In this episode of Food, Freedom, and Fertility, Caitlin and Sophia discuss research on the safety of caffeine use during pregnancy and while trying to conceive. Today’s episode digs into current guidelines and what the evidence really tells us about the potential risks in order to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to reach for that cup of Joe.
Many of you have likely heard that up to 200 mg of caffeine per day (equivalent to about two 8 ounce cups of brewed coffee) is safe to consume during pregnancy. This is in line with current guidelines from numerous healthcare authorities, but Caitlin’s recent dive into the literature paints a different picture.
Caffeine is a stimulant that works by blocking receptors for adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel tired. This causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as stress hormone levels. During pregnancy, this can impact blood flow to the baby by constricting blood vessels in the placenta and can impact the ability of nutrients to be delivered to the baby.
Associations have been found between caffeine consumption and miscarriage in a dose-dependent relationship, meaning, the higher the caffeine consumption, the greater the risk of pregnancy loss. There may also be an increased risk of stillbirth and having a low-birth-weight baby. Babies born to moms with high caffeine intake can even experience symptoms of withdrawal after birth.
In addition to affecting pregnancy outcomes, caffeine consumption may also impact fertility by affecting menstrual cycle length, luteal phase length, and reproductive hormone levels. Some research has found that women consuming moderate to high amounts of caffeine are more likely to observe a delay in conception. Here, however, the source of caffeine may play a role, with one study suggesting tea consumption may actually increase the odds of conceiving.
So how does this research translate to real life? Short answer: it depends. Are you pregnant? Trying to conceive? How much caffeine are you currently drinking and what source is it coming from? Our role is to analyze and interpret the data in order to give you the information to help you make the decision that is right for you.