Background: Pregnant women consume caffeine daily. The aim of this study was to examine the association between maternal caffeine intake from different sources and (a) gestational length, particularly the risk for spontaneous preterm delivery (PTD), and (b) birth weight (BW) and the baby being small for gestational age (SGA).
Methods: This study is based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. A total of 59,123 women with uncomplicated pregnancies giving birth to a live singleton were identified. Caffeine intake from different sources was self-reported at gestational weeks 17, 22 and 30. Spontaneous PTD was defined as spontaneous onset of delivery between 22+0 and 36+6 weeks (n = 1,451). As there is no consensus, SGA was defined according to ultrasound-based (Marsal, n = 856), population-based (Skjaerven, n = 4,503) and customized (Gardosi, n = 4,733) growth curves.
Results: The main caffeine source was coffee, but tea and chocolate were the main sources in women with low caffeine intake. Median pre-pregnancy caffeine intake was 126 mg/day (IQR 40 to 254), 44 mg/day (13 to 104) at gestational week 17 and 62 mg/day (21 to 130) at gestational week 30. Coffee caffeine, but not caffeine from other sources, was associated with prolonged gestation (8 h/100 mg/day, P <10-7). Neither total nor coffee caffeine was associated with spontaneous PTD risk. Caffeine intake from different sources, measured repeatedly during pregnancy, was associated with lower BW (Marsal-28 g, Skjaerven-25 g, Gardosi-21 g per 100 mg/day additional total caffeine for a baby with expected BW 3,600 g, P <10-25). Caffeine intake of 200 to 300 mg/day increased the odds for SGA (OR Marsal 1.62, Skjaerven 1.44, Gardosi 1.27, P <0.05), compared to 0 to 50 mg/day.
Conclusions: Coffee, but not caffeine, consumption was associated with marginally increased gestational length but not with spontaneous PTD risk. Caffeine intake was consistently associated with decreased BW and increased odds of SGA. The association was strengthened by concordant results for caffeine sources, time of survey and different SGA definitions. This might have clinical implications as even caffeine consumption below the recommended maximum (200 mg/day in the Nordic countries and USA, 300 mg/day according to the World Health Organization (WHO)) was associated with increased risk for SGA.