Effects of Alcohol on Fertility
It is an amazing thing: Couples seek help in achieving the best health they can in order to have a baby yet they can't or don't give up alcohol (and a few other bad habits). Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and drugs all have a proven negative effect upon cell development and fertility. For some reason they fail to understand the ramifications of these things on their bodies, their lives, and ultimately their ability to procreate. And, it isn't just men or just women - it's both.
Alcohol is capable of causing massive destruction and, if a couple is trying to conceive, having alcohol in the equation can make conception a distant dream. Alcohol abuse can affect a person in a variety of ways. As with any substance abuse, there are mental, emotional, social and physical consequences to heavy drinking. It can affect fertility by interfering with ovulation and menstruation in a woman and it affects sperm count and motility in a man. Alcohol causes liver problems and affects the body's ability to produce the amino acids necessary for cell development. Proper cell development is critical to reproduction.
Women and Alcohol
Women who are trying to conceive need to be aware of the powerful impact of alcohol on reproduction. The negative effects include infertility and increased risk for spontaneous abortion and extend to the fetus causing impaired growth and development. Alcohol abuse is also associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction that results in amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation); anovulation (lack of ovulation); luteal phase defect (abnormal development of the endometrial lining) and hyperprolactinemia (abnormally high levels of prolactin in the blood). If a woman is pregnant, alcohol consumption puts her and her baby at risk for miscarriage, pre-term birth, stillbirth, and birth defects.
A large number of ovulatory dysfunctions are associated with alcohol which means that if a woman is trying to conceive or has fertility issues, she should not drink at all. Dr. Anthony Rutherford, a consultant in reproductive medicine and Chairman of the British Fertility Society said, "There is a link between drinking and fertility, although exactly how alcohol makes women less fertile isn't understood clearly. May studies have shown that even drinking lightly can have an effect."
A Danish study showed that drinking between one and five drinks a week can reduce a woman's chances of conceiving and 10 drinks or more decreases the likelihood of conception even further. A 2009 study at Harvard University of couples undergoing IVF showed that women who drank more than six units per week were 18 percent less likely to conceive, while men were 14 percent less likely.
Men and Alcohol
In men, alcohol consumption may lead to abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen. This interferes with sperm development as well as hormone levels. Because alcohol is a toxin, it has the ability to kill sperm-generating cells in the testes. Even moderate drinking can make it difficult to conceive. Drinking lowers sperm quality and quantity and lowers testosterone levels. It can reduce libido and cause impotence. Male alcohol use can lead to infertility or, if the couple does conceive, it can lead to the birth of children who are smaller, have compromised immune systems, and who are more prone to behavioral and hormonal disturbances.
What has been observed is that when a man stops drinking or at least lessens alcohol consumption appreciably, the negative effects upon fertility and sexual capabilities reverse quickly.
In order to make sure fertility is good, both partners need to practice good eating habits, exercise regularly to maintain health and a normal body weight and ensure that their alcohol consumption is very limited.
Alcohol isn't the only "drug" that affects fertility in both men and women. If you have questions about fertility health, read this section for some answers.