“I would advise pregnant women to take in as little caffeine as possible and switch to decaf altogether if they can,” Foxe said.
But he urged women not to go cold turkey if they can help it, because caffeine withdrawal can cause a host of symptoms, including headaches, irritability, nausea and difficulty concentrating.
“We don’t know what withdrawal, irritability, stress and anxiety will do to a pregnancy,” Foxe said. “Try to whittle away at your caffeine consumption before you get pregnant.”
The study does have some limitations. Women were asked to recall how much caffeine they consumed while pregnant, and memory isn’t always 100% accurate.
The findings were recently published online in the journal Neuropharmacology.
Dr. Mark Klebanoff, principal investigator at the Center for Perinatal Research in Columbus, Ohio, said many studies have looked at the effects of caffeine on pregnancy outcomes, such as risk of miscarriage. But less is known about how caffeine affects kids as they age.
“The new study adds to the literature, but it’s not enough to really implicate caffeine in any strong way,” said Klebanoff, who was not involved with the study but reviewed the findings.
“Pregnant women can be reasonably reassured that consuming less than 200 milligrams per day of caffeine will not cause miscarriage or preterm birth,” he said. But more study is needed on how it affects child development, Klebanoff added.
“A typical cup at home has about 100 mg of caffeine, so women can limit themselves to two cups a day when pregnant,” he said.
But they should keep in mind that other sources of caffeine (such as energy drinks, power bars and chocolate) should be considered as part of the total, Klebanoff said.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers advice on coffee and caffeine during pregnancy.
SOURCES: John Foxe, PhD, director, Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.; Mark Klebanoff, MD, principal investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, Abigail Wexner Research Institute, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Neuropharmacology, Jan. 30, 2021, online