Could Coffee Be Preventing You From Conceiving?

by | Oct 11, 2017

When Kevin and I first decided to start a family I thought getting pregnant would be pretty easy. Even though I’m 37, I know I’m super healthy and that my mother and her four sisters all had children in their late 30s without issue.

I figured that despite my chronological age, biology would still clock me in under 30 (later fertility testing actually showed this to be true).

Still, after several months of trying it didn’t happen and I started to become concerned. Had we waited too long?

At that point we started to get more serious. First I made my husband adjust his twice weekly sauna sessions (fun fact: it can take 3-6 months for sperm counts to recover after intense heat exposure). He didn’t want to give up the practice completely, so he would bring Ziplock bags of ice to rest his junk on while in the heat.

I also started using at home ovulation test strips and learned that the app I had been using to track my cycle was off by nearly a week in predicting ovulation. Oops.

When neither of these fixes resulted in pregnancy by the end of a full year of trying we decided it was time to run some tests to see if something was biologically dysfunctional. We both went through the usual battery of fertility tests and learned what we thought we already knew, which is that both of us are really healthy (not just “for our age”) and capable of conceiving.

This was great news, but also disheartening. If nothing is wrong, then why isn’t it working?

It was shortly after this that we got a wonderful update from our friend Dr. Rhonda Patrick from FoundMyFitness and learned that she was expecting. Rhonda is the queen of nutrition and anti-aging hacks, and is one of the few online sources I really trust for solid scientific nutrition information.

When we told her we had also been trying to conceive, she casually mentioned that she “just gave up coffee and BOOM!” got pregnant a couple of weeks later after trying for 10 months. She said she had stumbled onto some research that caffeine, and especially coffee, increases risk of spontaneous abortion that may happen even before embryo implantation.

What?! Why had I never heard this before?

While I don’t drink a lot of coffee, I usually have one (pretty strong) cup each morning. After digging around a bit in the research myself I learned that indeed high doses of caffeine increase early miscarriage risk, and that coffee (even decaf) seems to be more of an issue than tea or other caffeinated beverages. Regular coffee intake by men may also decrease likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

I found this fascinating, but not particularly good news. I’ve been drinking coffee pretty regularly since I was 15 and was not excited to give up my habit. I’d feel extra bad making Kevin give it up as well. As a compromise I switched to green tea at the beginning of my next cycle, vowing to give that up next time if this wasn’t enough.

Then BOOM, I found out I was pregnant four weeks later.

I couldn’t believe it worked, and was actually pretty convinced it was a fluke. But I couldn’t keep the secret from my childhood best friend who I knew had also been trying to get pregnant for even longer than I had. I was certain she was drinking coffee (we were hanging out at cafes at 15 together, after all) so shared my secret.

She was also reluctant to give up her morning brew, but went off caffeine completely at the start of her next cycle and got pregnant right away. She’s due in January.

I’m very aware that this is anecdotal evidence backed up by some intriguing, but not fully conclusive, science. Obviously coffee and caffeine are not the only factors in fertility, and there are certainly women who can conceive while consuming it and those who can’t conceive but have never touched it.

But I’m also a bit blown away by how well it has worked for myself and friends this year, and there’s virtually no risk in giving up coffee for a couple of months if you’ve been struggling to conceive. It’s certainly cheaper than IVF, which you should probably give up coffee to do anyway.

For myself I continued to avoid coffee through the first trimester. Once I was a couple of weeks into the pregnancy this was easy, since it both smelled and tasted horrible to me.

But a few weeks into the second trimester my nausea turned into headaches and coffee started smelling and sounding good again. I let myself have a cup every now and then, and have slowly ramped up over time without issue. (If I’d had a history or miscarriages or other sensitivities I probably wouldn’t have done this).

Before trying to get pregnant I had never heard that coffee or caffeine increased miscarriage risk or made conception more difficult, and it was not mentioned to me by my doctors at the fertility clinic. To me it seems like knowledge worth sharing.

What’s your take on coffee and pregnancy?

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35 Responses to “Could Coffee Be Preventing You From Conceiving?”

  1. Beth says:

    Oh my gosh. I gasped when I saw this. I am about to have my 5th IUI tomorrow and was supposed to be starting IVF next month. I definitely drink a considerable amount of coffee and have been struggling to cut back. (I have two cups a day most days). Right now I’m thinking that I’ll just go cold turkey starting tomorrow as I already had my morning coffee today!

    • Pat says:

      All you need a good OB doctor and good diet , search about it there are diets if you want to have a girl or boy . From all diet No Coffee , No Alcohol, No Coffee , No fats or Spicy food , No garlic .
      Good luck , I couldn’t have kids I got 2 with a good OB and good husband !!

