Can alcohol cause infertility? How much alcohol can I drink while trying to conceive?
Many of our patients ask how alcohol affects your fertility. When you’re trying to conceive, especially when going through fertility treatment, it’s common to want to examine every single behavior for how it might help or hurt your chances of getting pregnant. Will a glass of wine lower your chances of conceiving? Or could it actually help?
As with everything fertility-related, there is no one simple answer or magic bullet. However, there are reasonable guidelines from medical experts, based on the latest data on how alcohol affects your fertility. Here’s an overview of alcohol and fertility; make sure to ask your fertility team for any specific questions or concerns.
How Does Alcohol Affect Female Fertility?
There haven’t been enough long-term studies to clearly establish the relationship between alcohol and female fertility. Some studies show a negative effect, while others suggest there may be a positive connection between certain alcohol use. The available data seems to indicate that heavy alcohol usage can lead to lower chances of pregnancy.
However, there isn’t much evidence currently that moderate alcohol use negatively affects fertility. For this reason, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that women who are trying to conceive drink less than 20g of ethanol per day (for reference, a standard drink serving in America contains 14g of ethanol). At PNWF, we typically recommend that patients trying to conceive limit alcohol to special occasions, in moderation, and avoid daily alcohol intake. Alcohol disrupts sleep, throws off metabolism, and may be full of additives that are hard for the body to process.
What Does Alcohol Do to Male Fertility?
On the other hand, studies clearly show that heavy alcohol use can have serious negative effects on male fertility. Chronic alcohol use can lead to lower sperm counts, sperm motility, seminal fluid volume, testosterone levels, and sperm morphology scores. Heavy alcohol use can also cause sexual dysfunction and trouble ejaculating, which makes it harder to conceive.
Similarly to women, moderate alcohol use isn’t currently linked to fertility issues in men. However, we recommend the same limited intake with moderation for men as women while trying to conceive.
What About Drinking During IVF?
Several studies suggest that alcohol use may negatively impact the success of egg retrieval and fertilization during IVF. While it’s not totally clear how alcohol affects your fertility during treatment, it’s possible that it interferes with the hormonal medications used to stimulate ovaries. Alcohol use during the week of sperm collection may also affect the sperm quality. To maximize chances of success, it may be helpful to abstain from drinking alcohol in the weeks leading up to starting IVF treatment.
How Alcohol Affects Pregnancy
It’s very important to note that alcohol use has unquestionably negative effects on fetal development, leading to physical, behavioral, and learning challenges. There is no established “safe” level of alcohol use while pregnant, or time during pregnancy when it is “safer” to drink. For this reason, the ASRM and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) both say that pregnant people should not drink any alcohol while pregnant. You may consider stopping your alcohol use while actively trying to conceive, to avoid drinking alcohol before knowing that you’re pregnant.
Ask Your Specialist How Alcohol Affects Your Fertility
To sum up, the general guidelines for alcohol and fertility are:
- Heavy alcohol use can negatively affect fertility for all people
- Moderate alcohol use doesn’t seem to have long term effects on fertility
- Stopping alcohol use before and during IVF treatments may help success rates
- Pregnant people should abstain completely from alcohol use
We recognize that every patient is unique, and may have different relationships to alcohol use. We are here to answer your questions about alcohol and fertility and find the best paths for you. For more information, reach out to us today.