February 23rd, 2017
You may have heard that alcohol decreases fertility. Most people assume this applies only to those with a heavy drinking problem. But in fact, even moderate alcohol consumption can affect fertility. Not only does it affect a couple’s chances of conceiving, it can also increase the length of time it takes to get pregnant.
Studies show that alcohol affects fertility – but to what degree? How much is too much? According to recent studies, moderate drinking (fewer than five drinks per week) does not show a harmful effect on fertility – women who drank moderately have roughly the same chances of getting pregnant as those who didn’t drink at all. Heavy drinkers (more than five-seven drinks per week) were 18% less likely to get pregnant than moderate drinkers.
In women, alcohol disrupts the menstrual cycle, affecting hormones and sometimes stopping her period altogether. Alcohol can raise estrogen and testosterone levels and lower levels of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone. These levels need to be balanced in order for the menstrual cycle to be regular. Alcohol can also reduce the body’s vitamin B, which plays a role in the menstrual cycle, and side effects of alcohol consumption such as poor diet and lack of exercise can also interfere with the menstrual cycle.
In men, two or more alcoholic drinks per day can damage the sperm’s DNA, leading to not only problems conceiving but also to possible birth defects once conception does happen. Alcohol lowers a man’s testosterone levels, lowering his sperm count and sperm mobility. This reduces the chances that sperm will meet with an egg and makes it harder for sperm to meet an egg. Many men also report an inability to obtain and keep an erection or inability to ejaculate after drinking. Of course, without ejaculation, it is impossible to conceive.
For women looking to conceive, it’s best for her and her partner to abstain from drinking. Though the occasional glass of wine will not ruin fertility chances, research is inconclusive on how much and how often alcohol can be consumed in order not to experience fertility problems. In addition, research is inconclusive about a person’s previous drinking habits and future conception rates. This means that past binge drinking may affect future fertility.
In general, a healthy lifestyle will help you conceive. This can include eating a proper and well balanced diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, and of course, abstaining from drinking or engaging in light to moderate drinking.
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