New Research

Drinking Caffeine While Pregnant Might Cause Your Kid To Be Shorter, Study Says

According to the study, even a small amount of caffeine could alter the development of a child.

Young pregnant woman alone in her kitchen enjoying a breakfast. A new study suggests that even the s...
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It’s been mostly accepted by medical professionals that drinking a bit of coffee during pregnancy is safe. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends limiting caffeine consumption to less than 200 milligrams per day while pregnant. That’s around a cup and a half of coffee a day. Seems doable even for the biggest coffee addicts.

And while caffeinated beverages (and even food like chocolate) have been considered safe to consume during pregnancy, new research has shown caffeine consumption during pregnancy might have a lasting effect on children.

According to the study published in JAMA Network Open, which consisted of 1116 mother-child pairs from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Fetal Growth Studies–Singletons cohort, children who were exposed to small amounts of caffeine before birth were found on average to be shorter than the children of people who did not consume caffeine while pregnant.

Children of parents who consumed caffeine while they were in the womb were shown to be shorter in stature by age 4 than those whose parents did not have caffeine during pregnancy. By the time a child was 8 years old, the gap widened even more, according to lead author Dr. Jessica Gleason, a perinatal epidemiologist.

“To be clear, these are not huge differences in height, but there are these small differences in height among the children of people who consumed caffeine during pregnancy,” Gleason —who is a research fellow at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development — told CNN.

The kids had no significant change in weight or BMI due to their mom’s caffeine consumption. The study adjusted for a number of factors, including maternal age, parity, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, marital status, smoking status, and location.

The differences found in this particular study were found even in the children of parents who drank less than half a cup of coffee per day while pregnant — well below the current guidelines which are 200mg or less.

The study is consistent with past research that has connected caffeine intake during pregnancy with the shorter stature of kids — and other studies have found that drinking coffee is associated with lower birth weight.

So, is having a shorter child something to even be genuinely concerned about?

It seems that if the height differences persisted into adulthood, then there could be some cause for concern, and there would be a chance those children could face the risk of poor cardiometabolic outcomes, such as heart disease and diabetes, which are associated with smaller stature.

However, this study does not concretely give evidence that these height differences due to caffeine consumption would continue into adulthood.

If a pregnant person does want to cut back on their morning coffee ritual, there are some helpful ways. A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study found that it was helpful when individuals identified certain situations or moods in which they are most likely to crave caffeine.

If they could identify the triggers, they could actively work to avoid situations that bring on cravings, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Caffeine drinkers could also find an alternative to their caffeine habit like writing in a journal, going for a walk, or even just having a decaffeinated cup of joe with a fancy creamer.