The effects of caffeine consumption on delayed conception were evaluated in a European multicenter study on risk factors of infertility. Information was collected retrospectively on time of unprotected intercourse for the first pregnancy and the most recent waiting time episode in a randomly selected sample of 3,187 women aged 25-44 years from five European countries (Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain) between August 1991 and February 1993. The consumption of caffeinated beverages at the beginning of the waiting time was used to estimate daily caffeine intake, which was categorized as 0-100, 101-300, 301-500, and > or = 501 mg. Risk of subfecundity (> or = 9.5 months) and the fecundability ratio, respectively, were assessed by logistic regression and Cox proportional hazard analyses, adjusting for age, parity, smoking, alcohol consumption, frequency of intercourse, educational level, working status, use of oral contraceptives, and country. A significantly increased odds ratio (OR) of 1.45 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-2.04) for subfecundity in the first pregnancy was observed for women drinking more than 500 mg of caffeine per day, the effect being relatively stronger in smokers (OR = 1.56, 95% CI 0.92-2.63) than in nonsmokers (OR = 1.38, 95% CI 0.85-2.23). Women in the highest level of consumption had an increase in the time leading to the first pregnancy of 11% (hazard ratio = 0.90, 95% CI 0.78-1.03). These associations were observed consistently in all countries as well as for the most recent waiting time episode. The authors conclude that high levels of caffeine intake may delay conception among fertile women.