So What About Coffee During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women drinking caffeine do not have children with problem behaviors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Women are advised to give up lots of vices during pregnancy, however coffee is generally viewed as safe. But should they pass on their morning cup of coffee as well? The evidence has generally been limited and mixed.

A recent study looked at the long-term effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy on the children when they're approaching school age.

It finds that expectant moms' intake of caffeinated drinks had no effect on the kids later on.

"Expectant moms' caffeine intake doesn't affect child's behavior."

The study was led by Eva M. Loomans, MSc, of the Department of Psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and of the Department of Epidemiology, Documentation and Health Promotion at Public Health Service Amsterdam.

Loomans and colleagues started following 8,202 children starting when their mothers were in their 16th week of pregnancy.

The mothers self-reported their caffeine intake by answering whether they had drunk coffee, tea or cola in the past week, the type of drink it was and how much they had.

They divided the women into groups according to estimates on how much caffeine they had consumed daily: 0 to 85 mg, 86 to 255 mg, 256 to 425 mg and more than 425 mg a day.

An 8-ounce cup of coffee can contain, on average, from 95 to 200 mg of caffeine, according to the Mayo Clinic. An 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 15 to 60 mg of caffeine.

A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains about 35 mg of caffeine, and most energy drinks tend to have about 70 to 80 mg of caffeine in each 8-ounce serving.

The researchers then checked in with 3,439 of the children when they were 5 years old to assess any behavioral issues they might have.

Their behavior was assessed by questionnaires with the mothers and the children's teachers that asked about overall problem behavior, emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention problems, peer relationship problems and appropriately social behavior.

The researchers adjusted their calculations to take into account the mother's age, ethnicity and education as well as whether the mother lived with a partner, whether she smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy and whether she was anxious during pregnancy. They also took into account the child's gender and family size.

The findings revealed that no link existed between a mother's caffeine intake during pregnancy and her child's likelihood of having behavioral or social problems at age 5.

"Present results give no indication to advise pregnant women to reduce their caffeine intake to prevent behavior problems in their children," the researchers concluded.

They also looked at whether the child's gender and the week of pregnancy when the child was born to see whether either interacted with the mother's caffeine intake to lead to any associations with problem behaviors.

Neither did, nor was there any influence if the children were born underweight except a slightly higher risk among underweight preemies of hyperactivity and attention problems - though this was unrelated to the mother's caffeine intake.

There was a small uptick in peer relationship problems among mothers who smoked during pregnancy and consumed more than 425 mg of caffeine a day compared to the mothers drinking the least amount of caffeine, but this association only existed for smoking moms.

Because the study gathered information on mothers' caffeine intake at 16 weeks - almost midway into the second trimester - the results cannot be applied toward any possible effects of caffeine intake during the first trimester.

The study was published July 9 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Department of Public Health at the University of Amsterdam's Academic Medical Centre, the Department of Epidemiology at the Public Health Service's Documentation and Health Promotion in Amsterdam and the Department of Psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 8, 2012
Last Updated:
December 20, 2012