Still think you can't enjoy a latte now and then while you're pregnant? According to this recent study, you really might not have to give up your caffeine fix.
It's one of the things pregnant women claim to miss the most—and it's also one of the things often considered off limits for women who are expecting. But if a recent study is any indication, consuming caffeine while pregnant isn't so bad. In fact, if done in moderation, it might be completely harmless.
A team of researcher studied the link between caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the child's intelligence after birth—the results? "We did not find evidence of an adverse association of maternal pregnancy caffeine consumption with child cognition or behavior at 4 or 7 years of age," Mark A. Klebanoff, M.D., a Columbus-based pediatrician and study researcher, said in the study's release. "There's been almost nothing looking at child's intelligence and caffeine use. Originally the things people were worried about were things like miscarriage, low birth weight and birth defects—but once they really started to look at it, they found very little to indicate that caffeine is an important cause of birth defects," he added during a phone call with Fit Pregnancy.
This changes everything
"I think [the idea that pregnant women shouldn't have caffeine] really came about in the late '70s and early '80s," Dr. Klebanoff said. "At that point in time the Food and Drug Administration put out a warning about caffeine during pregnancy and as a result that kind of stimulated a lot of research over the years. Until then I don't think anybody thought much of it at all."
Dr. Klebanoff told us that there have been very few studies about how caffeine affects babies after they're born. "When I started looking at the literature there was so little there to support that caffeine was in any way harmful," he explained.
Dr. Klebanoff has studied obesity rates in children born to mothers who drink moderate amounts of caffeine as well. "We really didn't find much of any type of association there either," he said.
Moderation is still key
Despite the fact that Dr. Klebanoff has not identified any dangers associated with drinking the occasional cup of coffee while pregnant, he suggested that pregnant women stick to moderate caffeine consumption. "There's a semi-official of definition of moderate caffeine use: It's been traditionally pegged at around 200 milligrams of caffeine a day—in this day and age, you have to be careful when you talk about cups of coffee because you see people with cups so big, you wonder how they manage to carry them around. The best way of thinking about it is your eight-ounce mug of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine in it, so one or two of those a day would be moderate."
But Dr. Klebanoff also pointed out something interesting: Pregnant women often swear off coffee for very different reasons. "Interestingly, at least during the first trimester of pregnancy, most women who were coffee drinkers before they got pregnant tend to cut back or stop on their own—not so much for the health reasons, but because most women report that they lost their taste for coffee," Dr. Klebanoff said. If coffee is not your cup of tea (pun intended) while you're pregnant, you can safely get your caffeine fix from tea, chocolate or even soda.
Are there any benefits to consuming caffeine while pregnant? According to Dr. Klebanoff, probably not—unless you tend to get headaches from caffeine withdrawal.
You heard it here, ladies. You really can indulge in a cup or two of coffee every day. "There's no evidence of harm at the level [of consumption]," Dr. Klebanoff confirmed.