Let’s Stop Scaring Women

No more coffee or diet soda during pregnancy:

Too much caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, a new study says, and the authors suggest that pregnant women may want to reduce their intake or cut it out entirely.

I’m sorry, but this old saw has been around for years, and I don’t believe this study has proved that caffeine causes miscarriages any more than any other look at the issue. Some authorities agree with moi, who continued to need her caffeine fix through two healthy pregnancies.

Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and epidemiology, at Columbia University Medical Center, had reservations about the study, noting that miscarriage is difficult to study or explain.

Dr. Westhoff said most miscarriages resulted from chromosomal abnormalities, and there was no evidence that caffeine could cause those problems.

“Just interviewing women, over half of whom had already had their miscarriage, does not strike me as the best way to get at the real scientific question here,” she said. “But it is an excellent way to scare women.”

She said that smoking, chlamidial infections and increasing maternal age were stronger risk factors for miscarriage, and ones that women could do something about.

My understanding about scientific studies is that questioning folks after the event is considered somewhat suspect as interview subjects might be looking for facts that explain a bad outcome. This is known as recall bias, and it is one of the factors that led to the dismissal of the hypothesis that an abortion can cause breast cancer.

Now I am waiting for someone to explain to me why anti-depressants, which are a known risk factor for certain birth defects, are not contraindicated for pregnant women. Maybe we need a pharmaceutical company to turn caffeine into a pill they can make billions from … 

One Response to “Let’s Stop Scaring Women”

  1. […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by Helaine Olen […]

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