Coffee consumption during pregnancy has long been the subject of debate. Avoiding coffee has often been on the long list of items for expectant mothers to take under consideration for the health and well-being of the child growing inside her. Now, a recent study conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has found that expectant mothers may not need to skip that morning cup of coffee after all.

The study, titled Maternal Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy and Child Cognition and Behavior at 4 and 7 Years of Age, found that moderate coffee consumption does not affect a child’s future intelligence or behavior. A moderate amount of caffeine is the equivalent to 1 or 2 cups of coffee per day. The study details and results have been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Participants in the Collaborative Perinatal Project, conducted between 1959 and 1974, provided the data for the study. During the study, the pregnant women who participated in the project gave blood samples every eight weeks. The children born during the study were tracked for neurological or behavioral disorders through the age of eight years old.

The researchers at Nationwide Children’s hospital reviewed that data from blood samples at two points in pregnancy (less than 20 weeks and greater than 26 weeks) to determine caffeine consumption during those time periods. The researchers were looking for associations between paraxanthine, the main metabolite of caffeine, and the child’s IQ and behavior at age 4 and 7.

After examining the data from 2,197 expectant mothers, the researchers found that a consistent association between caffeine intake and the child’s future IQ did not exist. There was also no association found between caffeine intake and the future development of behavioral problems. The results of the study seem to show no correlation between a child’s IQ or behavior and the expectant mothers’ coffee consumption during pregnancy.

The study conducted by the researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the first to examine the effects of in utero caffeine consumption in regards to IQ and behavior. While coffee consumption may not affect the child’s brain in the ways researchers previously thought, consuming considerable amounts of caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to other undesirable effects, including an increased prevalence of obesity.

In study results published in the International Journal of Obesity last year, children born to mothers who consumed any amount of caffeine were 87 percent more likely to become obese. However, a subsequent study by different researchers published in Epidemiology this March, no such association was found.

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