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Can Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Fertility?

Yes, drinking alcohol can adversely affect your fertility and also cause damage to your baby. We are all well aware of the adverse effects of chronic alcoholism on reproductive function. Recently, the adverse reproductive effects of moderate alcohol intake have also come into light. Most doctors recommend that you clearly tell them about your alcohol habits before initiating conception so that they can better guide and advise you in managing and handling the problem, if any.

Here are some references on how much alcohol is too much. One beer, a glass of wine, or a mixed drink contains about one half ounce (15g) of absolute alcohol. Moderate alcohol abuse is characterized by the daily consumption of four to six drinks or two to three ounces of alcohol (60 to 90g). Alcoholism is the ingestion of eight or more drinks per day which is equivalent to four ounces of alcohol per day (120g).

Alcohol and Female Fertility

All women who are trying to get pregnant should learn that the adverse reproductive effects of alcohol range from infertility and increased risk for spontaneous abortion to impaired fetal growth and development. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are also provably associated with hypothalmic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction resulting in amenorrhea (absence of menses), anovulation (lack of ovulation), luteal phase defect (abnormal development of the endometrial lining) and hyperprolactinemia. Drinking alcohol puts you and your baby at risk for a miscarriage, pre-term birth, stillbirth, and other serious effects.

Excessive alcohol consumption or alcoholism is associated with numerous ovulatory dysfunctions as well. If you suffer from infertility and especially anovulation you should completely avoid alcohol.

Alcoholic mothers also have an increased risk of the fetal alcohol syndrome. The fetal alcohol syndrome was first described by Jones in 1973. The syndrome is characterized by growth deficiency, mental retardation, behavioral disturbances and an atypical heart-shaped facial appearance in the baby born of an alcoholic mother. Additionally, congenital heart defects, brain anomalies are also often found in these babies due to the sustained ill effects of alcohol consumed by the mother before or during pregnancy. This syndrome occurs in 30 to 40 percent of newborns born to women who are alcoholics.

Excluding genetic causes, alcohol consumption in women is also the leading cause of mental retardation in babies. No safe level of maternal drinking has been established yet and you should avoid it totally.

Alcohol and Male Fertility

In men, alcohol may result in abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen levels, which may interfere with sperm development and hormone levels. Alcohol is also a toxin that can kill off the sperm-generating cells in the testicle. As a sperm takes at least three months to develop you should try a semen analysis again after 3-4 months of abstinence to check your sperm count.

Last modified: February 10, 2013

The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.