Coffee consumption 'can increase stillbirth risk'

Pregnant women who drink more than eight cups of coffee a day increase their risk of having a stillborn baby compared with non-coffee drinkers, a new study has found.

The researchers looked at 18,478 pregnant women booked in to give birth at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark between 1989 and 1996.

The team, led by Kirsten Wisborg of Aarhus University Hospital, found that pregnant women who drank four to seven cups a day had an 80% increased risk.

And those who consumed more than eight had a 300% higher risk, compared with women who did not have coffee during pregnancy.

When factors such as smoking and alcohol were taken into account, the risk of stillbirth was 2.2 times higher among those who drank more than eight cups of coffee a day compared with those who had none during pregnancy.

However the study, which has been published in the British Medical Journal, found no significant link between infant death in the first year of the baby's life and the mother having drunk more than eight cups of coffee daily during pregnancy.

The research team also said the number of deaths was small and so the risk estimate, based on women with the highest intake of coffee, involved just 11 stillbirths.

Roger Cook, spokesman for the British Coffee Association, said pregnant women should not be alarmed.

He said: "The results of this study do not alter the advice given to pregnant women on caffeine consumption during pregnancy by the Food Standards Agency who state that 300mg caffeine - equivalent to 3 mugs or 4 cups of coffee per day - is perfectly safe and will have no adverse effect on the mother or the foetus."

Exposure to caffeine during pregnancy has previously been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

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