Prenatal Caffeine Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5.5 Years: The EDEN Mother-Child Cohort

Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 1;80(9):720-726. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.08.034. Epub 2015 Sep 3.


Background: Evidence from animal studies suggests maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy has detrimental effects on subsequent brain development in offspring. However, human data in this area are limited. The aim of this study was to assess whether caffeine intake by women during pregnancy is associated with impaired cognitive development in offspring at age 5.5 years.

Methods: Multivariate modeling was conducted using data of 1083 mother-child pairs from a population-based birth cohort in France followed from pregnancy to age 5.5 years of the children. Measures included an estimate of maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy, children's IQ at age 5.5, and individual and family characteristics.

Results: Prenatal caffeine exposure was common in the sample (91%) with 12% displaying an intake ≥200 mg/day (high). Multivariable modeling showed a significant negative relationship between caffeine intake and children's IQ at 5.5 years (-.94 [95% confidence interval = -1.70, -.17] full IQ unit per 100 mg daily caffeine intake). In particular, children of mothers consuming ≥200 mg/day were more likely to have borderline or lower IQ compared with children of mothers consuming <100 mg/day (13.5% vs. 7.3%; odds ratio = 2.30, 95% confidence interval = 1.13, 4.69).

Conclusions: We found an association between caffeine intake during pregnancy and impaired cognitive development in offspring, a result in line with animal data. More epidemiologic and biologically grounded research is needed to determine whether this association is causal. This finding suggests that conservative guidelines regarding the maximum caffeine intake recommended in pregnancy (i.e., 200 mg/day) should be maintained.

Keywords: Caffeine; Cognition; Cohort studies; IQ, Pregnancy; Prenatal exposure; Preschool age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caffeine / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / drug effects*
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology*


  • Caffeine