When you think of a romantic evening with your significant other, you may picture a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant. During the meal, the waiter may ask if you’d like to purchase a bottle of wine or champagne to enjoy with your food. While this may sound like the perfect way to celebrate a night out with the one you love, you may want to skip the alcohol if you’re trying to start a family.
If you and your partner are trying to conceive, it’s good to know that there are several factors that can have a negative effect on your fertility. Alcohol plays a role in infertility in men and women, so it’s important to know how and when to limit your consumption to increase your chances of having a baby.
How Does Alcohol Inhibit Conception?
If you drink regularly, your hormones won’t maintain their natural balance. For women, drinking can cause delayed egg maturation and menstrual cycle disruptions. Drinking too often can also lead to liver damage and incomplete breakdown of estrogen. Even if you do become pregnant, your baby may suffer developmental issues or have a low birth weight. Medical professionals have not yet determined how minimal amounts of alcohol affect unborn babies, but it has been confirmed that excess drinking can be very harmful to a baby in utero. While many people think that women should stop drinking once they find out they are pregnant, it’s best to abstain from drinking once a woman decides she wants to have a baby, since consuming alcohol can prolong the time it takes to conceive.
In men, drinking lowers sperm quality, which results in misshapen sperm and lower sperm count. Men who indulge in alcoholic beverages often may also find that they have low libidos and suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Scientific Studies Regarding Drinking and Male Fertility
According to research, there is a direct connection between drinking alcohol and lowered fertility rates. Danish researchers studied 1,221 men between the ages of 18 and 28 from 2008 to 2012. The researchers observed sperm count, volume and motility in these men’s semen samples. The participants were also asked how many times they drink per week and how often they become drunk.
The volume of alcohol the men consumed was measured in units. A glass of beer or wine was equal to one unit for the purpose of the study. The men who consumed five or more units in the previous week had the poorest sperm quality. About 50 percent of the men who were surveyed stated that five units a week was considered “normal” to them in terms of alcohol consumption. However, any intoxication that occurred in the previous month did not have a negative effect on sperm. In fact, there were no extreme changes in sperm of men who consumed less than 25 units a week. The men who consumed 40 units produced one-third less sperm than those who consumed five units. This study indicates that men who are trying to start families should pay attention to the number of alcoholic drinks they are indulging in weekly.
Drinking and Female Fertility
Another Danish study examined the effects of drinking on women who are trying to conceive. For this study, 430 couples from the ages of 20 to 35 participated over a three-year period. Women who drank five or fewer alcoholic beverages a week showed reduced fertility. After six consecutive menstrual cycles, over 60 percent of the women who drank five or fewer alcoholic beverages became pregnant. Around 55 percent of women who consumed more alcohol per week were able to get pregnant during this same time period. This indicates that women who drink more than five alcoholic beverages a week take longer to conceive. Additionally, studies also indicate that women who consume alcoholic drinks regularly are more likely to suffer from amenorrhea, or missed menstrual periods, as well as irregular cycles and painful cramps.
Advice for Couples Who Want to Have Children
Since research has shown that indulging in alcoholic beverages even moderately can affect a man’s or woman’s ability to conceive, couples who are planning to have a child should consume spirits, beer and wine in moderation or abstain from these beverages completely for a few months while trying to conceive.