This post has been medically reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Sarah Mathis, D.O
One of the number one questions I get asked in my email is about caffeine and pregnancy- but how bad is caffeine, really? I can drink at least a cup of coffee a day, right?
Well, I’m gonna give you the skinny on all things caffeine and coffee related to fertility, infertility, pregnancy success, miscarriage, and live birth rates in this post.
Here’s the bottom line up front– if you are 25, super healthy, and have just started to try to conceive, cut your caffeine intake down to under 200 mg a day – that’s about one Starbucks latte, or two regular drip coffees. But, if you are taking the long path to baby- whether it be from age, health issues, or infertility diagnoses- the best thing you can do is completely and 100% cut out joe and caffeine. No safe level of caffeine has been proven for fertility or pregnancy. The same goes for your hubby.
It’s up to you to decide where you are going to fall in between zero and 200mg of caffeine a day. Let me try to convince you to go closer to zero.
I chose to completely eliminate caffeine (and all coffees and soft drinks) among the other 78 lifestyle changes I made. And- I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old to convince me it was worth every second of not drinking a cup of joe! And, the truth is, I’ve never gone back to caffeine. The short energy burst isn’t worth how it makes me feel otherwise.
Table of Contents
Caffeine & Infertility: The Link Between Coffee and Delayed Fertility
While large amounts of caffeine (categorized as more than two cups of joe a day) are clearly linked to reduced fertility, especially in cases of tubal disease and endometriosis, as little as one cup of coffee a day is linked to increases in cycles until conception. In fact one study showed that those who consumed as little as one cup of joe a day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, than those who drank less.
So, if you are taking the long route to baby anyway, do you really want to risk making it even longer just because of your coffee habit? Remember- you don’t have to give it up forever!! You can do anything for a short period of time. After your procreative years are over, you can go back to drinking it as normal!
Did Quitting Coffee Help You Conceive?
I chose to completely eliminate caffeine (and all coffees and soft drinks) among the other 78 lifestyle changes I made. And- I have a 6 year old child and a 3 year old child to convince me it was worth every second of not drinking that cup of joe! And, the truth is, I’ve never gone back to caffeine. The short energy burst isn’t worth how it makes me feel otherwise.
Caffeine & Miscarriage: The Big Risk of Coffee Consumption while TTC or doing IUI or IVF
Maybe you aren’t ready to give up your daily cup of joe to get pregnant sooner. Well, wait til you see this! The real scary thing about caffeine intake on your health is the link to increased miscarriage (“spontaneous abortion” is the heartless technical term). The information is pretty clear that during pregnancy caffeine intake of 200 mg or more is associated with an almost doubling of the chance of miscarriage and death of your child. Further, the same research says that “an increasing dose of daily caffeine intake during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, compared with no caffeine intake.”
This is a very large, well-respected clinical study of patients, and this is where the recommendation for keeping caffeine intake under 200 mg during gestational pregnancy came from. Basically, they advised that consuming a small amount of caffeine daily will not harm their baby.
However, when you review the clinical study carefully, you see that they DIDN’T TEST at lower levels of caffeine consumption. They only tested for zero mg caffeine, 0-200 mg caffeine, and 200+ mg caffeine.
What they saw was that both caffeine consuming categories were at an elevated risk for miscarriage of the child, but the 200mg+ per day cohort had a LARGE and statistically significant DOUBLING of miscarriage risk. So that is what they report in the study. This health study does NOT prove that lower levels of caffeine consumption are safe, and I chose to avoid caffeine completely once pregnant.
Now, this research is on caffeine consumption DURING pregnancy, but we actually have a really cool study with even more frightening risks for caffeine consumption BEFORE pregnancy.
Avoiding Caffeine for Pregnancy Health
This study was smaller and was run on couples going through assisted medicine, reproductive technology (mostly IVF). It was done by asking women about their regular caffeine consumption before IVF, and the amount they had consumed the week they had their first visit with the Reproductive Endocrinologist (i.e., “RE” or “IVF Doctor”). All the women in the study who got pregnant stopped caffeine consumption completely as soon as they had a positive test.
