No Safe Level of Alcohol For Reproductive Health
You probably know that drinking excessive alcohol while pregnant may not be a good thing.
Unfortunately, many patients I see, particularly the men, think that a few drinks is not really going to impact their fertility or the health of their child.
This is far from the truth. The impact of alcohol on a developing embryo and child can be devastating and permanent.
The impact of alcohol use by either partner prior to conception can vary from
- delayed conception
- increased risk of miscarriage
- relatively subtle problems in the child such as
- poor co-ordination,
- attention deficit disorder and
- lower IQ
- To the fully blown foetal Alcohol Syndrome which results in
- brain damage,
- mental retardation,
- growth abnormalities,
- musculoskeletal and cardiac malformations,
- nervous system abnormalities and
- neuro-developmental delays.
As well as being highly toxic to your developing baby, alcohol also leaches vital nutrients from both mother and father making it less likely that conception will take place in any case.
Significant effects on the baby’s growth and development have been found with as little as one drink a day during pregnancy.
More than 2gm of alcohol per kilogram of body weight taken within the 1st trimester has been found to cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is also traced to alcohol use pre conception in BOTH partners. This is due to the leeching of vital nutrients (as with all refined carbohydrates) as well as the direct effect of the alcohol on sperm and ova.
ALCOHOL AND WOMEN’S FERTILITY
In women, alcohol directly interferes with the specific hormonal sequence that stimulates the ovaries to produce and release eggs and also prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
- increased incidence of miscarriage,
- lack of ovulation (anovulation)
- lack of or delayed periods (amenorrhea)
- inadequate production of progesterone (required to maintain a pregnancy) by the corpus luteum
- abnormal development of the endometrium (lining of the uterus in which the embryo implants & develops)
- abnormal increase in prolactin levels, upsetting the normal hormonal balance
- impairs the synthesis of genetic material
- increased risk of spontaneous abortion and miscarriage
- impaired foetal growth & development.
Studies (British Medical Journal 1998) show that pregnancy rates are reduced even among women with a weekly alcohol intake of only 5 or less standard drinks.
It is likely that woman is going to be pregnant for at least two weeks before she knows she is and it is in those first weeks that the highest rate of cell division for the developing baby in taking place. Taking a toxin like alcohol into the body at that crucial time can have a huge impact on the health, structures and organs of the developing baby.
One drink is usually considered:
• 1.5 oz (43 ml) of 80 proof liquor
• 12 oz (340 ml) or a bottle of beer
• 5 oz (142 ml) glass of wine
ALCOHOL AND MALE FERTILITY
Alcohol is a direct testicular toxin affecting the delicate sperm producing cells, causing
- atrophy of semeniferous tubules,
- a loss of sperm cell production
- impairs testosterone production by increasing the conversion of testosterone into oestrogen, reducing semen quality, sperm numbers, sex drive & possibly resulting in impotence
- reduces sperm motility
- Increases abnormalities in sperm (size, shape & tail) especially causing abnormalities to the head of the sperm which is critical for fertilization of the ova.
- Impairs the synthesis of genetic material
- Inability to conceive
- Increases incidence of miscarriage and foetal abnormalities.
The breakdown product of alcohol in the body is acetylaldehyde and this is toxic to sperm as well as the foetus.
It seriously affects metabolism and the status of vital nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium and zinc which are required for sex hormone production and fertility.
Alcohol appears to have a direct effect on chromosomes.
Its ingestion is considered a contributing factor in many miscarriages and foetal abnormalities.
One binge drinking bout can seriously affect spermatogenesis and sperm formation.
Since sperm take around 100 – 115 days to develop, you should abstain from all alcohol for at least 3-4 months prior to conception.
THE BOTTOM LINE
For both men and women, as well as directly affecting hormone production, alcohol also limits the body’s capacity to absorb and process the vital nutrients (such as the antioxidants, zinc & selenium) required for proper reproductive function.
Impaired nutrient levels during the preconception preparation period, during pregnancy and lactation while initially leading to fertility problems will eventually also result in poor health outcomes for yourselves and for your baby.
Alcohol must be avoided completely by BOTH partners for at least 120 days prior to a conception attempt.
It goes without saying that alcohol should also be avoided completely throughout pregnancy and lactation.
THE GOOD NEWS!
Given good preconception health care and abstaining from alcohol for the full 120 days that it takes to form healthy sperm and mature a healthy egg (& through pregnancy and lactation), the harmful effects of alcohol can be reversed.
You can still enjoy social gatherings and quality time as a couple with a delicious, refreshing, non alcoholic drink.
More on that coming up in another post!
Want to know more? Still need help to get pregnant and take home a healthy baby? Book a complimentary consultation HERE
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