Drinking Caffeine While Pregnant Might Cause Your Kid to Be Shorter, Study Says

You may want to skip your daily cup of Joe if you have a little one on the way — here's why.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Westend61

Westend61

If you start your day with a cup of coffee, that morning ritual might change if you're a mom-to-be. There’s a long list of food and drinks that pregnant women are encouraged to stay away from. When it comes to caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or soda, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg a day. That’s about two, six-ounce cups. Not too bad for those of us who thrive on our caffeine addiction.

However, a new study says drinking caffeine while pregnant can actually cause your child to be shorter in stature — even if you are drinking less than the allowed amount. So, for the next nine months, moms-to-be may want to pass on the coffee.

According to a new study published in the JAMA Network Open, children who were exposed to small amounts of caffeine before birth were, on average, shorter than the kids whose moms did not consume caffeine while pregnant. In fact, the study found that pregnant women who consumed even a half-cup of coffee a day had children who were almost an inch shorter than their peers by age four, and by the time those kids were eight years old, the gap widened even more when it came to height.

For the study, researchers followed 2,500 children from the United States between the ages of four and eight. Researchers noted that unlike previous studies, which relied on mothers to self-report their coffee consumption, this study used blood samples to determine exact levels of caffeine and its metabolite paraxanthine.

"Though the clinical implications of an approximately 2-cm height difference are unclear, our findings for height are similar in magnitude to those of children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy," the study revealed. "We consistently observed shorter height, which has been associated with increased risk of multiple cardiometabolic diseases in both pregnant and nonpregnant individuals."

While this height difference may not seem like a big deal, researchers say it’s later in life when the lost height could affect kids by increasing their risk of heart disease and diabetes in adulthood. Again — the important word here is "could."

"To be clear, these are not huge differences in height, but there are these small differences in height among the children of people who consumed caffeine during pregnancy," said Gleason, a research fellow at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Since caffeine can be found in a variety of foods and drinks — even chocolate has caffeine — it’s important to read labels. In addition, a Johns Hopkins University study found a few helpful ways to deal with caffeine cravings. They suggest avoiding situations that trigger those cravings, especially during the first few weeks of modifying caffeine use. That means you may need to change up your morning routine so you aren't tempted to make a cup of coffee. Instead, pour yourself decaffeinated tea and have a glass of juice. They also suggest taking a five-minute relaxation break involving deep-breathing exercises.

So, before you add caffeine consumption to your pregnancy anxieties — it’s important to note that this study does not concretely give evidence that these height differences due to caffeine consumption would continue into adulthood. However, it is a good reminder that everything pregnant women eat and drink is shared with their babies. Plus, once your baby is born, there’s plenty of time to enjoy your favorite coffee, and you’ll need it after a few sleepless newborn nights.

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