Why exactly alcohol affects your fertility

In the spirit of feb fast, I want to talk more about alcohol and its effects on the body. Moderate alcohol consumption (more than two drinks per week) can reduce fertility by up to 50%.

To date, scientists have not been able to conclude as to how much alcohol is too much when it comes to affecting fertility. We know that alcohol and other drugs substantially affect normal body function. This means it poses a problem when it comes to the reproductive organs as well. The reason science hasn’t been able to give us the answer as to how much is ok is because no two people are the same. Body weight, type, gender, age and metabolism all come into play when we talk the effects of alcohol – we see this purely by observation. One person may consume five drinks in 2.5 hours and not be over the driving limit of 0.05 – if that were me personally I would be snoring in a corner somewhere..

Why does alcohol affects your fertility?
Alcohol causes havoc with male hormones and alters the way testosterone is produced and released. Alcoholic beverages contain estrogen like compounds – these “fake” hormones set our real ones out of kilter. No wonder alcohol can mess up fertility! This can result in lower sperm count and poor motility – two vital elements necessary for conception. Alcohol also substantially lowers zinc absorption – this is bad news for semen. Lower zinc = less sperm = reduced chances.
It has a similar effect on women zapping hormones and affecting ovulation and menstruation – again due to these estrogen mimicking properties. (Gill, 2000; Eggert et al., 2004).

How much are we talking?
The guidelines set out by most fertility specialists are no more than two glasses per week. Some will say one glass, others will cross it off the list all together. Anything more than this is considered ‘moderate’ consumption. Moderate consumption has been proven to half your fertility potential.

What other effects?
There is still more. Moderate to high alcohol consumption has been linked with higher rates of miscarriage. This is again because of its affect on hormones which are necessary to support a pregnancy. Progesterone is very important in the later stage of the cycle with Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone – the two set about supporting the pregnancy. Without these, the pregnancy can not continue.

In clinical practice, I maintain there isn’t one factor in sub-fertility. So many little pieces fit together to make up the puzzle for each couple. However, smoking and alcohol are two things we know that reduce health and fertility substantially. That said, I know that it is easy to become consumed by the daunting task of trying to conceive a baby. It can be very stressful. Adding a glass of wine to your table on a Saturday night may a help rather than a hinderance! On the positive side – a glass of wine with food is packed with far more nutritional benefits including anti-oxidients, than a glass of soft drink.

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