Ask Marilyn: can I drink coffee when trying to conceive?

Q: I’m planning to get pregnant in the next year and want to do all I can to boost my fertility. I’m a coffee lover and drink endless cups of coffee a day. I know that I need to cut down on the amount of coffee I drink but is it still okay to drink one or two cups?


A: Researchers have found that caffeine can have a negative affect on female fertility. Some studies have shown that women who drink coffee find it three times as difficult to conceive as those who don’t. Others found that more than 300 mg a day (2 to 3 cups) may be associated with miscarriage and increase the risk of stillbirth around 80%.  Even drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can also decrease your fertility and halve your chances of conceiving according to another study. In another, drinking three cups of decaffeinated coffee per day was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and additional research suggests that caffeine consumption compounded the negative affects of alcohol consumption on female fertility.  Men aren’t immune to the effects of caffeine on fertility either and studies indicate that problems with sperm health seem to increase the more cups of coffee men drink a day. This may be because caffeine has a diuretic effect (makes you want to go the toilet more) and this can deplete the body of vital fertility boosting nutrients such as zinc and calcium.


Caffeine is found in regular coffee, black tea, green tea, some soft drinks, chocolate and many over-the-counter drugs e.g. those for headaches. Tea contains tannin as well as caffeine and tannin limits the absorption of important minerals so if you drink tea with your meals you are preventing vital nutrients from being absorbed in your digestive tract. I would suggest that a couple avoids caffeine completely if they are struggling to get pregnant.


Caffeine is a stimulant and it is also quite addictive so if you start to cut back from four or five cups a day to one or even none you may find that you experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, muscle cramps and tiredness. That’s why I suggest that you cut back slowly over a few weeks by doing the following:


  • Make one cup at a time instead of a whole pot.
  • Buy a dainty cup and get rid of your jumbo size mug
  • If you’re at a coffee shop order a small one.
  • To ease withdrawal symptoms cup back gradually over a two to three week period. Lower your intake by drinking grain coffee or diluted or week period with smaller amounts of regular coffee.
  • Consider trying grain coffee available at health food stores or the health food section at your supermarket.
  • Start cutting back during the weekend or on holiday when it is less busy and you are less stressed.
  • Brew some chamomile tea – often used to ease stress – and take lots of warm baths, walks and naps to get you through the withdrawal symptoms if you are cutting back
  • Drink good-for-you beverages such as water, fruit juice, vegetables juices and herbal teas.
  • Decaffeinated options for tea and coffee aren’t really a good choice as we have no idea how many chemicals are involved in the decaffeination process but you can use them just in the weaning process to get you off the caffeinated drinks.  Begin by substituting decaffeinated coffee for half of your total intake per day and then gradually change over to all decaffeinated.  Then, slowly substitute other drinks, such as herbal teas and grain coffees.  You should, ideally, eventually eliminate decaffeinated coffee as well because coffee contains other stimulants (theobromine and theophylline) which are not removed when the coffee is decaffeinated.
  • And finally, experiment with herbal teas. I recommend roasted herbal roots such as barley, chicory and dandelion and lemon grass, peppermint, ginger root, rosehip, apple, hibiscus, clover flower, nettles and chamomile can be nourishing and satisfying without the depleting effects of caffeine.

Comments are closed.