For mothers-to-be who are worried about giving up their daily dose of caffeine to keep their babies healthy, a new study found that they may not have to.
Findings by researchers from the Nationwide Children's Hospital suggest that coffee, when taken in moderation, will not cause problems to a child's intelligence or behavior in the future.
The research team studied blood samples from 1959 to 1975 of more than 2,000 pregnant women at the time. The samples were initially acquired to screen the mothers for infections while pregnant but were archived for future research works like the current study.
Caffeine levels were checked during two points in the pregnancy, which were then compared to the resulting child's IQ levels and behavior upon reaching four, then seven years old. Through data analysis, researchers were able to determine that no consistent patterns existed between the mother's caffeine levels during pregnancy and the development of her child in terms of mental and behavioral capabilities.
"These results provide at least some reassurance that caffeine, at the amounts that most people would be drinking, is not likely to have an important impact on the development of their children," said Dr. Mark Klebanoff, one of the lead investigators from the Center for Perinatal Research.
The research was not the only one to come to this conclusion.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that coffee in moderation is so far not known to cause any detrimental effects on the fetus, nor is it a considerable contributing factor to miscarriages, preterm births or other delivery problems.
Experts warn, however, that coffee's overall impact on fetal growth and development is still largely undetermined. So far, there have been very few studies that deal with how caffeine consumption affects pregnancy and child development further than early childhood.
This prompts other healthcare providers and mothers to limit caffeine altogether during pregnancy to play it safe.
Ob-gyn and fetal medicine specialist Dr. Mona Prasad said that many mothers reduce caffeine intake during pregnancy because of the perceived risk, though some may find it difficult to give it up completely compared to others.
"They don't want to admit to (consuming caffeine) necessarily," Prasad said. "They're less likely to discuss it with their physicians."
Recommendation still stands however, that less than 200 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in a tall Starbucks coffee cup) a day is so far considered safe for pregnant mothers.
The findings of the study are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.