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The Effect of Caffeine on an Unborn Baby

By Michelle Lawson ; Updated June 13, 2017

Most doctors recommend limiting your caffeine intake during pregnancy. According to, there has been no determination on how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy; however, caffeine consumption may put you at an increased risk of miscarriage. Consult your physician about caffeine consumption if you are pregnant.


Caffeine is a drug that is naturally found in the beans, fruit and leaves of some plants and added to certain foods and drinks such as coffees, teas, sodas and chocolate. In addition, certain medications may use it as an ingredient. According to, caffeine is defined as a drug because of its stimulating effects on the nervous system.


In addition to caffeine being added to teas, coffees and chocolates, it may also be used medicinally. It may be used as a diuretic to increase urine production or it may be used as a cardiac stimulant. When used in coffees and teas, caffeine may ward off drowsiness and restore alertness. However, excess caffeine consumption may lead to jitters and dehydration.


When you consume caffeine during pregnancy, the caffeine passes through the placenta for absorption by the fetus. A fetus is not able to metabolize caffeine at the same rate of an adult; therefore, the caffeine may be stored in the fetal blood stream and reach alarming levels. During pregnancy, caffeine affects your ability to absorb essential minerals such as calcium. This decrease of absorption can cause your baby to be born with weak bones. In addition, it may lead to your baby having caffeine withdrawal at birth and increased breathing rates.

Expert Insight

According to Vanderbilt University, studies have shown that an intake of more than 300 mg of caffeine each day may increase your chance for miscarriage. In addition, the University says that based on animal studies, excess levels of caffeine can cause birth defects, low birth weight and preterm delivery.


SIDS is the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year old that goes unexplained after autopsy. According to the American SIDS Institute, a nonprofit health organization, a study showed that infants of mothers who consumed excessive amounts of caffeine throughout their pregnancy had a significantly increased risk of SIDS.

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