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Thursday, 25 November, 1999, 01:27 GMT
Caffeine blamed for miscarriages
Drinking coffee could endanger pregnancy

Drinking too much caffeine doubles the risk of having a miscarriage, according to new research.

A study of 42,000 women concluded that drinking five or more cups of coffee a day significantly increased the danger of losing a baby.

But researchers at the University of Utah found that drinking just one or two cups a day had no effect on pregnancy.

The results were questioned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in UK, which said there was no evidence of any amount of caffeine being linked to miscarriage.

The Utah study, published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, analysed stored blood samples from women enrolled in a perinatal project in America between 1959 and 1966. They looked at levels of paraxanthine - a chemical produced when caffeine is broken down by the liver.

Twice as likely

After accounting for factors like smoking, they found that women who consumed the caffeine equivalent of five or more cups of coffee a day were twice as likely to miscarry as those who drank less or none at all.

Caffeine is also present in tea, soft drinks and chocolate, and previous studies on the effects on pregnancy, often reliant on women self-reporting their consumption rates, have shown mixed results.

Some research has claimed as little as one cup a day can have an effect, while others say it is only linked in women who suffered morning sickness. Others say there is no link at all.

The researchers admitted they had not investigated the effect of birth abnormalities and that the storing of the blood samples for more than 30 years could have led to deterioration in the levels of paraxanthine.

'Not a factor'

Dr Alan Cameron, a consultant at the Queen Mother's Hospital, Glasgow, and a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' council, said he did not believe caffeine was a factor in miscarriage.

"There are more relevant factors than caffeine consumption. We would have noticed if there was a particular preponderance of heavy coffee drinkers.

"If somebody is excessively smoking or drinking caffeine, we would advise them to rethink, more for the mother's health than the baby's."

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See also:
04 Mar 99 |  Health
Caffeine drives up stress levels
25 Jun 99 |  Health
Coffee may stimulate epilepsy in newborns
23 Jul 99 |  Health
Infection increases miscarriage risk
30 Jul 99 |  Health
Miscarriage prevention therapy 'does not work'

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