Alcohol; is it really impacting your fertility?
We are fast approaching Christmas - the season of office parties, celebrations and for those of us in the southern hemisphere, summer drinking in the sun. Unsurprisingly, it's the season where opting out of a drink becomes more challenging and I find patients start questioning the importance of this whole preconception non-drinking thing.
I don't want to be The Christmas Grinch. I really honestly WANT to tell people its totally fine - eggnog and cocktails for all! Unfortunately, turns out I'm the fun police, because when it comes to alcohol, my advice is that it is best to rigorously limit or even better nix it altogether. The research is pretty clear;
- Light to moderate alcohol use and its impact on fertility is yet to fully understood. Studies have found both a negative impact and a neutral impact in terms of time to conception 
- Heavy alcohol use on the other hand may reduce ovarian reserve (aka - how many eggs you have left as measured by AMH levels) and make it more difficult to conceive . It stands to reason then, that high consumers of alcohol have been found to be more likely than low alcohol consumers to undergo assisted reproductive technology for conception support 
- ART and alcohol use has a clear negative relationship. Even moderate levels of alcohol intake have been shown to decrease IVF success, this is explained mostly due to high alcohol users having a lower oocyte egg yield (aka egg retrieval) and lower live birth rates 
Not only does alcohol immediately increase levels of particular hormones (estradiol, testosterone and LH), but also taxes the kidney and liver, our organs responsible for metabolising the waste products in our bodies.
How long do I need to avoid the hard stuff for?
I strongly encourage an 88 day pre-conception time frame for men and women. This is approximately the length of time needed for
- an egg to mature from its dormant state to the point of ovulation.
- A male body to produce sperm
Anything that happens in that happens in that time period will impact the environment in which those cells mature and will influence the quality of those cells.
Not drinking over Christmas can be challenging, but the rewards are high.
Struggling with sobriety? There are loads of tricks and tips to make it easier. If you’re ready to start your preconception care, appointments can be made online.
- Van Heertum K, Rossi B. “Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?”. Fertil Res Pract. 2017;3:10. Published 2017 Jul 10. doi:10.1186/s40738-017-0037-x
- Hawkins Bressler L, Bernardi LA, De Chavez PJD, Baird DD, Carnethon MR, Marsh EE. “Alcohol, cigarette smoking, and ovarian reserve in reproductive-age African-American women”. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016;215:758.e1–758.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.07.012
- Eggert J, Theobald H, Engfeldt P. “Effects of alcohol consumption on female fertility during an 18-year period”. Fertil Steril. 2004;81:379–383. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2003.06.018.
- Rossi BV, Berry KF, Hornstein MD, Cramer DW, Ehrlich S, Missmer SA. “Effect of alcohol consumption on in vitro fertilization”. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;117:136–142. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31820090e1.