- In one study, children of pregnant women who drank small amounts of caffeine were smaller than children whose mothers did not drink it.
- A new JAMA study has found that the children of women who drank the equivalent of half a cup of coffee a day were 1.5 cm shorter.
- Other studies indicate that drinking coffee during pregnancy could negatively affect the fetus or baby.
Drinking less than the recommended caffeine limit per day during pregnancy could still have a negative impact on a child’s height, according to a new study.
The study, published Oct. 31 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that children of women who drank less than the upper limit of 200 milligrams of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were smaller than those whose mothers drank little or no coffee.
The study looked at two groups of pregnant women whose blood caffeine levels were measured during their first trimester.
In the first group, 788 children of pregnant women who drank about 36 milligrams of caffeine per day (about half a cup of coffee) were about 1.5 centimeters shorter at age 7 than those of women who had little or no of caffeine.
In the second group, children whose mothers consumed the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee a day were 0.68 cm to 2.2 cm shorter between the ages of 4 and 8. The height differences started at age 4 and the gap widened from year to year until the children were 8 years old.
“Our results indicate that maternal caffeine consumption is associated with long-term decreases in child height,” the authors said in the study. “This association occurred even with maternal consumption below current recommendations of 200 mg per day.”
The study authors said the height differences between the children were similar to those seen in the children of smokers and non-smokers.
Other research on caffeine consumption in pregnant women and children
Although national guidelines allow for moderate caffeine consumption, some studies — like the recent JAMA study — indicate that any amount of caffeine during pregnancy could impact the fetus or baby.
A recent National Institutes of Health study on caffeine consumption during pregnancy found that people who drank half a cup of coffee a day had slightly smaller babies than those who abstained. And a review published in 2020 found that any level of caffeine consumption can increase a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight.
Pregnant women who drink coffee may have smaller children, but drinking caffeine in childhood is unlikely to impact height.
Experts previously told Insider that pregnant women who limit their coffee or tea should be aware of other sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, soft drinks and certain medications.
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