Drinking coffee during pregnancy 'won't turn your child hyperactive'
14:45 GMT, 12 July 2012
If your children are hyperactive and can't settle don't assume drinking coffee during pregnancy was to blame, say researchers.
A study of more than 3,400 five and six-year-olds has found no evidence that the children's behavioral problems were related to their mothers' caffeine intake during pregnancy.
The NHS recommends pregnant women have no more than 200mg of caffeine a day – which is equivalent to a 160z cup of coffee
Youngsters whose mothers drank around three cups of coffee a day had not greater risk of suffering from inattention than those who had none, said study author Eva Loomans, from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.
However, she added that this didn't mean that caffeine might not be harmful as they did not look at any other developmental issues besides problem behaviour.
For now, she suggests pregnant women follow their doctors' advice. The NHS says pregnant women shouldn't have more than 200mg of caffeine a day – or a 12oz cup of coffee. High levels of caffeine can cause babies to have a low birth weight while too much can also cause a miscarriage.
However, the question of whether a mother's caffeine intake could affect her child's development in some way remains. So far, there's little evidence that it does. Instead, much of the concern comes from animal research – which has suggested caffeine can affect foetal brain development in a way that alters behavior later in life. Whether that's true for humans is unknown.
In the latest study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, researchers said prenatal caffeine did not appear to be related to 'problem behavior.'
The research involved 3,439 Amsterdam children whose mothers had completed detailed questionnaires on lifestyle and other factors during pregnancy. When the children were between the ages of five and six, their moms and teachers were surveyed about behaviour problems.
Overall, about five per cent of children had some type of behavioral problem, like hyperactivity or inattention. But the risk was no greater for those whose mothers drank big daily doses of caffeine.
Ms Loomans cautioned there is still more to be learned about caffeine and children's long-term development.
This study could only look at the overall relationship between mothers' self-reports of caffeine intake and their reports on their children's behaviour. That does not necessarily mean caffeine has no effects, she said.