Moderate Amounts of Caffeine Okay for Pregnant Women, Says Study

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 Amounts of CaffeineAccording to a new study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, consuming moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy will not result in adverse behavioral or intellectual outcomes in children.

For many people, coffee is an integral part of their morning routines. Some people can’t imagine going through one day without a coffee fix, let alone nine months. Many pregnant women forego caffeine as they don’t want to potentially risk the health and wellbeing of their unborn child.

Previous studies have linked caffeine intake during pregnancy to spontaneous abortions and delivery of small for gestational age babies. Some studies have even associated coffee consumption during pregnancy to problem behaviors among infants, infant insomnia, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder. The majority of research, however, has failed to evaluate the outcomes of children in later years as a result of in utero exposure to caffeine. Therefore, researchers from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital evaluated the caffeine intake of 2,197 pregnant women and the development and behavior outcomes of their children.

The study was a part of a greater prospective cohort study, the Collaborative Perinatal Project Cohort, where individuals participated from multiple sites across the U.S. between 1959 and 1974. At this time, it was unknown as to whether coffee or caffeine would have any consequential effects on fetal outcomes; therefore, people never thought twice about halting their coffee intake during pregnancy, which allowed for this data to be available to analyze.

Researchers from this study evaluated the associations between caffeine intake and children’s behavioral and cognitive outcomes at ages four and seven by analyzing blood levels of paraxanthine, caffeine’s main metabolite, at two points during pregnancy.

The control group included births that were greater than 28 weeks gestation compared to miscarriages at less than 20 weeks. Investigators drew blood samples at the same gestational ages of both groups. For the control group, investigators drew samples during early pregnancy at less than 20 weeks gestation and again during the third trimester at more than 26 weeks gestation. Study psychologists used cognitive and motor tests to analyze the children’s behaviors and cognition at ages four and seven.

Findings revealed that there were no significant associations between the amounts of caffeine that the mothers’ consumed and the cognitive development or behaviors of the children at either four or seven years of age. Having moderate amounts of coffee did not seem to pose any future risk to the children postpartum. This study is actually reassuring to many pregnant women who may stress about not being able to drink their coffee for the next nine months of their lives.
“Taken as a whole, we consider our results to be reassuring for pregnant women who consume moderate amounts of caffeine or the equivalent to 1 or 2 cups of coffee per day,” stated Dr. Sarah Keim, one of the study’s authors.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Klebanoff, M.A., et al., “Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and child cognition and behavior at 4 and 7 years of age,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2015; doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv136.
“Moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy do not harm baby’s IQ, study suggests,” ScienceDaily web site, November 19, 2015; www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119211435.htm.


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Leah Shainhouse, R.D.

About the Author, Browse Leah's Articles

Leah Shainhouse is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of Ontario and a member of the Dietitians of Canada. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Honors, in Nutritional Sciences from the University of British Columbia and went on to complete her dietetic training and Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition at McGill University. Leah has a strong desire to help shape the lives of individuals through a healthy lifestyle. She enjoys working with people to help... Read Full Bio »