When I was pregnant with both my kids, I drank a much-needed coffee every morning and then often indulged in another during the 3:00 slump. I received the okay from my doctor never thought twice about it. A friend of mine, however, swore off the stuff altogether while undergoing fertility treatments. Her doctor said that wasn’t necessary but she had already decided to eliminate things like alcohol, junk food and caffeine from her diet “just in case.” Turns out she was onto something: A recent Danish study shows that women who drink five or more cups of coffee a day are around 50% less likely get pregnant through IVF than non-drinkers.
Okay, so five cups of coffee a day is pretty excessive – pregnant or not. And researchers had already suspected that coffee would have an affect on pregnancy rates. But as lead researcher Dr. Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel said, “We were surprised at the magnitude of the effect.” That effect is is “comparable to the detrimental effect of smoking,” the authors explained.
Researchers followed nearly 4,000 women receiving IVF or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatments in a popular Danish fertility clinic. They controlled a variety of factors, everything from smoking and alcohol consumption to a woman’s age and weight, yet still found that excessive amounts of coffee is a big no-no.
“There is limited evidence about coffee in the literature, so we would not wish to worry IVF patients unnecessarily,” said Kesmodel. ”But it does seem reasonable, based on our results and the evidence we have about coffee consumption during pregnancy, that women should not drink more than five cups of coffee a day when having IVF.”
On one hand, this isn’t exactly shocking. I’ve always been a firm believer in “everything in moderation,” and consuming copious amounts of coffee each day probably isn’t good for anyone. On the other hand, it’s pretty unbelievable that drinking five cups each day – as many people apparently do – could have the same effect as smoking when it comes to IVF success.
The good news? Women trying to get pregnant through IVF won’t need to give up their morning cup of coffee any time soon. Researchers found that low levels of consumption – around two to three cups per day – had no harmful effects on conception. The truth is, every woman I know who’s serious about having a baby would do whatever it takes, even if that meant quitting smoking cold-turkey or giving up the occasional glass of wine. But it’s nice to know they can at least enjoy a cup of coffee – 100% guilt-free.