As both a physician and researcher, I have come to realize that it is much more difficult to dispel a popular belief that is wrong than it is to prove a new finding. A classic example is the popular notion that coffee and tea are harmful for women trying to conceive. Both are drinks created from small trees/shrubs—coffee is made from the seed (not bean) of the plant Cofea Arabica whereas tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. Interesting, both are now known to have a growing number of health benefits. In fact, both—when served unsweetened—regularly appear after water as the “second healthiest beverage” to consume in moderate quantities of 3 to 4 cups per day.
Both coffee and tea contain various plant produced antioxidants as well as health promoting polyphenols and flavonoids. Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and tea is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Both are linked to a longer life expectancy. In fact, in 2016 the Nurses Health Study demonstrated that moderate coffee consumption may even protect DNA—potentially slowing the effects of aging and possibly even optimizing fertility. So where does the negative reputation of these beverages come from? I link this myth to obsolete observational studies and the concerns that they raised about caffeine consumption.
Here’s what the current information shows:
- The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not discourage mild to moderate consumption of caffeine for women trying to conceive
- Caffeine and tobacco together are a bad combination for women trying to conceive; so please stop smoking!
- Coffee/caffeine in mild to moderate amounts does not have a major impact upon male fertility for most men
- Caffeine consumption does not reduce success rates for couples going through IVF
- An IVF study performed on pigs suggests that caffeine may improve embryo formation; this finding has not been investigated or confirmed in humans
- Coffee consumption has NOT been shown to increase risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight
Bottom line is that these low calorie, plant based beverages may have some health and fertility boosting benefits. Any risk from them is not associated with mild to moderate daily consumption.
Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado