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Coffee intake has ‘no apparent effect’ on IVF outcomes: Study


Filip Vukasin


20/10/2022 4:38:22 PM

New analysis suggests caffeine consumption has little impact on the success of fertility treatments but confirms the negative influence of alcohol.

Woman holding a coffee cup.
Coffee consumption is unlikely to affect the chances of those trying to conceive through IVF.

Coffee consumption is unlikely to affect the chances of those trying to conceive through IVF – but alcohol markedly reduces fertility, a new study indicates.
 
A meta-analysis, published this week in the monthly journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, found women’s alcohol consumption was associated with 7% decreased pregnancy rate after fertility treatments when weekly consumption was greater than 84 g (approximately seven standard drinks).
 
Men consuming more than 84 g on a weekly basis was also linked with a 9% decreased live birthrate after fertility treatments.
 
However, the study found no association between women’s caffeine consumption and pregnancy or live birthrate after fertility treatments.
 
Fertility specialist Associate Professor Alex Polyakov told newsGP this confirmed existing research.
 
‘We’ve known a long time that alcohol affects natural pregnancy, and this research is consistent with that,’ he said.
 
‘It shows that more than seven standard drinks per week reduces the chance of success with IVF and so my advice is not to consume alcohol on a daily basis.
 
‘There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy, so it’s best to abstain.
 
‘However, if you had a function or a wedding and had a glass of champagne, it’s unlikely to affect your fertility treatment.’
 
The analysis included findings from Brazil, the US, Denmark, Saudi Arabia and Italy, with a total of 26,922 women and/or their partners who underwent fertility treatment.
 
Professor Polyakov appreciated that men were included in the research.
 
‘It’s interesting that men were included,’ he said.
 
‘I often see that the men in a couple don’t reduce alcohol during fertility treatment, so this research can add to the knowledge that we want sperm to be as healthy as possible.’
 
Dr Wendy Burton, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Antenatal and Postnatal Care, told newsGP people undergoing fertility treatments are often highly motivated.
 
‘I find that those couples who are engaged in the IVF process have already maximised their lifestyle modifications to do everything in their power to conceive without intervention,’ she said.
 
‘My gynaecology colleagues then reinforce to them the importance of continuing to do so and very few drink at all, especially the women. They may have a small amount of alcohol for a special occasion [but] this is a very small subgroup of couples in the preconception period.’
 
In relation to caffeine and fertility, Australian recommendations are to limit coffee to three or four per day; however, there was controversy in 2020 when an expert recommended ‘there was no safe level of consumption’.
 
Professor Polyakov said the caffeine issue comes up often in conversation.
 
‘With caffeine, it appears that there isn’t an increased risk of failure with IVF but there are previous studies which show there is a slightly increased risk of miscarriage rates if consuming more than 1–2 cups per day, particularly in early pregnancy,’ he said.
 
‘There is caffeine in chocolate, tea and fizzy drinks to varying amounts but it’s still small compared to coffee. You would have to eat a lot of chocolate to get a similar amount as one coffee.’
 
The authors of this new meta-analysis write that ‘caffeine can act as a non-selective adenosine antagonist within the human body and … induce an increase in catecholamine excretion in the mother and fetus, which may lead to uteroplacental vasoconstriction and hypoxia’.
 
Dr Burton says most women are already consuming less caffeine around pregnancy.
 
‘I advise that a small amount of caffeine is considered safe,’ she said.
 
‘It is recommended that you limit the amount of caffeine you have to 300 mg a day. This is roughly what would be in two espressos or four cups of instant coffee or six cups of tea.
 
‘From time to time there are concerns raised about caffeine, but I am comfortable with a small intake and always take new research that contradicts old research onboard, but I personally try not to panic and I encourage sensible, considered approaches to all of these matters.’
 
Professor Polyakov agrees that moderation is key.
 
‘Most women undergoing IVF treatment are highly motivated and have tried for a long time to get pregnant, so they’ve read about alcohol and caffeine,’ he said.
 
‘The advice is to avoid alcohol and limit caffeine, particularly in early pregnancy, but that some caffeine in moderation is okay.’
 
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