A recent study reports that when women consume caffeine during pregnancy, their children need not carry any increased risk for behavioral problems later in life.
Coffee has been getting a lot of attention recently. Some studies say that it promotes heart health, while others say it reduces a person's risk for diabetes. The recent study is one more feather to coffee's cap.
AdvertisementIn a study conducted on more than 3,400 mothers, the researchers could find no evidence to suggest that maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy contributed to their children's behavioral problems.
Study author Eva Loomans, from Tilburg University, Netherlands, points out that children of mothers who drank around three cups of coffee a day, did not harbor greater risk of suffering from behavior related problems, compared to those children whose mothers did not drink coffee.
However, she added that this didn't mean that caffeine might not be harmful as they did not consider any other developmental issues in children, besides problematic behavior, while conducting this study. For the time being, Loomans suggests that all pregnant women follow the advice given by their doctors.
According to the NHS, pregnant women must avoid having more than 200mg of caffeine per day, in other words, they must restrict themselves to 12oz cup of coffee.
So far, there is very little evidence to suggest if a mother's caffeine intake could actually affect her child's development. However, animal research has suggested that caffeine can impair fetal brain development in a manner that is capable of altering their behavior later on life.
The recent study was conducted to understand the effect of coffee on the off springs of women who consumed coffee during pregnancy. 3,439 mothers were made to fill detailed questionnaires regarding lifestyle and other factors related to their pregnancy. A follow-up was conducted when the children were the five or six years old, during which time both mothers and teachers were surveyed about the children's behavioral and emotional health.
There appeared to be no connection between maternal caffeine intake and the risk for hyperactivity/inattention problems, emotional symptoms, conduct problems, peer relationship problems, overall problem behavior, or suboptimal prosocial behavior in the children of mothers studied. However, children of mothers who consumed lots of caffeine and smoked during pregnancy did exhibit behavioral problems.
Loomans warned that there is still a lot left to be elucidated about caffeine and its effect on long-term development in children. It would be better for pregnant women to avoid caffeine, as studies linking caffeine intake during pregnancy with 40% greater risk of miscarriage than in women who abstained from caffeine.
Caffeine is a neuro-stimulant that can pass from mother to fetus through the placental blood. During pregnancy, the metabolism of caffeine slows down and hence it tends to hang around for longer periods in the nervous system of the fetus. Caffeine also reduces blood flow to the fetus, through the placenta, and lowers fetal heart rate; this is capable of having a detrimental effect on the development of the child.
Scientist De-Kun Li, who authored the study connecting caffeine to miscarriage says, "it is premature to make any conclusion based on the finding from this [new] study, certainly not about the safety of caffeine consumption in pregnancy, even in the context of children's behavior."