There’s nothing wrong with drinking a few beers with friends after work, right? Well, new research suggests there may be, particularly if you’re trying to conceive. When it comes to preparing for parenthood, the focus on healthy habits typically falls on the female partner, however multiple studies continue to show that men have an equal role to play in the future health of their child. Read on to learn what’s ok and what isn’t when it comes to alcohol and male fertility.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to experience a miscarraige or premature birth. Drinking also increases the risk of a low birth weight, and can cause your baby to develop a serious, life-long condition called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are by now fairly common knowledge, however little was known about the effects of alcohol consumed by the father before and at the time of conception.
FASD has for long been attributed to alcohol consumption by the mother, but multiple cases emerged where babies were born with alcohol-related birth defects to mothers who denied consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Because of advances in epigenetics, we now know that sperm contain a lot of epigenetic information that can be modified by exposure to different stressors, including alcohol, and which can affect the development of the baby. In other words, the father’s drinking habits can have an impact on the baby even if the mother doesn’t drink alcohol during pregnancy.
How much alcohol is too much?
Even if you do not feel drunk, drinking three to four beers several days a week can induce withdrawal when you stop. During withdrawal, your liver experiences perpetual oxidative stress and sends a signal throughout the male body, including the reproductive system which reacts to that stress.
When should men stop drinking if trying to conceive?
A 2023 study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University recommends that men quit alcohol three months before starting a family. The researchers found that it takes longer than previously thought for the negative effects of alcohol to leave a man’s sperm, and this may have significant implications for the development of the fetus. Stopping three months in advance can help your child have the best start in life. If you have any concerns about your drinking habits or their potential impact on your fertility and future child, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor.
Aside from abstaining from alcohol, there are several other steps you can take to promote the best start for your future child, including:
- Adopting a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Participating in regular physical activity that is not too strenuous
- Managing stress levels effectively.
While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between alcohol consumption by dads-to-be and fetal development, this study underscores the importance of a healthy lifestyle for both men and women planning to conceive. So, if you’re planning on starting or growing your family, it’s best to take stock of your lifestyle habits, including drinking, to set up the best environment for your future child.