Caffeine and Women's Health™

Caffeine has some detrimental effects on health for everybody, but women should be aware of the effects on specific issues relating to them. Although these effects vary greatly depending on the individual's tolerance to the drug, as well as how much caffeine she is getting, there are certain health-related issues that are very gender-specific.

The most obvious place to begin is probably the effect of caffeine on pregnancy. The good news for all those women used to their daily coffee fix is that there’s no need to completely kick the habit in most cases. (Check with your doctor to make sure). Most studies have found that moderate consumption of caffeine (200mg a day) will not harm the baby. On the other hand, research does indicate a possible link between increased risk of a miscarriage and the consumption of more than 300mg of caffeine in a day.

Aside from possible fetal complications, there is also the subject of the effect of caffeine on the mother herself. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause nervousness, headaches and irritability; things every mother-to-be deals with even without taking in caffeine. In addition, if a pregnant woman is getting her caffeine through coffee or tea, she needs to be concerned about iron deficiency. Both those beverages contain phenols, which are compounds that restrict the absorption of iron. Since many pregnant women are already iron-deficient, this is just one more reason to perhaps cut back.

Once the baby is born, the issue of breastfeeding while consuming caffeine is raised. Again, moderate consumption is recommended and appears to present no serious risk to the infant. It is probably best, however, to avoid breastfeeding at night directly after drinking any caffeinated beverage. Because it takes longer for a baby to flush the caffeine from his system, evening breastfeeding on the heels of caffeine consumption could lead to a long night for both mother and child.

One other health risk that women in particular should be concerned about is how caffeine affects osteoporosis. One of the effects caffeine has inside the body is reducing calcium absorption and this can contribute—though usually not to any great degree—to the onslaught of osteoporosis, which is marked by the deterioration of bone mass. Osteoporosis often leads to falls and bone fractures, typically a hip fracture. Although there are many other factors more important than caffeine consumption that contributes to the worsening of this condition, including the inescapable enemy genetics, excessive consumption is one factor that can be controlled. Any woman who meets the high risk factors associated with osteoporosis should seriously consider a reduction in the amount of caffeine she takes in each day.

In addition to these concerns, research has been conducted into whether any link exists between fibrocystic breast disease and caffeine. A 1970 study kicked off this interest by noting that caffeine was included among a group of compounds that seemed to be connected to the disease. Although subsequent research has questioned the validity of that study to the point where reduction of caffeine intake is not even suggested for those suffering symptoms, most physicians do recommend that any woman who believes notices an increase in breast tenderness that coincides with caffeine consumption should probably begin to limit the amount she ingests.

Recent research has also questioned many long-held assumptions linking caffeine to cancer. Breast cancer, breast cysts, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer have all at one time or another been subject to clinical studies involving caffeine consumption. The good news is that there has yet to be any definitive link between consumption of caffeine at any level and the development of cancer. The downside of this is that, as with most of these types of studies, caffeine also cannot be definitively ruled out as a contributing factor.

Finally, caffeine does not appear to play any part in fertility; it neither prevents conception nor aids it.€™t

By Darren Williger

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