Background Methylxantines such as caffeine and its metabolites, which are taken by pregnant women via daily foods, are completely transferred to the fetus through placenta. Caffeine has been shown to improve respiratory functions and decrease bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants. However respiratory effects of prenatal caffeine exposure are not known completely in newborn infants.
Aim We aimed to investigate whether there is a relationship between cord blood theopylline levels (which is a main caffeine metabolite) and pulmonary morbidities in early neonatal period in premature infants.
Method This study was conducted in Hacettepe University Children’s Hospital Neonatalogy Unit. Cord blood samples were obtained at birth from premature infants (gestational age < 37 wk) and theophylline levels were measured. Cord blood theophylline levels of infants with and without respiratory morbidities were compared.
Results A total of 60 infants were enrolled in the study. Early respiratory morbidities developed in 37 infants (Group 1, 61.6%) while no respiratory morbidities were observed in 23 infants (Group 2, 38.3%). Although mean cord blood theophylline levels were lower in Group 1 (0.21±0.18 µg/ml) than Group 2 (0.33±0.29 µg/ml), this difference was not statistically significant (p=0.156).
Conclusion Preterm infants with and without respiratory morbidities have similar cord blood teophylline levels. Prenatal exposure to theopylline does not seem to affect respiratory status in the early neonatal period. However cord blood theophylline levels were much lower than therapeutic serum levels in neonates. The effects of prenatal caffeine on neonatal respiratory status should be investigated in animal models.