The academic battle over the impact of caffeine on pregnancy continues in the medical community. A recent study published in BMC Medicine claims caffeine passes through the placenta to the fetus, but the fetus is not prepared to handle the caffeine so it remains active. This can cause health concerns, including low birth weight.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests pregnant women consume less than 300 mg of caffeine daily. That is equivalent to about two cups of coffee at a medium-strength brew. For the sake of the study, data were collected by the Norwegian Institute for Public Health. More than 60,000 pregnancies were noted with information on caffeine intake via coffee, sodas, tea, cocoa-containing foods, and chocolate. The study spanned 10 years.

Researchers found a strong connection between caffeine intake and birth weight. The connection was independent of other risk factors like smoking. Babies born to mothers who consumed more caffeine during pregnancy were smaller than babies born to mothers who did not consume caffeine. Consumption of just 100 mg of caffeine reduced infant weight up to 28 grams and length of pregnancy increased by five hours. If the caffeine was sourced from coffee, pregnancy length increased by eight hours.

Based on the findings, researchers suggest the recommended caffeine intake limit as established by WHO needs to be adjusted. No examples or suggestions for altered intake guidelines were provided by study authors.

Researchers also noted a previous study conducted on mice proved consuming two cups of coffee per day could alter heart function. That study was published in the FASEBJournal.

Source: Verena Sengpiel, Elisabeth Elind, Jonas Bacelis, Staffan Nilsson, Jakob Grove, Ronny Myhre, Margaretha Haugen, Helle M Meltzer, Jan Alexander, Bo Jacobsson, and Anne-Lise Brantsµter. "Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study." BMC Medicine 2013.