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How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Fertility?

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How does alcohol consumption affect fertility? The short and simple answer is that drinking alcohol can adversely affect fertility and can also cause damage to the baby.

As a result, total abstinence seems to be the most logical solution when couples are trying to have a baby.

Not only this, but refraining from drinking alcohol when you are trying to have a child, during pregnancy, and while the mother is breast feeding the baby totally eliminates the countless number of negative "what if" alcohol-related scenarios that can be imagined.

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Getting Answers From the Fertility Research Literature

Couples wanting to have children often ask the following: "how does alcohol consumption affect fertility"?

Obviously, the best place to find the answer to this question is in the fertility research literature.

Unfortunately, many of the studies seeking to understand the relationship between alcohol and fertility do not agree with one another.

While drinking alcohol certainly does affect fertility, scientific experts in this area of research have neither been able to calculate how much alcohol must be ingested to affect fertility nor how much alcohol consumption is "safe."

Fertility researchers have typically discussed alcohol and fertility in terms of alcohol consumption.

That is, many research studies have focused on whether there is a significant difference between low consumption, moderate consumption, and heavy or excessive consumption.

Keep in mind that when anyone discusses alcohol consumption and offers guidelines on drinking, a number of factors are at work.

For instance, since not everyone weights the same, has the same metabolism, is the same gender, is the same age, or reacts the same way to alcohol, any "guidelines" must be taken as that--guidelines and not a perfect system of measurement or calculation.

Alcohol Consumption Levels

The following represents the differences in low, moderate, and heavy or excessive alcohol consumption:

  • Low Alcohol Consumption: less than one drink per day (for instance, having 1 to 5 drinks per week at different times)

  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: 1 or 2 drinks per day

  • Heavy or Excessive Alcohol Consumption: more than 2 drinks per day

Moderate Levels of Alcohol Consumption Can Also Be Dangerous

The question is so pivotal that it warrants asking it again, namely, does alcohol consumption affect fertility?

The short and simple answer is "yes," drinking alcohol can adversely affect fertility and can also cause damage to the baby.

While researchers have long been aware of the adverse effects of chronic alcoholism on fertility and on the health of the baby, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, many researchers are now finding that moderate alcohol consumption can also lead to similar issues.

Not surprisingly, findings such as these have made their way into the doctors' offices.

Indeed, it has been discovered that many, if not most, doctors recommend that their patients fully disclose their drinking habits before they try to have a child so that the doctor can provide solid guidance and information that will help avoid conception and fertility issues.

Some Damaging Effects of Alcohol Consumption and Fertility

The following represents some of the negative consequences of drinking alcohol and the fertility and health issues of the mother and/or the baby:

  • Infertility

  • Increased risk for spontaneous abortion

  • Impaired fetal growth and development

  • Hypothalmic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction resulting in the lack of ovulation, the abnormal development of the endometrial lining, and the absence of menses

  • Increased risk for a miscarriage, pre-term birth, or stillbirth

  • Numerous ovulatory dysfunctions

  • Increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and possible congenital heart defects and brain anomalies

  • Possible mental retardation in the baby

  • Increased menstrual problems and gynecologic surgery

  • Altered estrogen and progesterone levels

Deleterious Effects of Drinking Alcohol and the Fertility of the Father

The following represents some of the negative consequences of drinking alcohol and the fertility of the father:

  • Abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen levels that, in turn, affect sperm development and hormone levels

  • Killing off the sperm-generating cells in the testicles

Alcohol and Fertility - A Practical Perspective

Let's think about the above information in practical terms. Virtually all researchers agree that excessive drinking significantly and negatively interferes with fertility for the woman AND for the men.

Furthermore, many researchers feel strongly about the negative affects of moderate drinking and fertility.

So the only "real" option revolves around the following question: will drinking low amounts of alcohol significantly affect our ability in having children or should we simply abstain from drinking alcohol?

What is considered "safe" or "optimal" changes over time as researchers discover more information.

For instance, for many years "optimal" blood pressure was "120 over 80." In more medical terms, 120 over 80 means that the systolic pressure, a measure of the heart when it is beating, is 120 and the diastolic pressure, a measure of the heart at rest, is 80.

In the past few years, however, some medical practitioners and researchers have advocated that "optimal" blood pressure is not 120 over 80 but "115 over 75."

The reader might be wondering what optimal blood pressure has to do with drinking alcohol and fertility?

Simply this: If you are asking the question "how does alcohol consumption affect fertility," chances are good that you or your partner (or both) drink alcohol, want to have a child, and do not want any health-related complications for all concerned.

For the sake of understanding this more clearly, let's say that the overwhelming majority of fertility researchers and doctors agree that drinking minimal amounts of alcohol will not affect fertility much, if at all.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years. How surprising would it be if future fertility researchers discover that even the smallest amounts of alcohol negatively affect fertility AND that drinking 24 to 72 hours before conception, for instance, may possibly affect the health of the baby in a damaging manner?

Conclusion: How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Fertility?

Not dissimilar to the changing views about "optimal" blood pressure measures, the damaging effects of alcohol on fertility may be interpreted more strictly in the future due to advancements in research and in technology.

Sure it would be wonderful to be able to enjoy a few drinks while we entertain or go out for the evening.

If drinking the slightest amount of alcohol may affect your ability to have children, however, why not simply abstain from drinking alcohol while you are trying to have a child, while the female is carrying the child, and while the mother is breast feeding the child?

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Indeed, refraining from drinking alcohol when you are trying to have a child, during pregnancy, and while the mother is breast feeding the baby totally eliminates the countless number of negative "what if" scenarios that can be anticipated.

Not only this, but abstention from alcohol will rule out any negative alcohol-related consequences associated with the health of your baby and should give you the peace of mind knowing that you have been doing the best you can to provide your future child with the best prospects for a life without preventable medical problems.

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