A study of 6,120 Danish women has found that alcohol has no effect on women’s fertility, when consumed up to 14 servings each week, which is approximately equal to two bottles. This is good news since about 12.5% women trying to conceive within a period of 12 months in UK and other developed countries have difficulty conceiving.
The researchers concluded that when alcohol is consumed at this volume, there was no difference in conception patterns within 12 months when compared to women who did not drink any alcohol. 69% of the participating women were able to conceive successfully.
The researchers looked at 6,120 female Danish residents, aged 21-45 years, in a stable relationship with a male partner, who were trying to conceive and not receiving fertility treatment. They followed through with the study over a course of almost a decade from 1 June, 2007, to 5 January, 2016. The results showed that 4,210 (69%) participants achieved a pregnancy during follow-up. The study was published in the BMJ on 28th July, 2016.
The researchers also noted that women who drank more than 14 servings each week had experienced reduced fertility but it wasn’t strongly proven, since there were only 1.4% of the trial participants who drank more than 14 servings every week.
Furthermore, there was no strong notable evidence that researchers could use to determine the effects of binge drinking on the ability to conceive and fertility.
Previous studies and social norms have shown that binge drinking leads to unsafe sex — sex without contraception — and leads to higher risk of unplanned pregnancy.
However, it is hypothesized that heavy irregular drinking may disrupt menstrual cycles. Similar studies have shown that alcohol can affect sperm count in men, hence it is important to look at both men and women’s drinking habits collectively in future studies and observe the effects of a couple’s ability to conceive.
There was some room for discrepancy in the study as it is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact time of conception, since most pregnancies are not confirmed until at least two weeks after a missed period.
Although it may be safe for a woman to drink alcohol when she is trying to conceive, she is advised not to drink during pregnancy. The common thing to do, according to UK chief medical officer is: “If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.”
Indeed, for women who are trying to conceive, good health is necessary and for this to happen it’s a good idea to cut down on alcohol. But this latest research signifies that in order to conceive it is not necessary to completely cut down on alcohol.
Since it may take many months to successfully get pregnant, a woman can make the decision to drink or not during that time, and should be aware of the consequences as well. If alcohol is consumed in moderate amounts, it appears not be a potential threat to a woman’s fertility.
However, it would be wise to avoid binge drinking, both for the potential disruption to menstrual cycles and also for the potential harm to a fetus during early pregnancy. If a couple is experiencing difficulty in conceiving, it makes sense for both partners to cut down on their alcohol intake.
Many women who are at an age to conceive consume alcohol. In Denmark, more than 30% of women aged 16-34 years have a weekly intake of seven drinks or more, and 18.2% of American women aged 18-44 years engage in binge drinking, which is considered more than 4 drinks per sitting, on average 3.2 times the limits within 30 days.
This study was extremely noteworthy since it informed women looking to conceive the admissible amount of alcohol to consume weekly, without having to completely give up on it. It also advised women not to consume alcohol while pregnant due to several adverse effects on a baby’s development.
Avoiding Alcohol During Early Pregnancy
According to a previous BMJ study, the only ethical advise is to completely abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. But why were such extreme measures advised by the researchers?
Mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome, low birth weight and development and behavioral abnormalities – these are some of the potential adverse effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy. However, when and how this damage occurs is relatively unknown, and varies in each individual pregnancy.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe form of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a group of disorders than can occur during pregnancy when the mother drinks too much alcohol.
In this syndrome the fetus may be underdeveloped, showing lack of growth, impaired neurological function, poor coordination and low intelligence. Those affected are more likely to have trouble learning, performing in physical activities, legal problems, participate in high-risk behaviors, and have trouble with alcohol or other illicit substances.
Any amount of alcohol ingested by the pregnant woman passes through placenta, and enters right into the fetal blood stream. It then begins to accumulate in the fetal body, thereby preventing an efficient delivery of oxygen to the developing brain and other vital organs. There is a risk that it won’t affect the woman as much as it will affect the fetus.
Due to the high risk involved with alcohol consumption during early pregnancy, the American Association of Pediatrics recently issued updated guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Clinicians will use the recommendations to better identify and categorize their patients’ condition along the spectrum of the disorder. The guidelines provide a clear cut description for what kind of alcoholic behavior observed by the mother should be used to verify that the child is prenatally exposed.
The criterion for establishing prenatal exposure to alcohol is: if the mother drinks six or more drinks per week for at least two weeks during the pregnancy or three or more drinks on a single occasion for at least two occasions.
Also parents who drink more can rub their genes off to their kids and turn them into alcoholics, according to a recent study from University of Indiana and Purdue University that suggests genes might be responsible in making you prone to addiction. This might lead to the problem of alcoholism spread over generations.
It is better not to drink in the first place, or if you have to, at least drink responsibly.