Is drinking coffee while pregnant dangerous? The answer may surprise you

Is drinking coffee while pregnant dangerous? The answer may surprise you

A new study finds that the effects of coffee on the fetus aren't what people think.

There’s some very good news for pregnant women who like to drink coffee but are worried about how it might affect the fetus.

A new study finds that pregnant women who drink a moderate amount of caffeine won’t impair a child’s intelligence or cause behavioral problems, according to a Live Science report.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, determined that children who were born to women who drank caffeine when they were pregnant did not have offspring with lower IQs or more behavioral problems than those who did not.

Sarah Keim, an assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in a statement: “Taken as a whole, we consider our results to be reassuring for pregnant women who consume moderate amounts of caffeine, or the equivalent to one or two cups of coffee per day.”

Of particular concern is the compound paraxanthine found in caffeine, which is one of several compounds produced when the body breaks down caffeine. The researchers examined 2,197 pregnant women at two points during the pregnancy and compared their paraxanthine levels with the IQ and behavior of their children at ages 4 and 7 years.

The samples were taken between 1959 and 1974, a time period chosen because coffee drinking among pregnant women was much more common, and thus there are more data points for scientists to examine.

So the good news for pregnant women is that a cup of morning joe isn’t something to be concerned about.

Here’s the opening statement from the news release, which should reassure mothers everywhere: “Women drinking and eating moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy should be reassured that they are not harming their child’s intelligence, according to a study from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The research, one of the first studies to focus on how in utero caffeine exposure affects a child’s future intelligence (IQ) and behavior later in childhood, found caffeine did not lead to a reduced IQ or increased behavioral problems.”

The full news release is below:

COLUMBUS, Ohio -Women drinking and eating moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy should be reassured that they are not harming their child’s intelligence, according to a study from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The research, one of the first studies to focus on how in utero caffeine exposure affects a child’s future intelligence (IQ) and behavior later in childhood, found caffeine did not lead to a reduced IQ or increased behavioral problems.

“We did not find evidence of an adverse association of maternal pregnancy caffeine consumption with child cognition or behavior at 4 or 7 years of age,” said Mark A. Klebanoff, MD, principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s and faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Researchers analyzed a marker of caffeine in the blood of 2,197 expectant mothers who took part in the Collaborative Perinatal Project, conducted at multiple sites in the United States in 1959-74. According to the researchers, this was an era when coffee consumption during pregnancy was more prevalent than today, as there was little concern regarding the safety of caffeine. Therefore, the study was able to investigate a broader range of caffeine intake than if a similar study was done today.

Researchers looked at the association between a chemical called paraxanthine, caffeine’s primary metabolite, at two points in pregnancy. They compared those levels to the child’s IQ and behavior at 4 and 7 years of age.

Researchers found there were no consistent patterns between maternal caffeine ingestion and the development and behavior of those children at those points in their lives.

This study follows previous research regarding caffeine consumption during pregnancy conducted at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s. Dr. Klebanoff and Sarah Keim, PhD, co-author and principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s, published a study in Epidemiology in March 2015 involving the same group of women from The Collaborative Perinatal Project and found that increased ingestion of caffeine during pregnancy did not increase the risk of childhood obesity.

Of the children in the study, about 11 percent were considered obese at 4 years and about 7 percent at 7 years. However, the researchers found no associations between their mother’s caffeine intake and these occurrences of obesity.

“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,” said Dr. Keim, who is also a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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