US researchers said Monday that they have conclusive proof to show that women who drink a lot of caffeine on a daily basis in the early months of pregnancy have an elevated risk of miscarriage, settling a longstanding debate over the issue.

To be absolutely safe, expectant mothers should avoid caffeinated beverages of any kind during the first five months of pregnancy, the researchers said in a paper published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The concept that pregnant women may be putting their babies in jeopardy by drinking large amounts of caffeine on a daily basis is not new.

Previous studies have suggested that consumption of three cups of coffee, or 300 mg of caffeine a day, corresponds to an elevated risk of miscarriage compared to women who eschew the stimulant altogether.

However, critics argued that the results of those studies were skewed by the fact that women with healthy pregnancies tended to avoid coffee or caffeine because of morning sickness.

In order to get to the bottom of the issue, researchers with Kaiser Permanente monitored more than 1,000 women as they went through their pregnancies -- all of whom continued drinking coffee or caffeinated beverages in the same quantities as they did before conceiving.

The results were unequivocal.

The researchers found that a woman's risk of miscarriage increased in line with rising daily caffeine consumption, be it from coffee, tea, hot chocolate, caffeinated beverages, or a combination of all of these.

Women who consumed 200 mg or more of caffeine a day had twice the risk of losing their baby as women who avoided the stimulant entirely.

For the purposes of this study, 200 mg was said to be equivalent to two 7.5 oz cups of coffee or five 12-oz cans of a caffeinated soda drink a day.

CHICAGO, Jan 21, 2008 (AFP)


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