Caffeine and Alcohol for Infertility

If you and your partner have difficulty conceiving, I strongly recommend that you avoid caffeine and alcohol while you try to get pregnant (and of course during your pregnancy, too!). A number of studies have found that consuming more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day (about 2 cups of coffee) is associated with a delay in conception. A large study from Johns Hopkins University revealed that, compared to women who consumed less than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, those who consumed more caffeine reduced their chances of conceiving each month by 25 per-cent.2 Another study of 104 healthy women found that women who consumed more than the equivalent of 1 cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant as women who drank less.3 Other studies find that the relationship between caffeine and fertility is even stronger in women who smoke.4

A handful of studies support the notion that drinking alcoholic beverages reduces fertility in women. Women who drink heavily are more likely than nondrinkers to experience infertility problems and spontaneous abortion. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the effect of alcohol in more than 4000 women. The researchers found that even moderate drinking (two drinks per day) affected the ability to conceive by interfering with ovulation. And the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of not conceiving.5


There is some evidence that anemia due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause infertility in women. Two case reports revealed that when women with this nutrient deficiency were given supplemental B12, pregnancy occurred.6 How a lack of B12 impacts a woman’s chances of conceiving is not understood.

Despite the lack of research in this area, it makes sense to ensure you are meeting your needs for this vitamin. Women of childbearing age must consume 2.4 micrograms of B12 every day to cover their needs. B12 is found only in animal foods and in a few products that have been fortified with the vitamin. Take a look at the B12 in Foods table on page 9 of chapter 1 for food sources of this vitamin.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can occur if you don’t eat any B12-rich foods (you may be a complete vegetarian), or if your body is incapable of properly absorbing the nutrient. In the latter case, a condition called pernicious anemia results (read more about this in chapter 3, “Anemia”). If you are at risk for developing a B12 deficiency, take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement or a B complex formula (it contains the whole family of B vitamins). You’ll find guidelines for supplementing with B12 on page 10 in chapter 1.

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