Every year in the United States, more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol related impairment. Research at different levels has proved beyond doubt that drinking alcohol can adversely affect fertility and can also cause damage to the baby.
Although many people understand the negative implications of excessive drinking on fertility, they are unaware that moderate or even light drinking can seriously impair or harm the unborn fetus.
According to experts a light drinker is one who consumes about 5 drinks in a week; a moderate drinker is characterized by consumption of about 4 drinks per day and alcoholism is the ingestion of 8 or more drinks per day. Studies seeking to understand the relationship between alcohol and fertility highlight that drinking alcohol certainly does affect fertility but experts in this area of research have somehow not been able to calculate how much alcohol must be ingested to affect fertility nor how much alcohol consumption can actually be considered safe. For this very reason, most doctors recommend that their patients fully disclose their drinking habits before conception so that sound guidance and information that will help avoid fertility and conception problems can be provided to them.
Alcohol consumption affects a male and female differently in terms of the fertility factor and the health of the fetus. The negative effects of drinking alcohol on the fertility of the mother and the baby include altered estrogen and progesterone levels; infertility; increased risk for spontaneous abortion; impaired fetal growth and development; hypothalmic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction resulting in the lack of ovulation, the abnormal development of the endometrial lining, the absence of menstruation; increased risk for a miscarriage, pre-term birth, or stillbirth; possible congenital heart defects and brain anomalies. Alcoholic mothers also have an increased risk of the fetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterized by growth deficiency, mental retardation, behavioral disturbances and an atypical heart-shaped facial appearance in the baby born of an alcoholic mother.
Male fertility can be negatively affected by regular alcohol use and abuse. Alcohol has been linked to abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen levels in men, which can potentially interfere with normal sperm development and hormone levels. Toxins that are found in alcohol might destroy sperm generating cells in the testicles, affect testicular size and cause an increase in abnormally-shaped sperm, all of which could have an effect on fertility. Alcohol abuse in men has also been linked with damaged sperm and lower sperm count. Additionally, if a man is a heavy drinker or alcoholic, there is a strong possibility that he might suffer from erectile dysfunction and be unable to have successful sexual relations, which would have a secondary impact on his fertility.
Most of the adverse effects of alcohol on fertility can be reversed by abstinence from alcohol. Therefore, the most sensible approach is to abstain from drinking while trying to have a baby. Sperms take three months to develop. If a man is experiencing low sperm count, he should refrain from drinking for at least three months and then have his semen level re-tested to observe the changes. During pregnancy, it is imperative for the mother to abstain from alcohol completely, at least until after the baby is born and longer if she is breastfeeding. Refraining from drinking any alcohol during the period of conception totally eliminates the associated risk factor and gives the peace of mind of knowing that one is doing the best for your future child.
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