Guilty Pleasures That Tank Your Fertility

Biggest "little things" that decrease your fertility

They say it's the "little things"...

You've probably heard that you should start healthier habits once you're pregnant, but if you're having trouble conceiving, you may want to start even earlier. These little things may be interfering with your fertility:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Diet
  • Stress


It's bad for you regardless, but it also reduces your fertility. Smoking raises your chance of subfertility up about 60% for both men and women. For women, smoking can also move menopause up by 1 to 4 years, which means a shorter limit for the biological clock

Miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy also becomes more likely. For men, smoking has been associated with less concentrated sperm and slower more deformed swimmers. Together, couples who smoke may need up to twice the fertility treatments that nonsmokers would've needed. 


Daily alcohol consumption of two or more drinks gives you about a 60% higher chance of subfertility. Several studies have also shown less success with 4-8 drinks per week. Remember: alcohol is never really safe when you're planning for pregnancy--every drink counts! 


Sorry, caffeine junkies. More than 200 mg per day could increase the risk for miscarriage, which decreases the chance of having a healthy pregnancy during any cycle by about 45%. For reference, a standard eight-ounce cup of coffee has between 80-95 mg of caffeine and a shot of espresso has about 64 mg. Tea has much less caffeine than coffee (at least half as much or lower) but still adds to that 200 mg count, so keep that in mind as well. 


Studies have shown lower fertility for obese women compared to those at a healthy weight. But, whether you're overweight or not, what you eat will matter when you try to conceive. As health and fitness fanatics probably tell you: processed foods are bad for you. Not specifically because of the higher chance for weight gain, but because certain ingredients could be interfering with your fertility. 

Try to focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; and avoid foods with possibly high mercury content like fish. Also, consider taking folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects. 


Even if you've been having trouble conceiving, don't be discouraged! To be fair, it's a bit unclear on whether or not stress interferes with fertility treatment, but stress generally has a negative impact on your overall well-being. A few activities that could help minimize stress include meditation, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, or just talking out your concerns with a good support system. 

In short, what you consume can impact your fertility. Though old habits die hard, you may want to consider getting rid of some of these guilty pleasures in order to conceive. 

The little details in making 'littles'

by Shweta Nayak M.D. ( those looking to start a family, or those further along on the spectrum who may be utilizing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), it can be easy to get lost in the details. Those details can be as "big" as charting your cycle or as little as what to eat for breakfast.Shweta Nayak M.D., a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist with Reproductive Medicine Institute, with offices throughout Chicagoland, breaks down some of the smaller changes in daily activities that can make a big difference!

See All Posts >>

You Might Also Like...