If you’re trying to conceive, think twice before reaching for that second cup of Joe.
I realize that I might make some enemies with this post. In modern-day society, we love our coffee – the tantalizing aroma of the beans, the rich, comforting taste, the energy jolt it gives us, the way we go from feeling completely lethargic to completely alive when we drink it.
Full disclaimer here: I am not a coffee drinker. Never have been. Sure, I grab a Starbucks every now and then with a friend, and like the next person, I relied on the power of coffee more than once during college to get me through an all-night study session. But I never formed a coffee habit, and these days I maybe have a cup of coffee every 6 months. While I love the smell of my husband’s coffee brewing in our house, I never really got into the bitter taste or the even more bitter aftertaste.
So I realize that this is all easier advice to give from my vantage point as a non-coffee drinker than for a coffee addict to take.
So why is coffee, or caffeine generally speaking, a no-no when you’re trying to get pregnant?
One drawback to caffeine is that it interferes with your ability to absorb iron, which is very important in regulating ovulation. Since caffeine can have a dehydrating effect, it can also affect your ability to absorb other needed vitamins, like the B-Vitamins and Vitamin D. Heavy doses of caffeine can also increase risk of miscarriage and preterm birth, so it’s worth cutting down before you get pregnant.
Excessive caffeine consumption has also been linked to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t create enough thyroid hormone. It’s also known as underactive thyroid. Low thyroid function has a negative effect on reproductive health and is a leading cause in difficulties in conceiving. It can affect production of your reproductive hormones and disrupt your hormone balance overall.
For example, hypothyroidism has been associated with reduced levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH), both of which are needed to grow healthy eggs and produce adequate amounts of estrogen and progesterone. Oftentimes if your doctor finds that these hormone levels are low, it can be traced back to your thyroid. Hypothyroidism can also adversely affect your ovulation and menstrual cycles.
This is why your doctor tests your thyroid hormone along with your other hormone levels. He or she wants to make sure your thyroid is in good working order.
This isn’t to say that if you quit drinking coffee, you won’t get hypothyroidism. But if you know that there’s a link between the two, and that it can only help to cut down on the caffeine, it’s a no-brainer to do so, right?
Coffee isn’t the only culprit. Lots of other things have caffeine, including sodas, energy drinks, even chocolate. Coffee, however, has a very high concentration of caffeine. Your average grande-sized (16 oz) brewed coffee from Starbucks has a whopping 330 mg of caffeine. This is compared to 34 mg of caffeine in a 12-oz can of Coca-cola, 25 mg in an 8-oz cup of tea, or 21 mg in a standard-sized chocolate bar. Even a 16-oz Red Bull energy drink, at 152 mg, doesn’t have as much caffeine as a Grande Starbucks.
For reference, it’s recommended that when you’re trying to conceive, caffeine consumption be limited to 200-250 mg a day.
So what’s a fatigued, sleep-deprived, busy, trying-to-conceive gal with an overloaded schedule to do to get a little energy if she’s cutting down on her coffee?
Here are a few suggestions of things that work for little old coffeeless me when I need an energy boost:
- Start the day with a green smoothie instead of a cup of coffee. A smoothie gets your day off to an energetic start! Containing leafy green vegetables, plant-based milk and fresh fruits, a green smoothie is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is a healthy, nutritious and filling breakfast.
- Boost your B-Vitamin intake. B-vitamins aid in digestion of proteins and facilitate mental clarity. Aim to increase your intake of B-vitamins, through diet (leafy greens and fish are excellent sources of these vitamins) or supplementation. You’ll find that making sure you’re getting enough B vitamins will really jump-start your engine and you’ll forget all about caffeine.
- Increase your consumption of healthy fats and proteins. Healthy fats and proteins help balance blood sugar levels and keep your energy levels up. One of the best healthy snacks is nuts – almonds, cashews, pistachio nuts, walnuts – whatever you like. Eat a handful of raw, unsalted nuts for a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up to keep you going.
- Pound the water. I’ve said it before, water is a life force. It helps all of the bodily functions work better. Substituting water for that coffee will help you be more alert and think more clearly. Water also hydrates you, unlike caffeine, which is a dehydrator.
- Get your body moving. Sometimes when I’m feeling lethargic I take a few minutes to get outside and take a walk around the block in the sunshine. It does wonders for giving me a little extra energy AND improving my mood!
I know it might be hard to ditch the caffeine but it’ll make you healthier and give you more energy, which you need for your fertility journey. I know you can do it!