Intervention: #13 Alcohol intake
Fact Check

  • Heavy drinking increases the time it takes to get pregnant and can affect a developing baby's health.
  • For women trying to conceive, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
  • Men trying to conceive, should limit alcohol to no more than 14 units a week, which should be spread evenly over 3 days or more.

Impact of alcohol intake on female fertility

The relationship between light to moderate alcohol use and female infertility has yet to be fully characterized.

Drinking seems to increase the time it takes to get pregnant and to reduce the chances of having a healthy baby.

Studies in humans have found alterations in ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity with chronic/prolonged alcohol intake.

Acute alcohol use increased oestradiol, testosterone and LH levels, with greater increases seen in women who reported recent binge drinking.

Heavy alcohol use may diminish ovarian reserve and fecundability in women.

Binge drinking (more than six standard drinks on one occasion) can cause irregular or heavy periods, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, small birth weight, and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder(FASD).

Drinking was significantly associated with a 13% (for any drinking), 11% (for light drinking: < 12.5 g/day), and 23% (for moderate-heavy drinking: > 12.5 g/day of ethanol) reduction in fecundability.

Importantly, the dose-response analysis showed that women who consumed more than 1 alcoholic drink (12.5 grams of ethanol), will lead to 2% decrease in fecundability.

While it is not known exactly how alcohol affects fertility in women, research shows that even drinking lightly can increase the time it takes to get pregnant, and reduce the chances of having a healthy baby.

Impact of alcohol intake on male fertility

Some studies on long-term, heavy alcohol use have reported reduced gonadotropin release, testicular atrophy, and decreased testosterone and sperm production.

Other studies of men who drink heavily have documented increases in gonadotropins and oestradiol, independent of liver disease, with decreased testosterone as a consistent finding.

Alcoholism is also associated with liver dysfunction, which can result in hormonal disturbances due to the inability to metabolize oestrogens. A decrease in the quality of semen parameters has also been consistently documented in heavy consumers of alcohol, even with occasional azoospermia.

For men, heavy drinking can cause impotence, reduce their sex drive (libido) and their sexual performance and affect the quality of their sperm.
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