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Caffeine in pregnancy can have lasting effects on the child

Drinking coffee during pregnancy could have long term lasting effects on the child in later life, researchers have found.

A team from the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have found evidence to suggest caffeine can make important brain changes which might impact the child’s behaviour as they grow older.

As part of the study, the researchers looked at thousands of brain scans of nine and ten-year-olds. They found a pattern of brain structure changes among the children who had been exposed to caffeine before they were born.

Lead researcher John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, said: “These are sort of small effects and it’s not causing horrendous psychiatric conditions, but it is causing minimal but noticeable behavioural issues that should make us consider long-term effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy.

“I suppose the outcome of this study will be a recommendation that any caffeine during pregnancy is probably not such a good idea.”

Some of the issues that the researchers noted during the study included attention difficulties and hyperactivity among the children.

Previous studies have found caffeine can sometimes have a harmful effect on pregnancy as it well documented that a foetus is not able to breakdown caffeine when it crosses the placenta. But this study shows how consuming caffeine when pregnant can have lasting effects on the child once it is born.

Dr Zachary Christensen, from the Medical Science Training Program, said: “What makes this unique is that we have a biological pathway that looks different when you consume caffeine through pregnancy.

“Previous studies have shown that children perform differently on IQ tests, or they have different psychopathology, but that could also be related to demographics, so it’s hard to parse that out until you have something like a biomarker. This gives us a place to start future research to try to learn exactly when the change is occurring in the brain.”

The findings have been published in the Neuropharmacology journal.

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