Pregnant women who drink eight or more cups of coffee a day run more than twice the risk of stillbirth compared with women who do not drink coffee, according to a study published in this week's British Medical Journal.
Researchers in Denmark identified 18,478 pregnant women booking for delivery at Aarhus University Hospital during 1989-96. The women completed two questionnaires, providing information such as medical history, smoking habits, alcohol and coffee consumption.
The risk of stillbirth increased with the number of cups of coffee a day during pregnancy. Compared with women who did not drink any coffee, women who drank four to seven cups a day had an 80 per cent increased risk of stillbirth, and women who drank eight or more cups a day had a 300 per cent increased risk. There was no association between coffee consumption and death in the first year of life.
Women with a high intake of coffee are more likely to be smokers and to have a high intake of alcohol, the authors suggest. Adjusting for these factors reduced the risk slightly, but the link remained significant.
The report comes in the same week that the British Food Standards Agency warned women about eating excessive amounts of tuna fish during pregnancy because of a potential risk of mercury poisoning which could affect the foetus.