Alcohol & Fertility: Can I Drink When Trying to Conceive?
Almost everyone seems to agree that you should never drink alcohol while pregnant. But what about if you are trying to conceive (TTC)? Can consume alcoholic beverages while TTC affects your chances of getting pregnant?
As actively TTC, you are likely aware of the importance of lifestyle choices in improving your chance of conception. While altering your lifestyle can be difficult, it is especially challenging for some women to change their drinking habits.
Unfortunately, alcohol has a major impact on your journey through pregnancy. Let’s explore how alcohol can affect your pregnancy and fertility.
Can you drink while trying to conceive?
If you are trying to conceive, you want to be as healthy as possible. You want to provide your body with the best possible chance to conceive and carry the pregnancy through to term.
A lot of research has gone into studying the effect of alcohol on women’s reproductive health. The overwhelming majority of the studies indicate that consuming alcoholic drinks can be harmful to your chances of getting pregnant. Alcohol, even in trace amounts, is bad for the fetus.
How does alcohol affects your fertility when you are trying to get pregnant?
The literature has well-documented effects of recreational drugs, including tobacco, on pregnancy and conception. However, the impact of alcohol on fertility is still under investigation. Consequently, many women question whether they should abstain from alcohol if they are trying to get pregnant.
The biggest risk of consuming alcoholic drinks while trying to get pregnant is exposing the fetus to alcohol in case of unintended or unrecognized pregnancy. The adverse effects of alcohol on a growing fetus are very well documented, and if you drink while pregnant, it can create serious complications for the fetus.
The Department of Health Australia cautions women TTC to avoid consuming alcohol to prevent this from happening.
There are some health benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation. For instance, Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, has excellent antioxidant properties. However, the harmful effects of alcohol when TTC outweigh any beneficial influence of alcohol, whether social or medicinal.
Apart from risking the fetus’s health, there have been documented harmful effects of moderate drinking on fertility as well. A study concluded that intake of moderate amounts of alcoholic drinks could diminish the ovarian reserve and deteriorate the quality of eggs. It is, therefore, safe to assume that even moderate drinking can hurt your fertility.
In men, alcohol has been linked to low testosterone production. Additional knock-on effects of alcohol in men include erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, which can negatively impact your fertility and ability to conceive. For men seeking fertility treatments, booze can worsen the outcomes and affect the success of the treatments.
Scientists are still trying to understand the effects of alcohol on fertility and conception. However, as the chances of accidental exposure during any potential pregnancy are so great, the Department of Health cautions women in Australia who are TTC to avoid drinking completely.
Can alcohol prevent me from getting pregnant?
Given the discussion that we just had, you might be wondering whether alcohol can prevent you from getting pregnant. Well, the studies on the topic have produced some conflicting results. While some studies have found that drinking alcoholic drinks can cause the diminution of your ovarian reserve, others have found that drinking occasionally can increase your fertility.
As the evidence is still very unclear, most medical practitioners advise women to avoid alcohol if they are TTC. An occasional drink might be okay, but you should avoid binge drinking and drink in moderation.
What is the effect of alcohol on sperm?
The science on the harmful effects of alcohol on sperm is very clear. Alcohol, when consumed in excess, can directly impact your reproductive system and inhibit testosterone production. As testosterone is a key hormone in spermatogenesis– sperm production, your ability to produce sperm will be affected.
Studies have also found that booze can cause morphologic changes in the sperm and cause them to move slower, decreasing the chance of them fertilizing the egg. Hence, if you are trying to get pregnant, it is better that your partner also abstains from alcohol as much as possible.
Effect of alcohol on implantation
Alcohol can impact your fertility by causing issues with ovulation. According to some studies, alcohol can also prevent the embryo’s implantation in the uterine wall. One of the studies went so far as to suggest that women should avoid consuming alcohol during the latter half of their menstrual cycle if they are trying to get pregnant.
Does alcohol affect the quality of eggs you produce?
Drinking can cause issues in the regulation of your menstrual cycle. So, does it affect the quality of eggs you produce? Well, the scientific data on this topic is not very clear. While the effect of alcohol on other body functions such as kidneys, heart, and blood pressure are very well documented, the impact on the quality of eggs is not.
However, given the effect of alcohol on other body functions, it is better to avoid it if you are trying to get pregnant.
Can alcohol cause miscarriage?
The harmful effects of alcohol can manifest immediately in a fetus. Hence, there is no safe amount of alcohol that is okay for you to consume if you are already pregnant. It is very well documented that drinking even a small amount of alcohol can lead to a miscarriage in women who are already pregnant. The chance of miscarriage increases with each week of gestation. Hence, if you are trying to get pregnant, you should avoid alcohol as you might not even know when you get pregnant. It is not worth risking the health of your unborn child over a glass of red wine or a lager.
Is occasional drinking okay?
If you are trying to get pregnant, it is probably best to avoid drinking, even occasionally. Almost all health organizations, including the CDC, recommend women avoid drinking if they plan to conceive. However, some healthcare providers opine that occasional drinking might not be that bad for your chances of conceiving.
Another issue with occasional drinking is how you define ‘occasional.’ A drink here or there should probably be fine and not affect your chances of conceiving that much.
FAQs about drinking while TTC
When should you stop drinking when you are pregnant?
It would be best if you were not drinking when you are pregnant. There is no amount of alcohol that is safe for the fetus, and pregnant women should avoid alcohol completely. If you are TTC, you should avoid drinking as there is always a chance of accidentally exposing the fetus to alcohol if you don’t know right away that you are pregnant.
Even minimal exposure to alcohol can have disastrous consequences on the growing fetus. So, once you know that you are pregnant, you should immediately stop consuming alcohol.
The alcohol can easily pass to the fetus from your blood through the placenta. As the fetus is still in the developmental stage, it lacks the metabolic capacity to deal with even small doses of booze.
Can I have a drink while TTC?
Having a drink occasionally while TTC should not be a major issue. However, if you don’t know that you are pregnant, alcohol can create a problem. Hence, it is best to err on caution and avoid consuming liquor altogether if you are TTC.
Can my male partner drink while we are TTC?
Alcoholic drinks can impact male fertility as well. It has been shown to cause morphologic changes in sperm and impair their swimming ability. Drinking can also lead to erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, which are not good if you are TTC.
Hence, it is recommended that your partner should also avoid drinking if you are TTC.