Do things like caffeine, alcohol and smoking really affect fertility?
Some things such as smoking, alcohol and drugs can have a profound effect on fertility and on the developing fetus. It is well worth addressing lifestyle issues if you’re trying to conceive as these can increase your chances of success as well as improving your own health and that of your potential baby. Even though some lifestyle modifications can sound like minor issues they can all affect your body and the way it functions, particularly when it comes to fertility, and making positive changes can deliver large benefits.
Too much caffeine is known to affect fertility. In research studies it has been shown to increase the time it takes to get pregnant naturally and reduce IVF success rates. High caffeine intake in early pregnancy has also been linked to a small increase in the rate of spontaneous miscarriage. So how much is too much? Ideally caffeine intake should be less than 200mg daily, roughly equivalent to 1-2 coffees or cola/energy drinks, or 2-3 teas. If you’re having trouble cutting back on caffeine you can try things like alternating with decaf; try filling your coffee jar with half normal coffee and half decaf and stir, then each coffee will have half the amount of caffeine; or try alternating with herbal or fruit teas. At Well2 we have a range of low-caffeine and caffeine-free herbal tea blends that we have developed for people who need to reduce their caffeine intake.
Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased fertility in both males and females, and with increased risk of miscarriage. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is also damaging to the developing fetus, and is associated with physical and developmental problems in children. Women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant should not consume any alcohol. Men should follow safe drinking guidelines which stipulate a maximum of two standard drinks daily and several alcohol free days each week. Sometimes drinking alcohol is more about interacting with a social group and ‘fitting in’ than the alcohol itself. There are a range of non-alcoholic wines, beers and ciders on the market, so try taking some of these along to your next social gathering. Most people won’t notice that you’re drinking anything different.
Smoking is directly linked to decreased fertility in both males and females. Babies of smokers also experience higher incidence of a wide range of health problems. Giving up smoking is one of the greatest health gifts you can give yourself and your potential child. There are a range of stop smoking programs and products on the market. It’s worthwhile exploring the options to see what might suit you as an individual. Hypnotherapy can be an excellent tool to help you stop smoking and our clinical psychologist Denis can help you with this.
Research studies on the effect of stress on fertility have returned conflicting results. Some studies have shown an effect while others haven’t. Whether or not stress has a direct impact on fertility, most couples experiencing fertility difficulties will also experience increased stress levels. Some herbal medicines can be beneficial for stress management, however you need to make sure that the herbs chosen don’t adversely affect fertility or interact with any fertility treatments. Therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga can also help address generalised stress levels. If your stress levels are high then counselling and psychology can help you manage.