How does drinking alcohol affect fertility?
There are many factors that influence fertility which include biological defects, age, and lifestyle. Alcohol consumption falls into the third category and can be controlled and treated.
When a woman starts planning a family, one of the first things she must do is to quit alcohol. Drinking during pregnancy can cause low birth weight, premature births, and foetal disorders. It can even cause miscarriages and stillbirths. However, it may not be a good idea to wait until you are pregnant to stop drinking as binge drinking or excessive consumption of alcohol on a regular basis can influence female and male fertility. So, plan ahead.
Female Fertility and Alcohol
A number of studies have been conducted to understand how drinking alcohol can lead to infertility. While these studies have not been able to define how alcohol causes infertility they have proven that a relationship between the two does exist. Having a drink once in a while does not have a very significant effect on fertility but having 1 to 5 drinks a week can make it harder for a woman to conceive naturally. Having more than 10 drinks a week can make this even harder.
Male Fertility and Alcohol
Though women are the ones who are told to quit drinking when they are trying to conceive, the effects of alcohol consumption on fertility are not restricted to them alone. Drinking excessively can reduce sperm quantity and quality and lower testosterone levels in men. It can even lead to impotency. The good news is that when a man stops drinking, these effects can be reversed. Excessive drinking is also one of the leading causes of temporary erectile dysfunction. While this may not be a direct cause of infertility, it can make it harder for a couple to conceive.
Indirect Effect of Alcohol on Fertility
The above are ways in which alcohol consumption directly affects infertility. Heavy drinking can also make a person act irresponsibly. Many people who have multiple sexual partners and engage in unprotected sex do so under the influence of alcohol. This is because alcohol reduces a person's ability to make good decisions and lowers inhibitions. Unprotected sex with multiple partners can increase a person's risk of sexually transmitted infections. Many of these STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia can cause infertility if not treated properly.
Heavy drinking is also associated with weight fluctuations, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits. Being overweight or obese can cause disruptions in the ovulation cycle. Similarly, a poor diet which does not give a woman the nutrition she needs can lead to severe weight loss that can disrupt the ovulation cycle.
Hence, if you're planning to start a family soon, put the drinks aside. A happy, healthy baby is worth it.