London: If your kindergartener is hyperactive and can`t settle, don`t assume drinking coffee during pregnancy is to blame, a new study suggests.
The research of more than 3,400 five and six-year-olds has found no evidence that the children`s behavioral problems were related to their mothers` caffeine intake during pregnancy.
According to study author Eva Loomans, from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, youngsters whose mothers drank around three cups of coffee a day had not greater risk of suffering from inattention than those who had none.
However, she added that this didn`t mean that caffeine might not be harmful, as the study did not focus at any other developmental issues besides problem behaviour.
For now, she suggests that pregnant women should follow their doctors` advice. The NHS recommends that pregnant women shouldn`t consume more than 200mg of caffeine a day - or a 12oz cup of coffee.
High levels of caffeine can cause babies to have a low birth weight while too much can also lead to a miscarriage.
However, the question of whether a mother`s caffeine intake could affect her child`s development in some way remains. So far, there`s little proof that it does.
Instead, much of the concern comes from animal research - which has suggested caffeine can affect foetal brain development in a way that alters behaviour later in life. Whether that`s true for humans is not known.
In the latest study, researchers said that prenatal caffeine did not appear to be related to `problem behaviour`.
The research involved 3,439 Amsterdam children whose mothers had completed detailed questionnaires on lifestyle and other factors during pregnancy.
When the children were between the ages of five and six, their mothers and teachers were surveyed about behaviour problems.
Overall, about five percent of children had some type of behavioural problem, like hyperactivity or inattention. But the risk was no greater for those whose mothers drank large daily doses of caffeine.
Loomans cautioned that there is still more to be learned about caffeine and children`s long-term development.
This study could only look at the overall relationship between mothers` self-reports of caffeine intake and their reports on their children`s behaviour. That does not necessarily mean caffeine has no effects, she clarified.
The study was reported in the journal Pediatrics.