The striking results showed that just 50 mg of regular caffeine (about half a cup of joe or one cup of tea) consumption BEFORE transfer led to THREE TIMES fewer live births. THREE TIMES! What they are doing in the results is lumping together the odds of conceiving WITH the miscarriage risk, and the results should be enough to make anyone decide to avoid caffeine consumption. Let me provide you with a little more detail to try to convince you:
- For women who reported a consumption “regular caffeine intake” of 0-2mg per day, there was a 43% live birth rate.
- For women who reported a consumption”regular caffeine intake” of 2-50 mg per day, there was a 22% live birth rate.
- For women who reported a consumption “regular caffeine intake” of greater than 50 mg per day, there was a 14% live birth rate.
If those numbers don’t convince you to kick the habit, I don’t know what will.
Now, after I saw this health study, I put in a call to my dad who is a brilliant sociologist and statistician and I asked him if I was understanding these results clearly, and if so, why they hadn’t been more widely reported. He confirmed I was understanding the numbers clearly, but made a very good point. Although the researchers control for many variables such as smoking, alcohol use, age, and education, they DO NOT control for health things like diet, acupuncture, yoga, etc.
SO, there is a chance that the high success rate of women with 0-2 mg of regular caffeine intake per day is because these are the women who are already doing ALL THE THINGS. He also pointed out that this is a standalone smaller study, and that the medical university community likes to have dozens of health studies confirming the same results before they recommend anything. But here’s my thought- if you are struggling with infertility and you see data like this, how can you possibly keep drinking that cup of joe week in and week out?
I know what you are thinking- you’re thinking you can have a cup of decaf, right? It only has like 2 mg of caffeine? Okay, let’s move on to:
Coffee & Toxins: The Gross Truth
I am sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it turns out that your morning cup is also your morning cup of fertility-harming pesticide. Gross! It has some of the most heavily- pesticided foods, and pesticide has been shown to be linked to delays in conceiving, harm to embryos, and spontaneous miscarriage. Ick! If you are going to drink coffee, make it organic for sure.
Unfortunately, I have bad info about decaf as well. Most decaf coffees go through a process with chemical solvents to remove the caffeine- these solvents are not good for your health. Further, when the coffee is stripped of caffeine, the process also strips any antioxidents in it as well. Making the drink even less healthy than a fully caffeinated cup.
So what’s was my final conclusion? Just ditch it. Ditch it all. My baby was more important. I avoided everything, even decaf.
BUT I have new information since trying to conceive. . . there are now readily available special Swiss Water Process Organic Decaf options from many, many brands. This way you get the 2mg or less of caffeine AND no pesticides AND no toxins from the chemical decaffeination process. I see no reason for you not to use one of these decaf, and in fact, I now drink this one at home. Below I’ll recommend how to brew it up in a non-toxic way.
*This post contains affiliate links which at no cost to you provide me with some small change to help keep this blog running. If you decide to buy something I recommend, please consider clicking through one of my links to help support this blog and my family! Thank you!
The Good News: You Feel GREAT After You Give up Caffeine!
Okay– Honestly, you feel great about a MONTH after you give up caffeine completely. Before that, you’re pretty much dragging and miserable as your poor body detoxes. When I started trying to conceive I was a 3 latte a day kind of girl. In between lattes, I would fall asleep at my desk when the caffeine would wear out. I had one brutal month of detoxing from caffeine and have felt incredible ever since.
That was EIGHT years ago. Since then I’ve gotten pregnant with two miracle babies (see all the other things I did to beat infertility and get pregnant here), night-nursed them both for TWO years, worked a regular job, AND blogged, and you know what- I’m never exhausted! Do I get tired? Sure, whenever I’ve had less than 4 hours of sleep I feel tired and ill the next day. But otherwise, I pretty much have energy throughout the day. And I NEVER have the “crash” in between where I can’t function without a caffeine hit.
