Do you struggle in the morning without your daily ‘wake-up’ coffee? If you do, then you’re certainly not alone! Caffeine has been called the world’s most popular drug and legions of coffee addicts can attest to that. But could your daily ‘coffee addiction’ be doing harm to your chances of conceiving? That’s the question I intend to answer today so read on….
Are you worried that your daily coffee habit could be doing harm to your chances of conceiving? Well, I’ll start with the good news straight off the bat: if you are trying to conceive, then there is no need to go cold turkey for caffeine. But I do need to make a disclaimer that it is certainly wise and recommended to keep your coffee habit down to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. Let me explain way.
The link between caffeine and fertility
Cutting back on caffeine is common fertility advice for women who are struggling to conceive or going through IVF. So is there good grounds for this advice? If you go digging into the scientific research as I’ve done, you’ll find mixed messages. Some studies do find a link between caffeine consumption and a woman’s ability to conceive, while others find that it has no impact. But the quality of the research studies are not that great and there hasn’t been a lot of research done to date.
So the conclusion of the experts is there just isn’t enough evidence to make a definite conclusion about caffeine and fertility. But it is worth paying heed to the possibility.
A link between caffeine and fertility is plausible. Caffeine is known to have effects on ovulation and hormone levels. Another interesting theory is that caffeine can affect how the muscles in the fallopian tubes work. The muscles in the fallopian tubes contract in smooth, rhythmic waves to help the egg on its journey to the uterus. So caffeine here could disrupt this rhythmic pattern of movement and affect the journey of the egg to its destination. Without a clear picture of if too much caffeine will harm conception chances, it is generally considered safe to consume up to about 200 milligrams of caffeine each day while you’re trying to conceive. That’s about the equivalent of two cups of coffee.
Caffeine and IVF
Advice about caffeine also applies to women on IVF. Some recent research out of Denmark actually found that drinking large amounts of coffee could hurt a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. The research team looked at nearly 4,000 women who underwent IVF at a large clinic. Women who drank more than five cups of coffee per day were 50% less likely to fall pregnant through IVF compared with women who did not drink any coffee. Drinking less than 5 cups of coffee per day though didn’t appear to harm a woman’s chance of pregnancy through IVF. So here, conservative advice about keeping your coffee drinking to two cups per day seems sensible and safe indeed!
What about after conception?
Once you become pregnant, the advice about caffeine becomes much stronger. A recent scientific review of many studies found a 37% higher risk of miscarriage in women who consumed more than 300 mg of caffeine a day.
A large observational study of over 2,600 pregnant women also found that having more than 300 mg of caffeine each day is linked to foetal growth restriction, which could result in low birth weight. So here again, the recommended cap of no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day either when planning a pregnancy or when pregnant is wise advice to follow.
Where do you find caffeine?
Now quite rightly we associate coffee with caffeine, but you do find caffeine in a range of drinks and foods. So it is good to be aware where it may lurk if you’re keeping an eye on your 200 mg per day limit.
Sources like tea, cola soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and coffee ice cream can all contain caffeine. Caffeine also shows up in herbal products and over-the-counter drugs, including some headache, cold, and allergy remedies. So read labels carefully. As a rough guide, a can of an energy drink like Red Bull or V has 80 mg of caffeine. Black and green tea have about 50 mg while cola drinks have 35 mg in a 375 mL can. If you enjoy dark chocolate, then you’ll find about 40 mg of caffeine in a 50 gram serve.
Cutting the caffeine habit
If your daily coffee ritual amounts to a lot more than 2 cups a day before you decided to try to conceive, then time is on your side to wind back your habit to make the transition easier and avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue and headaches. You might want to start by switching to a drink that’s half regular brew and half decaf. Or reduce the caffeine in homemade hot beverages by watering them down or brewing them for a shorter time. If you love to start your day with a cup of black tea, steeping your tea bag for one minute instead of five reduces the caffeine by as much as half.
OK, so I’ve given you a LOT of information today. So, let’s summarise:
- Cutting back on caffeine when planning pregnancy is common advice and there is enough scientific evidence to say that this is advice to pay heed to, especially for women on IVF
- There are not many pregnancy concerns about having caffeine up to about 200 mg per day, which is about 2 cups of coffee, so this is the safe level to stick to
- Be aware that caffeine lurks in many popular foods and beverages apart from coffee!
- If you’re a big coffee drinker, there is no need to go cold turkey overnight and remove all caffeine from your diet. Gradually cut down on your caffeine day by day as you ramp up your pregnancy plans.
Now, I’m sure that you’ll have loads of questions, so feel free to post them in the comments below.
And, to make all this easier for you, I’d love you to download my free meal plan. Just go to www.melaniemcgrice.com/fertility.
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