Craving Coffee? Caffeine During Pregnancy Not Linked To Behavioral Problems In Children

Heather Johnson

Pregnant women are frequently advised to limit their consumption of caffeine during pregnancy. However, prenatal exposure to caffeine does not increase the risk for behavioral problems in children, says a new study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In the study conducted by researchers at the Department of Psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, the researchers sought to investigate an association between the maternal consumption of caffeine during pregnancy and later behavioral problems in children at five and six years of age.

To determine a link, if any, between caffeine during pregnancy and behavioral problems in children, the researchers measured the consumption of caffeine during pregnancy including coffee, caffeinated tea, and cola during the sixteenth week of gestation. In response to a questionnaire, the mothers participating in the study reported on the type and amount of coffee, tea, and cola that they consumed during the past week.

At five years of age, the mothers as well as teachers of the children born to the women participating in the study evaluated and rated the children's overall problem behavior, emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention problems, peer relationship problems, and prosocial behavior.

The researchers also took into account compounding factors such as maternal age, ethnicity, cohabitant status, education, smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy, child's gender, family size, and prenatal maternal anxiety.

According to the study, consuming caffeine during pregnancy is not linked to an increased risk for hyperactivity/inattention problems, emotional symptoms, conduct problems, peer relationship problems suboptimal prosocial behavior, or overall problem behavior at five years of age.

In response to the findings, the researchers concluded that advising women to avoid caffeine during pregnancy to reduce the risk of behavioral problems in their children is unwarrented:

"To conclude, this study has provided insight into what extent caffeine consumption during pregnancy contributes to the development of problem behavior. Our results did not provide evidence to advise pregnant women to reduce their caffeine intake to prevent problem behavior in their children."

Will the results of this study change your attitude about consuming caffeine during pregnancy?