1. Negative effects on ovulation
Any woman trying to conceive (TTC) is optimistic a positive pregnancy test will turn positive soon. Alcohol has been shown to lower the chances of becoming pregnant in some studies, meaning couples desiring a baby will need to TTC for much longer before having success. Heavy drinking can affect the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and hormone levels. Lower levels of drinking are less well studied but could also affect the total time to pregnancy.
2. Lower libido, higher weight
Alcohol can also have less direct effects on fertility, such as lowering libido, increasing weight, and negatively affecting the immune system. As most people know, a couple must have intercourse to get pregnant. After a few too many drinks, men and women can feel too intoxicated to perform, missing an essential window for conception. Heavy or ongoing alcohol use can also add on the pounds. Women who are overweight or obese are less likely to get pregnant. Lastly, too much alcohol can affect the immune system making illness more common. Conception is often the last thought when men and women are run down with a cold.
3. Negative effects on sperm
Many men think pregnancy is solely a woman’s responsibility, and that’s mostly true once conception has occurred. However, men play an important role early on in the process and need to be able to supply healthy sperm to create a pregnancy. A recent study found daily alcohol consumption resulted in worsened semen quality, particularly in terms of semen volume and sperm morphology. However, the authors noted the effect was not seen in occasional drinkers. To be on the safe side, men can consider quitting drinking or cutting back while trying to conceive. This approach is also a great way to support a partner who has stopped drinking.
Avoiding future repercussions
If avoiding alcohol to improve fertility isn’t convincing enough, people should be aware of the many additional repercussions of alcohol use should a pregnancy occur. Alcohol readily crosses the placenta and can increase the chance of miscarriage and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a severe condition affecting the baby’s brain. The more a woman drinks, the higher the risk for these outcomes. Avoid putting the future baby at risk by quitting drinking early on in the conception process.
Go virgin, for now
The bottom line is that alcohol use can negatively affect fertility in both men and women and can have serious consequences for the developing baby if a woman drinks during pregnancy. Although giving up an evening beer or cocktails with friends can be challenging, the safest approach is to opt for a virgin drink when trying to get pregnant. Soon enough, the baby will be here, and drinking alcohol will be back on the table.