Caffeine in Moderation During Pregnancy Does Not Harm Baby’s IQ

A new study has found that caffeine in moderation during pregnancy does not lead to reduced IQ or increased behavioral problems in children.

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

For the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, 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 from 1959 to 1974.

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, the researchers noted.

The 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 four and seven 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 new study follows previous research regarding caffeine consumption during pregnancy conducted at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Klebanoff and Sarah Keim, Ph.D., published a study in Epidemiology in March 2015 involving the same group of women and found that increased ingestion of caffeine during pregnancy did not increase the risk of childhood obesity.

Of the children in that study, about 11 percent were considered obese at four years and about seven percent at seven 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 one or two cups of coffee per day,” said Keim, who is also a faculty member at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Pregnant woman drinking a warm beverage photo by shutterstock.