The thing is that caffeine taxes your adrenals. It gives you ups and downs, highs and then crashes, and it just tires your body out. You become dependent on it. It is, literally, addictive. When you completely kick the addiction your body remembers how to be in balance on its own! Which, is exactly what you are seeking anyway for fertility!
Anna, I’m sorry, but I can’t give it up!
So, if you can honestly say, “Yeah, I’ve seen all this, but I just can’t give up my one cup of joe a day.” It’s your life and your choice. Maybe you aren’t facing the awful odds I was so you aren’t yet ready to do EVERYTHING you can to get pregnant. But, please, please, drink organic, consider decaf, and buy the Swiss Water Process type of Decaf for your health!
Okay! You’ve convinced me! I’m ready to give it up to get pregnant! What can I drink instead?
Great question, dear reader! The great scoop is that there are plenty of options.
The first, and in my opinion, most coffee-like, is an organic, decaf, swiss-processed beverage.
Also, use a glass drip setup that eliminates the hot water touching any plastic which could leach fertility harming BPA or phthalates into your drink. You also need to filter your brew through paper to eliminate the cholesterol-raising compound that it has. The set up below is what my husband uses and loves when we aren’t actively trying to conceive (at which point he gives up caffeine as well).
Let’s go over that again:
1- A non-toxic NO plastic drip setup like this (with a paper filter):
Don’t drink like 10 cups a day, okay?
During my first pregnancy, those kinds of decaf coffees didn’t exist, so I drank Dandy Blend, which is a delightful beverage made from water-soluble extracts of roasted roots of dandelion, chicory, and beets, and the extracts of barley and rye grains. It is caffeine-free and theoretically gluten-free. They even have an organic option. It is actually considered a healthy fertility BOOSTER in many circles. Do not overdo this drink. Excess amounts of chicory are not good for pregnancy. Stick to the on-label amounts, and only drink one or two cups per day. Also, in recent years I’ve heard reports that spot tests of Dandy Blend have come up positive for gluten.
There is also this absolutely amazing chocolate beverage that you brew in a French press called Crio Bru. It has less caffeine than decaf, its organic, has zero sugar, and when I drink it my whole body relaxes. I love it. It comes in different roasts- light, medium, and dark, with cacao beans from other countries. Although there is some university and government research suggesting that raw cacao is helpful for implantation and pregnancy, and of course we know that dark chocolate has lots of natural helpful minerals in it (like magnesium), be aware that there is still some caffeine. Don’t drink like 10 cups a day, okay?
Male Fertility & Caffeine
I’m very guilty on this blog of focusing on female fertility- that’s because that is what I had/have to do in real life. But, after reading the research, I finally got my husband to give up coffee too!
Does Caffeine Affect Sperm?
Here’s a quick review of the evidence: While most health studies evaluating sperm quality show that it takes 3 cups of coffee a day to tank those little swimmers, health studies on IVF and medicine show that the lower the male intake the higher the chances of success.
For example, drinking less than one cup of coffee a day more than doubles the rate of IVF success compared to men who drink 2 or more cups per day. Why risk it? Ditch it while you are trying, and he can celebrate your positive pregnancy tests with a delicious cup of joe!
If you visit my Instagram account you can definitely find pictures of His and Hers Dandy Blends :-).
Are you ready to ditch the caffeine?? DO it!! Woohoo!! Email me, I’d love to know!
Here’s a link to a helpful chart with amounts of caffeine in different foods and drinks, in case you wanted to know!
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Anna Rapp is a fertility journalist and non-toxic living expert. When Anna Rapp was struggling with infertility and recurrent early miscarriage, she was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, High FSH, low AMH, low follicle count, endometriosis, and an MTHFR mutation. Despite being told donor eggs were her only solution, Anna used her graduate training in research methods and analysis to read everything she could find on fertility and egg health. Ultimately, she lowered her FSH and got pregnant naturally (twice). She blogs about how she did it and encourages her readers to take charge of their fertility journey and get happy, healthy, and pregnant!