When actively trying to get pregnant, it’s not just women who have to think about their alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects our brains and our judgement, especially if we’ve had a bit too much. Interestingly, alcohol ALSO affects how men’s brains communicate with their testicles. This can translate into both decreased testosterone AND sperm production. It also can impact the hormones in your body responsible for delivering healthy sperm, according to a study by a team headed up by Professor Tina Kold Jensen of the University of Southern Denmark.
How much is too much?
For most of us, having a drink or two in the evening can relieve the stress of the day. But even small amounts of alcohol daily can cause problems with sperm production and quality. The difficulty, however, is determining the exact tipping point between a safe amount of alcohol and harmful amounts.
Several studies have tried to come up with a number. Both an NIH study and a Harvard study (Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Jan; 117(1): 136–142) seem to agree that no more than 4 drinks per week (or 50 grams of alcohol) is the limit if you are trying to get pregnant.
The Harvard study focused on drinking during IVF treatment. But Dr. Kenan Omurtag, Reproductive Endocrinologist, says it doesn’t matter whether that limit would apply to IVF or natural attempts at conception. He says, “I would apply this same limit of four drinks per week to the male partner when the couple is actively trying to conceive, to optimize their chances.”
Here’s the alcohol content per drink for some of the most popular alcoholic beverages. Remember, the guideline is 50 grams of alcohol max per week:
- 4 oz White wine = 12.1 grams
- 4 oz Red wine = 12.5 grams
- 12 oz Beer = 13.9 grams
- 1.5 oz Hard liquor = 14 g
Proceed with caution
Still unconvinced? The above study shows that couples had a lower chance of getting pregnant via IVF if the man drank even one beer per day. It’s clear then, that regardless the means of conception – IVF or natural – alcohol can play a huge part in how successful you’ll be. Dr. Omurtag’s recommendation? For the best chances of conception, keep the alcohol in the cabinet, at least while trying to get pregnant.