associated with birth outcomes.
“Because we cannot ask women to drink prescribed amounts of coffee during pregnancy, we used genetic testing to mimic a randomized controlled trial,” Dr. Hwang said.
Genetic analysis revealed that there was no increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth for women who drank 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 their risk of these pregnancy outcomes,” said Dr. Hwang.
The researchers point out that the study only looked at some adverse pregnancy outcomes, and it’s possible that caffeine consumption could affect other important aspects of fetal development.
“For this reason, we do not recommend high consumption during pregnancy, but low or moderate coffee consumption,” Dr. Moen said.
This research used genetic data from the Coffee and Caffeine Genetics Consortium, the UK BioBank, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and 23andMe.
The University of Queensland
Nunes, CB, et al. (2022) Mendelian randomization study of maternal coffee consumption and its influence on birth weight, stillbirth, miscarriage, gestational age and preterm delivery. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyac121.