Alcohol and Infertility – Is there a connection?





Alcohol and infertility is there a connection? another important question but still yet to be precisely answered. The evidence is inconsistent regarding the impact of alcohol intake on female fertility.1–4 Obviously excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to the fetus.5

The UK’s Department of Health has recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should drink no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice per week and should avoid episodes of being intoxicated.6 A unit of alcohol is about the same as a small glass (125 ml) of wine or a half-pint of beer or lager.

A study carried out in Denmark looking at the connection between alcohol and infertility showed that women who drank less than 5 glasses of wine per week (approximately 5 units) were twice as likely to conceive within six months, compared to women who drank more alcohol.

Then in another study a cohort study (an observational study over time) showed that female wine drinkers (up to seven units per week) had slightly shorter waiting times to pregnancy than non-wine drinkers and drinkers of other alcoholic beverages, after adjusting for age, parity, smoking and body mass index (BMI).7 So as you can see there is connection between infertility and alcohol, but it is inconsistent and confusing. See below for general recommendations and if you drink alcohol whilst undergoing IVF treatment.

Alcohol and infertility and men: If you are a male, your fertility is unlikely to be affected if you drink no more than 3 or 4 units of alcohol a day. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect the quality of a man's sperm. Although alcohol consumption affects both partners in the likelihood of conceiving; males drinking more than the recommended limits can and is likely to increase sperm abnormality, decrease the sperm count and reduce the motility (movement) and volume of sperm. Highlighting again that alcohol and infertility are related and excess will not increase chances of conception.

The effects of alcohol's role in relation to infertility is once alcohol is in the body's system it consumes a lot energy to get rid of it due to its high toxicity, which has a direct effect on sperm production and egg quality causing them both to decrease, as the body know it has to get rid of the toxic effects of alcohol. So yes, alcohol and infertility are connected especially if males and even their partners are drinking more than their body can cope with or past the recommended limits.

The relationship between alcohol and infertility is that alcohol generally has the effect of lowering the bodies energy levels so making the body work extra hard to get rid of the toxic waste that is creates, and this uses up more energy than your body would generally use. The more energy you use, the less there is for other functions within the body to work effectively, and so the reproductive system becomes less efficient due to alcoholism. When drinking alcohol the uptake of a variety of minerals is also known to be affected, causing the body to become deficient in these minerals, which alters and decreases your fertility level even further. This means that the body can’t work at its optimum level and that’s when physical problems start to arise including but not limited to: 'unexplained infertility', poor egg quality and sperm issues to name a few. So looking at from that angle alcohol and infertility are closely related.

But if you have been struggling to conceive between 3 – 6 months then ideally you should stop consuming alcohol for at least three months to give your body a chance to detox, as any alcohol consumption can likely reduce your fertility by 50% or put another way, halve your chances of conceiving.

Women who are trying to become pregnant should be informed that there is a relationship between alcohol and infertility. That drinking no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice per week and avoiding episodes of intoxication reduces the risk of harming a developing fetus.8–13

Excessive alcohol consumption can be detrimental to semen quality but the effect is reversible and there is no evidence of a causal association between moderate alcohol consumption and poor semen quality.10–13 The current recommended guidelines on safe drinking limits for men allow three to four units per day.13

RECOMMENDATION

Women who are trying to become pregnant should be informed that drinking no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice per week and avoiding episodes of intoxication. If no conception after 6 months consider abstaining from alcohol.

If you drink more than one unit of alcohol a day or you consume caffeine (which is found in drinks such as coffee, tea and colas),14 it will lessen your chances of success or reduces the effectiveness with assisted reproduction procedures, including IVF treatment and GIFT. This may also be the case if either partners smoke. 15

Men should be informed that alcohol consumption of three to four units per day for men is unlikely to affect their fertility. But excessive alcohol intake of alcohol is not only detrimental to semen quality but quality of life in general. If you are worried about alcohol consumption or alcoholism Click Here

Couples should be offered information about lifestyle such as smoking, alcohol intake, occupational factors and diet which may impact on their fertility. If couples are affected by alcohol and infertility due to other factors such as stress, Click Here coping with alcohol and infertility plus stress.




References

1. Zaadstra BM, Looman CW, te Velde ER, Habbema JD, Karbaat J. Moderate drinking: no impact on female fecundity. Fertil Steril 1994;62:948–54.
2. Jensen TK, Hjollund NH, Henriksen TB, Scheike T, Kolstad H, Giwercman A, et al. Does moderate alcohol consumption affect fertility? Follow up study among couples planning first pregnancy. BMJ 1998;317:505–10.
3. Olsen J, Bolumar F, Boldsen J, Bisanti L. Does moderate alcohol intake reduce fecundability? A European multicenter study on infertility and subfecundity. European Study Group on Infertility and Subfecundity. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1997;21:206–12.
4. Juhl M, Nyboe Andersen AM, Gronbaek M, Olsen J. Moderate alcohol consumption and waiting time to pregnancy. Hum Reprod 2001;16:2705–9.
5. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy. Guideline No. 9. London: RCOG Press; 1999.
6. Department of Health. Sensible Drinking. The Report of an Inter-Departmental Working Group. 1995. [www.doh.gov.uk/alcohol/pdf/sensible drinking.pdf] Accessed 7 January 2004.
7. Juhl M, Olsen J, Andersen AM, Gronbaek M. Intake of wine, beer and spirits and waiting time to pregnancy. Hum Reprod 2003;18:1967–71
8. Department of Health. Sensible Drinking. The Report of an Inter-Departmental Working Group. 1995. [www.doh.gov.uk/alcohol/pdf/sensible drinking.pdf] Accessed 7 January 2004.
9. Juhl M, Olsen J, Andersen AM, Gronbaek M. Intake of wine, beer and spirits and waiting time to pregnancy. Hum Reprod 2003;18:1967–71.
10. Marshburn PB, Sloan CS, Hammond MG. Semen quality and association with coffee drinking, cigarette smoking, and ethanol consumption. Fertil Steril 1989;52:162–5.
11. Dunphy BC, Barratt CL, Cooke ID. Male alcohol consumption and fecundity in couples attending an infertility clinic. Andrologia1991;23:219–21.
12. Oldereid NB, Rui H, Purvis K. Life styles of men in barren couples and their relationship to sperm quality. Int J Fertil 1992;37:343–9.
13. Department of Health. Alcohol and Health. Drinking Sensibly. 2002. [www.doh.gov.uk/alcohol/alcoholandhealth.htm] Accessed 7 January 2004.
14. Hakim RB, Gray RH, Zacur H. Alcohol and caffeine consumption and decreased fertility. Fertil Steril 1998;70:632–7.
15. Klonoff-Cohen H, Lam-Kruglick P, Gonzalez C. Effects of maternal and paternal alcohol consumption on the success rates of in vitro fertilization and gamete intrafallopian transfer. Fertil Steril 2003;79:330–9.