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Does Mother Drinking Coffee During Pregnancy Make Child Shorter?

People who drink coffee during pregnancy give birth to children who are slightly shorter than kids of caffeine abstainers.

Doctors often warn pregnant women to avoid a wide range of potentially harmful substances, even fast food. Smoking is off limits, of course, and so is alcohol. In addition, women are frequently admonished to avoid tea and coffee during pregnancy. Do they really have to quit all sources of caffeine? What happens if they don’t?

Kids Are Shorter if Mothers Drink Coffee During Pregnancy:

A recent study kept track of people who drank coffee during pregnancy (JAMA Network Open, Oct. 31, 2022). The analysis drew data from two different cohort studies, with more than 2,000 mother-child pairs. The scientists measured the children between age 4 and age 8.

According to the investigators, people who drank more coffee during pregnancy had children who were slightly shorter. The difference was modest, however, less than an inch by age 8. Weight and body mass index did not differ between youngsters whose mothers drank tea or coffee and those who did not. The researchers were able to confirm the volunteers’ reports of coffee consumption by measuring caffeine and paraxanthine in their blood.

The analysts note that the height differences were evident even when mothers consumed less than 200 mg of caffeine daily. That is the cutoff obstetricians usually recommend. It amounts to approximately two modest cups of coffee. The researchers admit, however, that the clinical implications are not clear. Does the observed discrepancy in height continue into adolescence and adulthood or does it disappear? Are there any other consequences of drinking coffee during pregnancy?

They conclude:

“Future research in caffeine consumption during pregnancy should follow child growth into puberty and beyond to determine whether height gaps continue to widen into adulthood, and whether shorter height associated with maternal caffeine consumption confers greater risk for cardiometabolic dysfunction.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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