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Is Caffeine Safe During Fertility Treatment and Pregnancy?
February 20, 2013
Caffeine consumption is a common concern amongst women who are trying to conceive or are newly pregnant. Medical opinions on the subject do vary, but in general it seems consuming caffeine in moderation is safe. But in a country where everything is super-sized and we need an espresso just to get out of bed, what exactly is “moderation”?
Marcus Jurema, M.D. of IVF New Jersey, reminds us that current guidelines established by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise pregnant women not to exceed more than two cups of coffee per day. "Pregnant women are advised to limit their caffeine intake to 1-2 regular cups of caffeinated drinks per day, which is considered moderate intake, due to the potential risks to the fetus. We know caffeine passes through the placenta, and the fetus is unable to metabolize the caffeine. This can result in growth restriction. Fertility patients are also at risk in terms of miscarriage, and in general should practice a healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits as a pregnant woman would." It is important to remember that two cups means 16 ounces. Lattes, espresso, and any size larger than 16 ounces has a higher level of caffeine. The average cup of coffee consumed by Americans contains between 95 and 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Tea, ice cream, or a piece of chocolate contains around 35 mg of caffeine while energy drinks can contain as much as 208 mg of caffeine. The average “large” cup of coffee from one of the more popular coffee house chains has about 400 mg of caffeine.
A study published February 18, 2013 in the journal BMC Medicine says caffeine consumption could increase the risk of having a low birth weight baby or an extended pregnancy, but the data does not show a cause and effect relationship between caffeine consumption and pregnancy risks. Research shows correlation, not causation, but a strong correlation is enough evidence to change the way we think about things. The study looked at data of almost 60,000 Norwegian women.
For every 100 milligrams of caffeine consumed by the mother per day, the weight of the infant was reduced by one ounce and the pregnancy was extended by five hours (caffeine from coffee extended the pregnancy by 8 hours per 100 mg, but it is not clear if another property of the coffee is responsible for this change).
There are definite risks to fertility and pregnancy associated with high levels of caffeine consumption. However, when consumed in moderation, caffeine and drinks like coffee offer some benefits to fertility patients and pregnant women coping with the effects of an influx of hormones. “[The guidelines do] not mean one has to stop enjoying a morning cup of coffee,” says Jurema. Caffeine can lessen the severity of headaches during fertility treatment and pregnancy. Coffee is also the greatest source of antioxidants which can prevent against heart disease and cancer, though Dr. Jurema advises patients to consider a decaffeinated version to reap the benefits without the risk. To be safe, fertility patients should consult their doctor about limiting caffeine consumption while trying to conceive and pregnant women should consult their OB-GYN.