    • angel says:

      Did it work?

  2. Angela says:

    Seems worth trying anyway if one is struggling in this area!

  3. Kate says:

    First off, congratulations! On the coffee thing… Was it a causal link, or just an association? I’m reading from a mobile here so I can’t read the studies you linked to, but I remember Emily Roster in Expecting better arguing that actually, what the studies (then) showed was that women who reduced coffee consumption had fewer miscarriages. Thus a link between morning sickness/nausea (and with it a reduced interest in coffee) and a low miscarriage rate. High progesterone or something. But it could be old news…

    • Darya Rose says:

      Nausea was actually found to not be linked to miscarriage, so I didn’t include that study here. There’s a consistent dose response that panned out over a meta analysis in the links above (epidemiology is always correlations), but our personal stories suggest there may be causation.

  4. Taylor says:

    Wow, after reading this post I’m done with coffee! I had considered coffee when we started trying to conceive, but everything I read (including studies you cited) showed a cup a day is fine. But your after experiencing a chemical pregnancy and being 35, I’m giving it up. Anecdotal or not, it’s worth it. I’ll let you know if it helps!

  5. Rebecca says:

    This is timely for me. In our insanity, my husband and I are trying for baby #3. With each of my two pregnancies, I got pregnant immediately without ditching caffeine or alcohol. (I did cut back to a scant mug of coffee per day and, obviously, no booze once I found out.) In my hubris, I assumed it would happen that way this time. Effortlessly! God is keeping me humble I guess. I’m 35 now, my girls are 3.5 and 1.5, and I do drink a bit more coffee now than I used to. (See: young children.) I believe this is going to prove to be another unsuccessful month, and if so, I may have to ditch the coffee for the next go round (and try some OPK’s–I’ve been putting that off, too). Thank you for sharing your experience!

  6. Maureen says:

    Really interesting article. On a related issue, I decided not to drink coffee while I was pregnant as I was concerned my newborn baby would have coffee withdrawal headaches that I was susceptible to. Perhaps the necessary chemicals/caffeine pass through breast milk to avert that problem but I didn’t want to take the chance. Had an amazing baby who slept like a charm (anecdotal evidence only!).

  7. manamana says:

    I wish there were more evidence-based info out there for women who want to conceive — I feel like I hear a ton of old wives tales, even from doctors. We’re the same age and I’ve had two miscarriages since 2015, which has been tough, but it’s also been difficult to navigate the maze of health information about pregnancy, particularly for that ‘in between’ period where I’m not sure if I am pregnant. I know I’m quite sensitive because of the miscarriages, but not knowing which kinds of exercise are OK, whether I can have a drink…all while not wanting my life to be completely dominated by this process. It’s tough.

    Anyhow, I’m so happy it worked out for you and best of luck. It’s been wonderful to follow your story.

  8. AJ says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience, Darya, it’s so important for people, especially women, to share their experiences with fertility. Despite my having learned quite a bit about population and family health, I never knew about the potential impact of caffeine and coffee.

    Interestingly, my husband and I are in our 30s and do not consume coffee, and we were able to conceive during my first cycle off of several years of oral contraceptives. (In fact, we spontaneously conceived fraternal twins and that certainly does not run in my family!) I will be sure to refer your post to friends and relatives who are trying to start a family.

    I also find it interesting that you found that the ovulation test strips yielded quite a different fertility window compared to the app, as my friend had a very similar experience. Did your app involve measuring basal body temperature?

    Again, thank you for this post, it is very important!

  9. Jessica says:

    After 4 months trying to conceive first time around, I gave up coffee and BOOM fell pregnant the next month. Second time around it had been much harder (3 years trying including 18 months of IVF with one miscarriage). I haven’t had anything caffeinated in that time but am still having 3-4 strong decaffeinated coffees a week. I’m shocked that even decaf coffee could be affecting my fertility!

  10. Sergey says:

    Stephen Cherniske wrote about this in 1998 in his book: But nobody believed him. Like no one believed John Yudkin back in 1972 when he sad that sugar was bad for our health.

  11. Eva says:

    The fertility doctor me and my husband went to did actually mention caffeine. I reduced intake to 1 cup a day (I drink black tea). But maybe it’s worth a try to cut it out completely for a while.

  12. Sheryl-lee Anderson-Shaw says:

    Thank-you for sharing this Darya. More needs to be said about nutrition and fertility. I started trying when I was 27. When I didn’t conceive they didn’t really go too deeply into the why before putting me on fertility drugs. It turned out my husband was infertile – they never even considered checking on this before they put me on medication!
    We decided to do IVF with donor. Even then we went through years before conceiving. The doctors never considered looking into why it wasn’t working. Through my own inquiries I found I had endometriosis and poly cystic ovaries.
    I think a diet that was high in sugar was, in part, to blame for my infertility. Unfortunately the doctors in Australia are given minimal training on the role of nutrition in health and would only use medicines and surgeries to treat me.
    Finding reliable information about nutrition and fertility was a mine field full of conflicting information.
    I went to see a naturopath who specialises in fertility and only then did I conceive and I ended up having two babies through IVF.

