Don’t Shame Pregnant Women for Drinking Coffee
Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should completely avoid caffeine, according to a study published in The BMJ, a British medical journal.
Its findings, though, were quickly picked apart by skeptics who are sick of women being warned that almost everything they do—other than sip wheat grass smoothies—is a risk to their kids.
“I don’t think we need to worry about coffee,” says Clare Murphy, a spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. “I think we need to worry about this relentless pursuit of pregnant women and regulating of pregnant women’s choices.”
Murphy is the top signatory of a letter signed by about 20 professors and public health advocates objecting to the paper, which is actually a meta-analysis of several earlier studies relating caffeine and pregnancy. The analysis was conducted by James E. Jack, a professor of psychology at Reykjavik University whose life’s work seems to be excoriating caffeine. Consider his full-length book on the topic (his second): Understanding Caffeine, which concludes that “current scientific evidence indicates there is no safe level of regular use,” according to its description on Amazon.com.
He’s not a Starbucks kind of guy, in other words.
His BMJ piece looked at 48 studies out of 1261 on the subject. Of those 48, Jack reports, the majority found no safe level of caffeine for pregnant women. (Though about a fourth of them found caffeine had zero effect.) He blames caffeine for “tens of thousands of avoidable negative pregnancy outcomes per year in the USA alone.”
That is quite a claim. But as Joan Wolf, a professor of women’s and gender
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