Associations of maternal caffeine intake with birth outcomes: results from the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Dec 1;108(6):1301-1308. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy219.


Background: Maternal caffeine intake is associated with adverse birth outcomes, but in most studies the primary caffeine source is coffee; the influence of tea caffeine remains unclear.

Objective: The aim of the study was to examine the association between maternal caffeine intake and birth outcomes in a population with tea as the predominant caffeine source.

Design: Data from 941 Irish mother-child pairs of the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study were examined. Maternal dietary intakes in early pregnancy were assessed using a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Caffeine intake was derived from coffee, tea, soft drinks, and cocoa-containing foods and beverages. Associations of maternal caffeine intake with continuous (birth weight, birth length, and gestational age) and binary [low birth weight (LBW) (<2500 g) and preterm birth (PB) (<37 wk gestational age)] birth outcomes were investigated using multiple linear and logistic regressions, respectively, with adjustment for potential confounders.

Results: Tea was the predominant caffeine source (48%), followed by coffee (39%). In the fully adjusted model, maternal caffeine intake was associated with lower birth weight [β (95% CI): -71.9 (-105.4, -38.4) g · 100 mg-1 · d-1 caffeine increment], shorter birth length [-0.30 (-0.49, -0.11) cm], smaller head circumference [-0.12 (-0.24, -0.01) cm], and shorter gestational age [-0.13 (-0.25, -0.02) wk]; higher risks for LBW [OR (95% CI): 1.47 (1.14, 1.90)] and PB [1.36 (1.07, 1.74)] were also observed (all P < 0.05). The associations were robust to the exclusion of participants with pregnancy complications and in never smokers. Similar higher risks of adverse birth outcomes were observed for the highest caffeine intake categories from coffee [ORLBW: 3.10 (1.08, 8.89); ORPB: 2.74 (1.05, 7.16)] and tea [ORLBW: 2.47 (1.02, 6.01); ORPB: 2.56 (1.14, 5.75)], compared with the lowest intake categories (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Maternal caffeine intake from both coffee and tea is associated with adverse birth outcomes. This prospective observational study was registered at ISRCTN Registry as ISRCTN16537904.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Birth Weight*
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Caffeine / adverse effects*
  • Cigarette Smoking / epidemiology
  • Coffee / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tea / adverse effects*


  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Caffeine

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN16537904