There’s a whole slew of things we’re told we’re not supposed to consume while pregnant, and now we can potentially add one more thing to the list. A recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men and women who drank more than two cups of coffee when they were trying to conceive were more likely to miscarry.
Say what? The study, which looked at couples in Texas and Michigan who were trying to conceive, had 347 couples who were successful. Of those couples who conceived, 98 miscarried. When researchers looked at the lifestyle habits of these couples, they found that the women and men who had consumed the most caffeine around the time they conceived were most likely to miscarry.
These results could potentially put a major dent in the morning routine of millions of people, because who doesn’t drink coffee in the morning? It’s a part of nearly everyone’s morning, and many of us can’t function without it. But it turns out that cutting the liquid energy in the morning may reduce your chances of miscarrying. And for folks who may have experienced a miscarriage or two, giving up coffee is a small action that could have a major impact.
On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see that it’s not just women who are being told that their actions may affect the well-being of a pregnancy. Being a person who is carrying or is planning to carry a baby comes with so many dos and don’ts that it can be impossible to keep straight. In fact, sometimes it seems like there’s nothing we can do right when we’re incubating another human.
We’re told we should exercise but avoid anything too strenuous because we shouldn’t lift anything heavy. Soft cheeses, deli meats and raw sushi are off the table, as is alcohol (though while some studies show that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy — which the CDC so thoughtfully let us know when it shamed women who are of childbearing age and not on birth control who might consume alcohol — others show that a glass of wine occasionally can be a good thing). Hot baths may be dangerous, which means hot tubs and saunas are definitely out of the question. The list goes on and on.
The result of all this fearmongering is often severe stress and anxiety that we may do something wrong and harm our baby. It can result in perinatal anxiety and depression. It can also create an immense amount of guilt if something does go wrong with the pregnancy, making it easy for us to blame ourselves for whatever happened. If only I hadn’t used my seat warmers, I wouldn’t have lost the pregnancy.
So while it’s important to listen to your doctor and read the new science, it’s also OK to take it with a grain of salt. You can make yourself sick trying to make sure you do nothing wrong when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can control. Even if you do everything right, things might still go wrong, and it’s impossible to account for every single variable.
As women, we’re already held to such impossible standards in almost every area of our lives. Pregnancy, conception and infertility are already stressful enough without feeling the need to live up to unrealistic standards of behavior, particularly when men’s behaviors aren’t policed in the same way. However, at least in regard to caffeine consumption, you can tell a male partner that he’s just as responsible as you may be.
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