Pregnant women can drink coffee in peace, now that researchers have confirmed that neither coffee, nor the caffeine in it, are detrimental to their child’s intelligence or behavior.
Although women regularly consume caffeine while pregnant, few studies have looked at the relationship between drinking coffee and kids’ development.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expectant mothers worried because caffeine can cross the placenta and increase catecholamine levels in the mother, one of the biomarkers for stress. Maternal stress is believed to trigger preterm birth. To address these concerns, researchers looked at 2,197 pregnant women and their children once they were born.
What they found was that children born to women who consumed caffeine did not have lower IQs or more behavioral problems than those born to women who did not consume caffeine while pregnant.
These new findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Mark A. Klebanoff and Sara A. Keim, of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Keim interpreted the data thusly:
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
Scientists analyzed the amount of the compound paraxanthine found in blood samples from pregnant women across two points during their term. The reason for that is because the body breaks down caffeine into several compounds including paraxanthine.
The data was collected between 1959 and 1974, when it was more common for pregnant women to drink coffee. Researchers compared the paraxanthine levels and the kids’ IQ and behavior when they were 4 and 7 years old. This isn’t the first time scientists have ruled it OK to drink coffee in moderation while pregnant. A 2012 study found that there was no link between caffeine intake and how often babies woke up during the night.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that consuming caffeine in moderation is fine, though it notes that the effects of taking large amounts are unclear.