Infertility and alcohol - one of
the potential risks of drinking!

infertility and alcohol glasses of wine

Infertility and alcohol - find out the physical effects of alcohol on our fertility health!

Alcohol has been part of human culture throughout the world from the earliest of times. Scientist have found evidence of a wine like drink in fragments of 9000 year old Chinese jars! People have included alcohol as part of important celebrations, religious ceremonies, and as offerings for their Gods and ancestors!

These days we don’t tend to wait for a special occasion to have a drink. Most of us enjoy the occasional wine with our dinner, after work beer, or a good night out with our friends! That’s quite normal!

In today's society, we're bombarded with advertisements on television and magazines promoting the new favorite alcoholic beverage of choice. The temptation is hard to avoid. That’s all good if you are a responsible drinker! The fact is, it's not uncommon for us to drink a little more than we intended!

Research has suggested that 'light alcohol consumption' may actually offer some health benefits, although it's another story when too much is consumed! Alcohol affects every organ in the body and can lead to a range of disorders if misused. Unfortunately there's one physical effect of alcohol on the body that we may not even think about!

There's a definite link between infertility and alcohol. The physical effects of alcohol on the body if you are planning to conceive are just too hazardous to ignore or take lightly! This goes for guys and gals!

Drinking may be lowering or delaying your chances of starting a family! It's scientifically proven that alcohol abuse can damage the reproductive system. Numerous studies are suggesting that the higher your alcohol consumption, the less chance you have of conceiving!

However, current research is also indicating that even a moderate level of drinking may be affecting our fertility health (although the information regarding the 'associated levels' are still unclear). What's classed as moderate consumption varies with health guidelines within different countries. Women seem to develop alcohol related medical conditions at significantly lower levels of consumption than men.

The fact is, that if you and your partner are trying for a baby, there's no definite safe level of alcohol consumption in regards to fertility.

How is infertility and alcohol related?

One of the most common physical effects of alcohol is a significant depletion of vitamins and minerals. The body's less capable of absorbing and processing the essential nutrients that are required for our system and reproductive health.

Alcohol's pure carbohydrate, but has no vitamin or mineral content (these are needed to break down carbs). Our system will then draw out the vitamins and minerals from other parts of the body. This leads to many deficiencies. This is one reason how infertility and alcohol may be related, because our fertility health is reliant on many nutrients.

The liver acts like a filter protecting the body from different toxins, but alcohol can impair this detoxifying process. This organ can become weakened through too much drinking, as the liver is overworked trying to metabolize the alcohol. This can cause a person to become run down and sick.

Alcohol consumption can contribute to hormonal imbalances. We have a family of hormones in our body called estrogen (which includes estradiol, estrone, and estriol). These hormones classed as ‘steroid hormones’ are an important part of the different sexual functions for both men and women.

An overworked liver can cause an excess of estrogen to build up in our system (a healthy liver would normally help to regulate this hormone). This then puts the estrogen/progesterone hormones out of balance, thus promoting estrogen dominance problems and diseases which can have a huge impact on our reproductive health!

This situation is made even worst because we are surrounded by estrogen mimicking chemicals (in modern society.) These chemicals are inadvertently ingested, absorbed through our skin, and inhaled, so these need to be filtered through the liver for detoxification. Read up on this very important topic within our environmental health hazards page!

Therefore if you are serious about conceiving you must take into account that you should be introducing a preconception care plan into your lives (both partners). As the infertility and alcohol relationship is an identified problem in today's society, it's wise to cut out the drinking for a while. Your body really needs to detoxify and replenish lost nutrients to ensure optimal fertility for both partners, and so you conceive a healthy child.

We will now look into what the physical effects of alcohol are in regards to our fertility health -

Infertility and alcohol - Men

Men who drink regularly are more prone to erection problems. Long term alcoholism may cause permanent impotency.

Alcohol consumption depletes zinc which is vital for male fertility. Zinc is needed in high concentrations in the sperm as it makes up the outer layer and the tail. Zinc deficiency is a common cause of low sperm count.

Alcoholics have very low vitamin c in their body, as most of this nutrient is used fighting off the alcohols toxic effects. This vitamin is extremely important for sperm cells, as it protects them from oxitive damage, and helps to stop agglutination (a condition where the sperm clump together).

As liver impairment causes higher levels of the hormone estrogen in the male body, this in turn causes a drop in the progesterone hormone (precursor to testosterone). Sperm production can be adversely affected by this imbalance. An imbalance of estrogen can also lead to breast enlargement (gynecomastia) "which no man wants", or more prevalent for older men, prostate enlargement.

Research has shown that alcohol's a major contributing factor towards sperm cell damage or depletion, meaning low sperm counts, reduced sperm motility and abnormal morphology (shape). Continued alcoholism can cause permanent sperm cell abnormality and prostate damage.

Infertility and alcohol - Women

Hormone imbalance, one of the physical effects of drinking, directly interferes with the whole ovulation/menstruation cycle process. This is the major link between infertility and alcohol for women.

♦ Anovulation (lack of ovulation with period).

♦ Amenorrhea (ceased menstruation cycle).

♦ Oligomenorrhea (irregular menstruation).

♦ Luteal phase dysfunction - abnormalities of the endometrial lining of the uterus, which may result in miscarriage.

♦ Alcohol induced hyperprolactinemia - presence of abnormally high levels of the prolactin hormone in the blood (this condition is more prevalent in females than in males). Besides menstruation irregularities, other symptoms may include a non pregnant/nursing woman producing breast milk and loss of libido.

Risks associated with consuming alcohol whilst pregnant

The 'infertility and alcohol' related connection, is not the only issue women have to think about. 'Pregnancy' is a whole other subject!

Some doctors suggest that the odd drink while pregnant should not do any harm, while others say it's best to avoid totally.

As no safe level of maternal drinking has been established, it's best to totally avoid any alcohol while pregnant.

If you do become pregnant, alcohol can cause serious consequences if consumed while expecting. A woman often does not realize that she is pregnant during the early weeks, therefore it's best to abstain from drinking while your trying to conceive.

There have been cases of women only drinking very small amounts of alcohol while pregnant, but still having complications. Why take any risks? Better to play safe than sorry!

The consequences of regular or heavy drinking while expecting can be severe. There's a link between alcohol and miscarriage, especially during the first few months. The risks of pregnancy complications are higher with alcohol intake, such as placental abruption. This condition is where part or all of the placenta detaches from the uterine wall, causing disruptions with the flow of blood and oxygen to the fetus.

Alcohol's a known 'teratogen', which is a substance that is toxic to a developing embryo or fetus, disturbing development.

There's the risk of the child being born with a range of conditions called ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders’ (FASD) if the mother drinks throughout pregnancy. The unborn child is at considerable risk of premature birth, low birth weight, malformation or stillbirth. There's also the risk of mental impairment, behavioral, or growth problems later on for the child.

*A word of caution - If you think you or your partner may have an alcohol addiction, you are advised to make an appointment with your doctor. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a term used to describe a whole range of symptoms that may be experienced whilst giving up. These can range from mild to severe depending on each individual circumstance. Medication may be needed to help manage these withdrawal symptoms, and it may be dangerous not to seek help.

So, hopefully the link between infertility and alcohol has become a lot clearer for you. Put your priorities into place now, and save the drinks for a later date!

infertility and alcohol glass of beer

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