One study suggests that caffeine consumption during pregnancy could cause significant and harmful brain changes in the fetus. We take stock of the situation.

Pregnancy:, Too, much, coffee, would, cause, cerebral, changes, in, the, fetus

If you're pregnant, you've probably already looked up countless information on the Internet about your pregnancy. "Can I take paracetamol?" "Can I make skipping rope?" "Can I take paracetamol?" "Can I make skipping rope?" "Am I allowed to eat mustard?" There are many questions. And among your questions, it may be the one about coffee.

As a future parent, it's normal to wonder if it's dangerous to drink coffee, and thus expose the fetus to this energizing and stimulating beverage. And indeed, there are risks. Consuming too much caffeine can increase a mother-to-be's blood pressure and heart rate, and is believed to be associated with increased miscarriages and baby deaths at birth, according to Best Health Mag.

Long-term effects of caffeine consumption during pregnancy

Published on January 30, 2021 in the journal Neuropharmacology, a scientific study reveals that caffeine consumed during pregnancy could alter important brain pathways in the fetus, which could then translate into behavioral problems in the child years later. 

To arrive at this finding, researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester (New York, USA) followed 9,157 expectant mothers, 4,135 of whom reported consuming caffeine more than once a week throughout their pregnancy. The scientists then analyzed brain scans of the children from these pregnancies when they were nine to ten years old. 

They found clear changes in the way the white matter circuit-which forms connections between brain regions-was organized in children whose mothers reported consuming caffeine during pregnancy.

"These are sort of small effects that don't cause horrible psychiatric disorders, but they do lead to small but visible behavioral problems (such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder) that should lead us to consider the long-term effects of caffeine consumption during pregnancy," said John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, and lead author of the study. "I suppose the outcome of this study would be to make a recommendation that caffeine consumption during pregnancy is probably not such a good idea," he added in a statement. For now, the team says it is unclear whether the impact of caffeine on the fetus differs by trimester of pregnancy, or when exactly these brain changes occur.

For now, in the absence of further data, the researchers recommend that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake (including coffee and other beverages) to the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee per day.

Coffee and pregnancy: what recommendations?

Do we really have to say goodbye to the morning drink that allows most of us to come to our senses after a night's sleep? Luckily, no. For most pregnant women, 300 milligrams of caffeine, or about two cups a day, would be safe. You can try to make your cup last throughout the day so you can stay fit from morning to night without a refill. 

Not all brands of coffee have the same caffeine content, so be sure to read the label before making hot kawa. Decaffeinated coffee, for example, contains caffeine, but much less than regular coffee. This option allows you to repeat the ritual of having many cups of coffee each day. Another tip: Simply replace the coffee with herbal tea.  

The recommendation of 300 milligrams per day is valid for each trimester of pregnancy. Some women find that the acidity of coffee adds to morning sickness or heartburn. In this case, avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach, and listen to your body to identify the best time of day to drink coffee. If in doubt, don't hesitate to discuss the subject with a health care professional.

Are coffee and breastfeeding compatible?

Mothers who are breastfeeding can safely consume about two to three cups of coffee per day. If your toddler seems more irritable or is not sleeping, it may be best to reduce coffee consumption and see if it makes a difference.