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Natural Awakenings

Avoid Coffee When Pregnant to Safeguard Brain Development

Pregnant woman declining offer of caffeinated beverage to protect baby's brain development

molostock/AdobeStock.com

A mother’s coffee drinking during pregnancy can change important pathways in an infant’s developing brain, raising the risk of behavioral issues, attention difficulty and hyperactivity years later, say researchers at the University of Rochester, in New York. Analyzing thousands of brain scans of 9- and 10-year-olds, researchers found clear changes in how white matter tracks, which form connections between brain regions, were organized in children whose mothers reported consuming caffeine while pregnant. “These are sort of small effects and it’s not causing horrendous psychiatric conditions, but it is causing minimal, but noticeable behavioral issues that should make us consider long-term effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy,” says John Foxe, Ph.D., principal investigator of the university’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. Previous studies have found that a fetus does not have enough of the enzyme necessary to break down caffeine when it crosses the placenta.

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