What It Is
The term “alcoholism” refers to a disease known as alcohol dependence syndrome, the most severe stage of a group of drinking problems which begins with binge drinking and alcohol abuse.
How It Affects Fertility and Pregnancy
Every year in the United States, more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related impairment. While most people know that heavy alcohol consumption is dangerous for the unborn child (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD) and negatively affects the ability to conceive, many don’t know that moderate to light consumption can also have detrimental effects.
While studies are at odds over how much alcohol is safe (and whether light consumption is always a risk), the Surgeon General and many doctors simply recommend being a teetotaller while you’re trying to conceive, and while you’re pregnant.
Recent studies concluded that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of infertility due to ovulatory dysfunctions, spontaneous abortion, increased risk for a miscarriage, pre-term birth, or stillbirth. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can lead to impaired fetal growth and development, increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, possible congenital heart defects and brain anomalies, and possible mental retardation in the baby.
For fathers-to-be, moderate to heavy drinking can lead to abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen levels that, in turn, affect sperm development and hormone levels, killing off the sperm-generating cells in the testicles, affecting sperm quality and quantity. Some experts recommend men trying to become fathers limit alcoholic beverages to no more than two drinks twice a week. Heavy drinkers who cut back on alcohol intake should see an improvement in the quality and production of sperm in about three months.
Men and women who are heavy drinkers should quit drinking while they’re trying to conceive, and women should abstain completely while pregnant. (Advice for social drinkers varies before pregnancy. Some physicians say that an occasional drink is fine before conception, while others say it’s safest to avoid alcohol completely, since women may not realize they’re pregnant right away.) Seek professional help if you can’t do it alone.
Alcohol increases the risk for spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, pre-term birth, and stillbirth. During pregnancy, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can lead to impaired fetal growth and development, and an increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
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