  13. Dee says:

    Interesting…. drinking coffee (and fasting 16+ and running on mornings) didn’t affect conceiving as it happened spontaneously but however that link maybe plausible…. for my last son…. I experienced a strong natural aversion to coffee . I couldn’t stand the smell and taste of black coffee …. could’ve only tolerated a little with milk ….

  14. Jaimee says:

    Completely know what you mean. Unless something has been scientifically proven I say don’t make yourself miserable, crazy, whatever. TTC was one of the saddest times of my life. I exercised and ate healthy foods, but tried not to be militant about everything. Just adds stress you don’t need. I can appreciate trying different things – such as no coffee – just to see, but that’s about it. Hang in there.

  15. Well, even though there aren’t any scientific data or stuff like that, it seems to work and it’s amazing! I think it’s knowledge worth sharing and women who are struggling should give it a try!

  16. Mark E.Smith says:

    Thank-you for sharing this Darya. Actually, the same is true of coffee. Many Starbucks devotees (aka Americans) are unaware of this until they visit Europe or Australia. Or even, heaven forfend, Ethiopia.

  17. Gigi says:

    Thank you once again, Darya, for cracking well-research insights!

    Just wondering:
    (a) if you have any other dietary and supplement tips for conceiving? I trust you and don’t trust a lot else out there and NHS UK seems a bit backward.
    (b) is there any research on tea/ green tea affecting conception/ miscarriage?

  18. Sophia says:

    Never had trouble trying to conceive while drinking coffee, but definitely didn’t drink caffeinated coffee after baby arrived. Babies don’t metabolize caffeine like big humans, and it makes them very grumpy.

    Did use ClearPlan Easy to find out when I was ovulating, that was fun. It turns blue and you tell your husband it’s time for sex. My husband’s job at the time had rotating shifts and he usually got home around midnight, so we literally had sex once and conceived. The doctor asked if we had a guesstimate of when the baby was conceived, and I could say confidently it was October 8th, because that was the only time for the month he was on that schedule that we had sex.

  19. Ava Lamb says:

    I have heard of caffeine causing higher incidence of first trimester miscarriages but I have not heard of it preventing pregnancy to begin with. My second was harder to conceive than my first and if I ever try again I will take this advice into account although it pains me to consider abandoning my morning lift! It’s better than months waiting for the next cycle!
    Tea in the morning is just not appealing to me.

  20. Jacob says:

    I’m shocked. I understand the coffee relation to pregnancy according to your expirience, but exist also some scientific study about that? Because I taking 2 cups of coffee every day.

  21. Wow, I’m done with coffee after reading this post! Thank you for this post, it is very important…

  22. Haley says:

    I think that this is very valid from personal experience. I was trying to get pregnant for two years without luck. I had definitely been way more fertile in my past years. I consulted with a gynecologist who is a high risk specialist. He advised that my fibroids were the problem and we scheduled surgery to have them removed. I stopped drinking coffee just because I was feeling run down and I got pregnant without even knowing it for two weeks. It is strange that none of the specialists are aware or have mentioned this to anyone.

  23. Mari says:

    Hi Darya,

    Did you ditch the alcohol completely when you were trying to conceive? If not, what was your strategy?


    • Darya Rose says:

      Nope, it took way too long, I couldn’t do it. I drank regularly, though rarely a lot per sitting, up until the day I found out I was pregnant LOL.

      • Mari says:

        God bless you LOL. I’m just about to start trying even though this whole baby thing still feel pretty sci-fi to me. Not sure if that’s ever going to change though LOL (I’m 30 now).

        P.S. If you ever felt like doing another FB live to share the “after birth/first year” experience from your point of view (nutrition, etc.), I’m sure there would be tons of people interested!

  24. Jessica says:

    Hi Darya,

    I came across your blog by chance but I wanted to leave a comment because it gave me so much encouragement today. Im in my early-mid 30s and my husband and I have been trying to conceive for the past 8 months with no success. We feel like we are doing things the right way, like careful timing, but honestly, we have not really changed the way that we eat/drink. We both enjoy drinking alcohol and I hate to admit it, but I drink multiple cups of coffee a day. 😳 I’m going to take your advice and actually cut out the caffiene and see how things go. I know theyre could also be some other factors involved but this seems so easy and I think definitey worth a try. Thank you.

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