There are few things on this planet that are more comforting to me emotionally than a good cup of coffee. For me, the smell of coffee, along with the experience of drinking a cup takes me back to a period of time in my life that was full of good people and late night conversations.
When I’m having a rough day, though, because hard things are going on or I’m overwhelmed, a cup of coffee sets my soul at ease. But I’ve begun to realize how much coffee affects me. My adrenals. My brain. Even my coping skills take a nosedive.
These things are well known, but does coffee affect your fertility?
Yes, there are some women who conceive while drinking multiple cups of coffee a day. Yes, there are women who drink it during their entire pregnancy. But remember that each of our bodies is so very different and what affects one woman will have no effect on the other. And coffee (and any type of caffeine) will have more negative effects on a person that already deals with hormone problems.
Studies have shown that women who drink one to one and a half cups of coffee each day had up to a 50% reduction in fertility. Three cups a day has been linked to early miscarriage (new evidence shows 200 milligrams as the limit). In 2015 a study was concluded that should that women who consumed caffeine prior to conception were 1.74 times more likely to miscarry than women who didn’t. What’s more is that the study also found that what the male in the relationship consumes also impacts the viability of a pregnancy. The partners of men who consumed more than 2 cups of coffee/day were found to be 1.73 more likely to miscarry. This particular study wasn’t limited to just coffee, but included other caffeine-containing drinks, as well, with similar caffeine content.
Coffee and fertility
- The liver has to convert caffeine so that it may be eliminated in your urine. Your liver also has to deal with excreting your hormones. If the liver is overworked in one area, it can’t function properly.
- Caffeine may harm sperm at a molecular level.
- Caffeine may increase the excretion of calcium. Calcium helps build strong bones and the bones of a baby.
- Coffee, in particular, is hard on your adrenal glands – your adrenal glands control your sex hormones.
- We also tend to replace other healthy foods/beverages and drink coffee instead!
The brain also sends signals to the pituitary gland which sends ACTH to the adrenals which then produces adrenaline and cortisol – the same thing happens when we’re in danger. So our adrenals are producing both adrenaline and cortisol when it’s not needed. After a time it can simply contribute to HPA axis dysfunction AKA adrenal dysfunction/adrenal fatigue especially when combined with other stress and/or poor diet choices.
Coffee also boosts cortisol production at the wrong times, putting our bodies on a different “rhythm”. So instead of naturally getting a boost of cortisol in the morning, we’re doing it in the middle of the afternoon, which then can have an effect on melatonin production and cause problems with sleep. Since melatonin has been shown to help stimulate the production of progesterone (or at least work synergistically), this could have negative effects on progesterone levels.
So is coffee really bad for us?
It’s not an either or, really. Drinking lots of coffee isn’t good for anyone, but a little isn’t harmful to everyone, either. Coffee will be most harmful to those whose “weak spots” line up with the ways caffeine taxes the body. Those who don’t sleep well, have high stress, are survivors of trauma, have blood pressure issues, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and/or a weakened reproductive or glandular system are going to be the most affected by the harm caffeine can cause.
While it may seem to some that I’m on the extreme side of things here when I say to cut out caffeine completely, I’ve also realized it’s a relatively easy thing to do in the grand scheme of things.
I used to be a soda junkie, then turned coffee junkie when my parents owned a coffeehouse. Drinking at least one large cup per day (by the way, one cup is equal to about 8oz, so if you’re drinking out of a 16oz cup like I did, it’s two cups) and a lot of times two. Coffee is still a favorite of mine and I would drink it all day long if I could! But the more coffee I drink, the more I struggle with feeling good.
Caffeine is the most used drug in America, and if you’re addicted like so many others, start slow and cut back a little at a time. Get a small instead of the grande, or ask for half decaf until you can cut it out completely. For those of us who don’t drink coffee, you still need to be careful about sodas, chocolate, tea, and medications.
And you know, I think it’s not only the caffeine in the drinks but the sugar and flavorings as well. That’s a lot for your body to deal with! Excess sugar causes your body to use more vitamin B during digestion and also causes a spike in insulin, which affects your endocrine/hormone system.
While drinking coffee may not be the one issue between you and fertility, is it not worth the extra effort?
Also, make sure you check out the video Hethir from Natural Fertility Info put together on caffeine and fertility!
Alison @ Wholesome Goodness
I developed a caffeine addiction during my second semester of college. I lived with a girl who was always chugging either diet coke or coffee, so I picked up a lot of her bad habits. That summer, I realized what had happened as I began enduring excruciating headaches. It scared me so much that I quit cold turkey! I continued to drink coffee occasionally (I love plain lattes), but a couple of years ago I gave it up completely for health reasons (even caffeine-free coffe is highly acid-forming). If I drink caffeine now, I feel so, so sick.
Since I love the flavor of coffee, I recently began experimenting with Teeccino. I LOVE IT!! Have you tried it? It’s an “herbal coffee” that’s full of minerals and no caffeine. I love it with some lightly warmed raw milk or in a “frappuccino” with raw milk and some stevia. Heaven!
Alison @ Wholesome Goodness
One more thing: do you have a link or reference for that caffeine-infertility connection? I’d like to be able to pass it on!
I was horrible with caffeine when I was younger. I had to stop drinking my diets cokes because all the junk in them were making my hands and feet go numb and lose sensation. Then my parents owned a coffeehouse and I quickly replaced the habit with coffee! I still love my coffee, but never drink it everyday, and never while I’m trying to conceive or while pregnant. The risks just aren’t worth it. I’ll have to look into teeccino – never heard of it!
Some of the info I’ve got for this post were out of a couple books, here’s the link to a study published earlier this year(broken so it’ll fit)
I’m not a coffee fan… so I drink 0 cups a day. I don’t like soda either.
Crystal – good for you. And like I’ve always been told about smoking – never start! 🙂
I’m catching up on some of your old posts.
Giving up caffeine is going to be hard for me. I do love my cup of coffee a day and when I don’t have that I drink black tea so I don’t get a headache. But I like that you said that you will drink it occasionally, just not when ttc or pregnant. If I know it is only for a time, I think I can handle it. I really should give it up and become just a social coffee drinker when not ttc. *sigh* I miss it already!!
What about Yerba Mate? Is that ok?
@Beth, From what I understand, Yerba Mate is fine.
In _Caffeine Blues_, Stephen Cherniske writes that yerba mate is also a no-no, as it is “another herbal source of caffeine” (123). Yikes — caffeine is in everything!
@Carissa, Good to know! Thanks for the info. 🙂
This was really informative. Thank you so much. Thankfully, I have not had much caffeine within the last two weeks, and I’m happy about it. Though I wasn’t consuming as much as some, I still find cutting it out almost completely has improved my sleep. 🙂
What about decaf coffee? Is the caffeine the main concern, or are there other compounds that are problematic?
@Sarah P, I do know that many of the chemicals they use when making decaf coffee are not good for overall health. It’s important to look for I think what’s called water processed decaf.
I don’t know whether the properties of the non-caffienated bean may inhibit fertility though.