If you’re trying to conceive, you’ve likely heard that it’s best to minimize your drinking. Scientifically, there’s a lot of validity to this advice. Drinking alcohol can increase the time it takes to get pregnant, cause irregular cycles, and interfere with ovulation for women. In men, heavy drinking can decrease sexual performance, and affect sperm quality. For both men and women, drinking causes health problems which impede on fertility.
Alcohol and Fertility
Heavy drinking can cause ovulatory issues, which are the number one cause of infertility. Binge drinking (more than five standard drinks in one occasion) is known to cause miscarriage, still birth, premature birth, and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). In men specifically, heavy drinking can impact fertility by lowering testosterone levels, FSH, LH, and by raising estrogen levels, all of which reduce sperm production. Drinking heavily can also change the shape, size, and movement of healthy sperm.
A study of couples going through IVF revealed that women who drank four drinks a week were 16% less likely to have a live birth, while when both partners drank, the live birth rate was reduced by 21%. Another study showed that women who recorded heavily drinking were 18% less likely to conceive.
Is it Okay to Drink in Moderation?
Some studies have shown that drinking in moderation (for example, less than 14 drinks per week) does not impede on fertility. Moderate drinking, as defined as less than seven drinks per week, will likely not impact conception. However, there is a risk in drinking, even moderately, when trying to conceive, as women are advised not to drink at any point in their pregnancies. If there is a chance you may be pregnant, drinking should be avoided. Also, drinking is known to interfere with reproductive functions and menstrual cycles, which can decrease a woman’s fertility.
What you can do to drink less
Drinking is very much ingrained in modern society, in social settings, as a way to relax, and as part of enjoying a meal or event. Because of the common nature of alcohol, it’s easier said than done to completely cut drinking out of your life. However, there are some strategies for cutting alcohol consumption.
- Agree to drink less with your partner or the people you live with. It’s easier to stop drinking when the people around you don’t drink. Make a plan with those around you for extra support in lowering alcohol consumption. ⠀
- Set personal limits. For example, decide early in the evening that you’ll only be having one drink that night, or not drinking at all. It may also be helpful to choose alcohol-free days in advance, in order to limit consumption. ⠀
- Keep busy with other activities. Instead of drinking, choose to watch a movie, take a walk, play a game or revisit an old hobby.
- If you decide to drink in moderation, keep track of how much you and your partner are drinking. Remember that moderate drinking is defined as no more than seven drinks a week.
No one is perfect- if you decide to have a glass of wine at dinner, or one drink with a friend, you don’t need to beat yourself up. It’s all about balance. That being said, when you’re trying to conceive, health, nutrition, and wellness is key to boosting your fertility. Minimizing alcohol consumption will likely make you feel healthier, and more in control of your cycle and fertility.