In the female reproductive tract, there is a smooth, rhythmic movement of the muscles of the fallopian tubes. This movement helps to transition the egg or ovum toward the uterus or womb. This study examined the deleterious effects of caffeine on this wavy activity in the fallopian tubes of mice to explore whether caffeine can delay conception in this manner. The results show that caffeine, commonly found in coffee, does have an inhibitory effect on these slow waves of the fallopian tubes and thereby prevents the transport of the egg or ovum to the womb and delays conception.
Caffeine is commonly found in drinks, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and some medications available without prescription. The caffeine in these food items and medications is one of the commonest pharmacological agents that are consumed by the general population. Studies have also been conducted that have shown that increased intake of caffeine leads to delayed conception. A European multicenter study has shown that the consumption of over 501 mg of caffeine in women in the age group of 25-44 years increased by 11% the time it took for them to conceive. A similar study in the United States also revealed that caffeine consumption of over 300 mg decreased the chances of conception by 27%. This study attempted to explore the mechanism by which caffeine can delay conception, especially by affecting the movement of the fallopian tubes that transfer the ovum or egg in the female to the womb or uterus.
- Female mice were used for this study. The fallopian tubes that connect the ovary to the womb or uterus were operated and removed. These tubes were placed in a solution that kept the cells alive for the experiment.
- Using tiny electrodes and sensors, the miniscule electrical activities in the muscle cells of the tubes were studied. In normal muscle cells of the tubes, there are slow waves that help to transfer the ovum to the womb.
- The electrical movement of the cells was tested after application of caffeine to the solution.
- Statistical analysis including data analysis and measurements of the resting membrane potential, frequency, and ½ maximal duration was performed. To calculate the statistical significance, student’s paired t-tests were used and “p-values < 0.05 were considered significant.”
- The results showed that caffeine successfully changes the potential difference or voltage of the muscle cells. Thus, it could prevent the muscles from contracting to generate the slow waves in the fallopian tubes.
- On application of other chemicals, it was noted that this inhibition by caffeine was enhanced with the use of pinacidil and forskolin.
- Similarly, the activity of caffeine on the muscle cells was prevented by the compound glibenclamide.
- The results showed that “caffeine hyperpolarized membrane potential, abolished slow waves, and inhibited myosalpinx contractions” of the fallopian tubes.
This study shows that slow waves and contractions of the muscle walls of the fallopian tubes, which are important for conception, are inhibited by caffeine. The tubal contractions are important for the transmission of the egg or ovum to the womb. This study on mice is an addition to previous human studies that show that young women who take in more caffeine have difficulty in conceiving. It explores the actual physiology in the muscle cells of the fallopian tubes of mice, which, when subjected to caffeine, show impeded movement and contractions. This study also shows that to some extent glibenclamide prevents caffeine from inhibiting the muscle contractions. The authors conclude that this study provides “an intriguing explanation as to why women with high caffeine consumption often take longer to conceive than women who do not consume caffeine.”
For More Information:
Inhibitory Effect of Caffeine on Fallopian Tube Contraction and Role in Delaying Conception
British Journal of Pharmacology, 2011
By R. E. Dixon; S J Hwang
From the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.