We love cheeky cocktails with our gal pals, celebrating special events with champagne, and winding down with a glass of wine after a long day. Doctors even promote the benefits of red wine and drinking in moderation. But does drinking alcohol affect fertility? If you’re hoping to start a family or add to your brood, read on.
Alcohol may increase time to conceive
Recent research shows that even light drinkers may take longer to become pregnant than people who abstain. A 2021 study found that people who drank between three and six alcoholic beverages a week during the second half of the menstrual cycle were 44% less likely to conceive than nondrinkers. Women drinking more than six alcoholic drinks in a week were 61% less likely to conceive than teetotallers. For each day of binge drinking, classed as drinking more than four alcoholic drinks a day, the chance of conception fell by an additional 19%.
Alcohol may impact female hormones
While the researchers didn’t investigate why drinkers take more time to become pregnant, some health professionals believe booze disrupts female hormone levels. Alcohol intake may raise levels of estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone and decrease levels of progesterone. This altered chemical cocktail may create a hostile environment that makes it harder for an embryo to implant itself in the uterus lining. This would explain why even light drinkers can struggle to conceive.
Fluctuating hormones can also disturb your natural ovulation cycle. Heavy drinking may even stop your cycle altogether. Without ovulating, you are unable to become pregnant. Even irregular ovulation can make conception more difficult.
Alcohol can pack on the pounds
You might not realise that a pint of beer has the same number of calories as a scoop of ice cream and a handful of candy. Just a single espresso martini is the equivalent of three chicken nuggets and a donut. So you can quickly see how boozy drinks can pack on the pounds. Excess weight can also impact your fertility by messing with your estrogen and progesterone levels. When your hormones aren’t in balance, they can’t maintain your normal menstrual cycle.
Alcohol can also impact male fertility
It’s not just female fertility that can suffer under the influence of alcohol. A Danish study found decreased sperm count, concentration, and quality among men who drank more than five units of alcohol a week. That means his fertility levels could nose dive after just three small beers. The more men drink, the greater the impact on their fertility levels.
One of the reasons behind the drop is that alcohol can reduce testosterone levels. Testosterone tells the testes to make sperm. When testosterone levels drop, the body makes fewer sperm, which means there’s less chance of sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg.
Research shows a clear link between alcohol and fertility issues, and it’s not just heavy drinking to blame. If you hope to become pregnant, it may be time for you and your partner to lay down the bottle to get your bodies in the best shape for your baby.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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