Is caffeine, alcohol safe during pregnancy?

Is caffeine, alcohol safe during pregnancy?

A new book that casts doubt on long-held medical guidance for pregnant women has people talking.

Author, Emily Oster, associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says she disagrees with many of the recommendations physicians have for moms-to-be. After personal analysis of hundreds of studies, she’s come out against many of the “motherhood myths.”

Based on expert health advice, it’s common for women to forgo coffee, alcohol and even stay away from cleaning the cat’s litter box during pregnancy. However, according to the controversial book, “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong — and What You Really Need to Know,” Oster says the science behind such advice doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

“There is virtually no evidence that drinking a glass of wine a day has negative effects on pregnancy or child outcomes,” she says in the book. Additionally, Oster reports that she refused to give up her four-cup-a-day coffee habit during her own pregnancy, which was what prompted her to write the book. Oster believes it’s OK to have as much as two to four cups of coffee a day while pregnant.

However, some physicians say Oster’s ideas need to be taken with caution and disagree with her conclusions.

“I always follow the recommendation of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) when making my recommendations to my patients,” says Dr. Stephanie Heraty, an obstetrician/gynecologist  with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The findings in this book would certainly not influence what I tell the pregnant women I care for.”

Dr. Heraty says scientific research points to caffeine as a cause for miscarriage in the first trimester; therefore, she recommends no more than 200 mg a day for the first trimester—about one small cup of coffee or a can of cola. She also prefers her patients stick to water and other non-caffeinated beverages to keep well-hydrated. Caffeine, she says, is a well-known diuretic and will only exacerbate possible dehydration.

As for alcohol, Dr. Heraty asks her patients to refrain from drinking at all while pregnant. She says the ACOG recognizes maternal alcohol intake as the leading cause of fetal mental retardation.

“We honestly don’t know what amount might be harmful, since there’s no real way to scientifically study varying amounts of alcohol in pregnant women,” Dr. Heraty says. “I always tell my patient, ‘Why risk it?’”

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Heraty (and the American College of OB/GYN). Why on earth would I give my unborn child alcohol, which is what I’m doing if I drink when pregnant? If you have trouble giving up drinking for the sake of your unborn child, take a look at how important alcohol is to you.

  2. Lisa Parro

    Don’t forget about lunchmeat, hot dogs, sushi…

  3. There is no evidence in support of giving up alcohol because who could actually conduct ethical research on this? I don’t give my young children alcohol so why would you consume it when pregnant?

  4. Just to clarify the author is an associate professor of ECONOMICS. ECONOMICS?

  5. “After personal analysis of hundreds of studies, she’s come out against many of the ‘motherhood myths.'” The professor of economics no doubt has the ability to read and understand “hundreds of studies”. She does not, however, have medical training in obstetrics, fetal development, neurology, etc. I’ll stick with the recommendations of those who do.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.