Everything to Know About Alcohol, Caffeine, and Exercise While TTC
By Brighid Flynn
When it comes to optimizing your fertility and improving your odds of getting pregnant, there is so much to consider and understand. If it’s been a while since you started trying, you might begin to question your every move, wondering what it’s doing to your body and your chances at conception. Because there is so much misinformation on the internet, relying on reputable, science-based guidance is extremely important during this time.
So, do you have to give up your beloved coffee, wine, and exercise when trying to get pregnant? The answer is it’s complicated, but we’re here to break it all down and help you understand what the research actually says when it comes to alcohol, caffeine, and exercise while TTC.
Is it OK to drink alcohol while trying to conceive?
Whether you’re a social drinker who enjoys partaking on the weekends or more of a glass-of-wine-a-night type, you’ve probably wondered if those one or two cocktails could be harming your chances of getting pregnant. The short of it is that the effect of alcohol on female fertility has not yet been clearly established. While some studies have concluded that alcohol has a negative effect on fertility, others have suggested that alcohol may actually enhance fertility (that would be nice, right?).
The general consensus by the ASRM is that high levels of alcohol consumption by women, defined as more than two drinks per day containing 10g of ethanol, should be avoided when attempting pregnancy. However, aside from this recommendation, there is very limited evidence that moderate drinking adversely affects fertility. So, unless you’re in the two-week wait, currently pregnant, or have been advised against doing so by your doctor, we think it’s safe to say that you can go ahead and enjoy that glass of wine while you still can!
What about alcohol and male fertility?
When it comes to men, there is substantial data on significant alcohol consumption and its negative impact on male fertility. In fact, chronic or prolonged alcohol use in men has been shown to adversely affect sperm count, the sperm’s ability to move through a woman’s reproductive tract, sperm shape and size, the volume of semen per ejaculation, and testosterone levels. The takeaway? Men should do their part as well, and try to stick to moderate drinking during this time.
How much coffee is too much coffee when trying to conceive?
Asking for a friend. But in all seriousness, if coffee is your vice, don’t worry! While high levels of caffeine consumption (500 mg; >5 cups of coffee per day or its equivalent) have been associated with decreased fertility, moderate caffeine consumption has been proven to have no adverse effects on fertility or pregnancy outcomes. What is considered moderate caffeine consumption, you ask? 1-2 cups of coffee or 200-300 mg of caffeine per day, so if you need a good old cup of joe to wake you up, you’re in luck.
How does exercise impact fertility?
Talking about and researching exercise and fertility can be exhausting. Dr. Google is chock full of information and countless do’s and don’ts. Trying to make sense of it all can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help. So, let’s start with the basics.
The World Health Organization recommends adults (ages 18-64) get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity of physical activity a week, and this recommendation doesn’t change for women who are trying to conceive. In fact, exercising for 30 minutes a day can decrease your chances of irregular ovulation cycles and improve your chances of conception. Conversely, over-exercising for more than 60 minutes a day can actually increase the risk of ovulatory-factor infertility.
Daily physical activity is also advantageous to balancing hormones, improving insulin, and reducing stress, all of which can help improve your fertility. In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, exercise even proved beneficial to people undergoing IVF. The results of the study showed that more women reported a successful pregnancy after IVF treatments if they exercised regularly.
For more information on exercise during IVF, click here.
If you are undergoing fertility treatments, it’s important to keep in mind that you should always consult with your doctor before engaging in any physical activity. But when it comes to trying to conceive, moderate exercise that energizes you rather than depleting you is more often than not a good lifestyle choice to make.
The big picture
If you’re struggling to conceive, you might be wondering about your daily lifestyle and how every little thing can be impacting your fertility. Generally speaking, however, if you’re leading a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, engaging in moderate alcohol and caffeine consumption, and getting regular exercise, you can rest assured that you are helping (and at the very least, not hindering) your chances of conception.
Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.