Caffeine: Fertility friend or foe?
Written by Alex Ballard, UK Registered Dietitian (as seen on the Fit For Fertility blog)
Could your morning cuppa, mid-day mocha or evening earl grey have an impact on your fertility? This blog article explores the effect that caffeine may have on both female and male reproductive function. All in the time it takes to boil the kettle!
Before you start to panic, I am not about to say that you necessarily need to stop your daily caffeine hit or ditch the fancy espresso machine. This is a good thing considering 67% of the population could not imagine life without their morning kick start.
As with everything, balance and avoiding excess is key here. Whilst many stick to sensible limits, there are still over 100,000,000 cups of tea being brewed every single day in the UK, indicating there may be some people sipping to the extreme.
Caffeine, a stimulant mostly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants, can have some perks. It has been shown to help with alertness, increased attention span and improved physical performance in both high intensity and endurance exercise.
However, too many ‘pick me ups’ can also be associated with sleep disturbance, increased anxiety levels, irritability, heightened blood pressure and stomach upsets.
For general well-being, it can be difficult to provide guidelines around caffeine due to individual variations in tolerance and sensitivity levels. Factors such as age, weight, gender, hormones, smoking, nutritional intake, medication and regular caffeine consumption can play a role in how the body reacts. On average, adults are suggested to limit caffeine to less than 400mg per day.
The evidence around caffeine and fertility is still a little bit hazy. Despite this, some studies suggest that high daily doses may cause females to take longer to fall pregnant and males to have reduced sperm quality. Additionally, in pregnancy, it has been associated with miscarriage and low birth rates.
Therefore, even with some inconclusive evidence out there, moderating caffeine intake when planning for a baby is worth considering.
Because of this, it is widely advised that caffeine should be limited to no more than 200mg per day if you are trying to conceive (for both men and women), pregnant or breastfeeding. Additionally, avoid any products labelled as ‘high in caffeine’.
But what does this mean in liquid form?
Fertility can also be negatively impacted by sugary drinks, processed foods and weight gain (unless necessary for the individual). Therefore, another benefit to cutting back on your coffee shop trips could be limiting some of the extras that are snuck in. For example, the added sugars, syrups, creams, sprinkles and complimentary cakes. Some barista bought syrupy, caramel coffee drinks can be over 500 calories per cup!
Always reduce caffeine gradually and keep hydration levels in check by switching to some decaffeinated options and naturally caffeine free fluids such as water, no added sugar squash, milk, peppermint and camomile tea.