Searching through the biomedical literature, I looked at four major categories of caffeine effects on the developing fetus. The first category, major birth defects, was easy to evaluate. Very high levels of caffeine have been shown to cause birth defects in animals (Nehlig & Debry 1994), but the levels at which these effects are seen are so high that they would not practically apply to even staunchly caffeine-addicted humans. To assess whether caffeine has these kinds of effects in humans, epidemiological studies (studies of populations of humans) must be used. In a systematic review of the epidemiological literature on cardiovascular malformations and oral clefts (Browne 2006), no evidence was found that caffeine alone was teratogenic for humans. [Caffeine has, however, been found to increase the risk of birth defects by other substances, such as tobacco and alcohol (Nehlig & Debry 1994)]. In a review of several animal studies and epidemiological studies exploring birth defects in general, Christian & Brent (2001) concluded that moderate caffeine use alone should not put fetuses at risk for birth defects. The outcome of epidemiological studies and the extremely high levels of caffeine needed to cause birth defects in animals is reassuring- moderate caffeine use should not lead to birth defects in humans.
Nopalitos for dinner? It's okay for mamis to indulge in the prickly green treats, according to Lourdes Alcañiz. During her first pregnancy, Alcañiz kept an ear out for that friendly and trusting voice that was impossible to hear thousands of miles away from friends and family. An award-winning journalist, Alcañiz soon decided to write a book for other expecting mamas to fill that void. That book became Waiting for Bebe: a Pregnancy Guide for Latinas. It includes a helpful appendix chock full of information, and is a handy resource to keep by any new or expecting mother's bedside. Alcañiz took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with me on the phone from Spain.
Attention, Single Mamas: George W. Bush has a proposal for you: a marriage proposal. That's right, he wants you to get married. You're particularly encouraged to don a bridal veil if you're on welfare and/or parenting as part of an unmarried couple. If you act now, you might even be able to get hitched before Congress makes its decisions about Bush's plan to fund marriage initiative and abstinence-only education programs with welfare dollars.