Drinking tea may be bad for your unborn baby’s health

14 March 2019

This was the conclusion of a recent study done by researchers at University College Dublin which showed a consistent link between both coffee and tea caffeine and adverse birth outcomes. Given that some estimates put the number of cups of tea consumed daily at 165,000,000, this may come as something of a shock to a lot of pregnant women.

As many of my friends are now starting families, conversation between us naturally turns quite often to what they have been advised to eat/not eat, drink/not drink, do/not do during pregnancy. What seems clear is that pregnant women cannot avoid being bombarded with well-meaning advice from those around them on what is best for their unborn child.

It is crucial however that pregnant women do not miss out on important advice from the experts, that is the midwives or obstetricians involved in their care. One conversation in particular which women should ensure they have before giving birth relates to the pros and cons of choosing a particular birth location. While giving birth is generally very safe for both the woman and her baby, it is vital that women are given all the relevant information necessary to help them make an informed decision about where to give birth.

There are typically four options for giving birth in the UK; at home, in a freestanding midwifery unit, alongside midwifery unit or obstetric unit. All 4 birth settings should be available to all women (in the local area or in a neighbouring area) and women have the option to choose to give birth in any of these locations. 

Guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) sets out the information your midwife/obstetrician should provide to you in relation to the different birthing locations, including information about:

  1. access to midwives: that is the likelihood of being cared for in labour by a familiar midwife and receiving one-to-one care throughout labour in your chosen location;
  2. access to medical staff: for example obstetricians, anaesthetists and neonatologists in your chosen location;
  3. access to pain relief: for example birthing pools and regional analgesia in your chosen location; and
  4. the likelihood of being transferred to an obstetric unit, the reasons why this might happen and the time it may take.

If you would like to discuss your choice of birthing location in more detail your midwife should arrange an appointment for you to do so with a consultant midwife or supervisor of midwives (and/or consultant obstetrician if there are obstetric issues)

Your midwife should not disclose their personal views or judgments about where you decide to give birth and should support you in your choice of setting wherever you choose to give birth.

Overall the NICE Guidance claims there are no differences in outcomes for the baby associated with planning birth in any setting” (in relation to low risk pregnancies where the mother has previously given birth). That is the number of babies per 1,000 births in each setting who had serious medical problems was approximately the same (3 per 1,000 for Home, Freestanding midwifery unit and obstetric unit and 2 per 1,000 for Alongisde midwifery unit). However it is important to be aware that if you choose to give birth at home or in a freestanding midwifery unit and your baby does develop serious medical problems, factors like location, transfer time to hospital and availability of medical staff can have serious implications for your baby’s health, especially in emergency situations.

If you believe you were not given all the relevant information about the risks of giving birth in a certain location and your baby has suffered a life-changing injury that could otherwise have been avoided please email clinnegenquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk

About the author

Aideen McGarry is an Associate in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team. Aideen has experience working on high-value clinical negligence and personal injury claims.

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