Fertility doctors told me drinking alcohol can affect getting pregnant; they encouraged both me and my husband to stop drinking wine, beer and spirits when we were trying to conceive. But research on fertility and alcohol does not support the idea that a woman should not drink alcohol when trying to conceive.
From my research on alcohol and fertility, I’ve learned that timing your intercourse is one of the best ways to get pregnant. If you are intimate when you’re ovulating, you’ll increase your chances of conceiving. This is a more effective way to get pregnant than not drinking an occasional glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage.
After I summarize some research on alcohol and fertility, I share seven facts about stress and infertility. You may be searching for “alcohol and fertility” because you’re interested in getting pregnant. If your hope to get pregnant is turning into stress, you’ll find my tips on how to deal with depression when you can’t get pregnant.
When my fertility doctors told me not to drink alcohol when we were trying to get pregnant, they only wanted to increase the odds of us conceiving a baby. While I could find no research that says alcohol decreases fertility, it’s important NOT to disregard the possible effect drinking has on getting pregnant. Also, drinking after you’re pregnant can affect your baby’s fertility. Here’s what the research says…
Alcohol and Fertility – How Drinking Affects Getting Pregnant
The bottom line on alcohol and fertility is that moderation (or complete abstinence) is key.
Drinking a lot decreases your chances of getting pregnant
Low alcohol hasn’t been found to affect fertility. High alcohol intake of more than 9 drinks per week is associated with decreased fertility. Low alcohol use (4 drinks per week) seems to have no impact on fertility while moderate alcohol use (4-9 drinks per week) appears to be associated with an increased chance of conceiving. Drinking is ok – but don’t drink more than moderately. When pregnant however, there is no known safe level of alcohol. Drinking during pregnancy is not advisable.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may damage semen quality in sons
Women pregnant with boy babies who drink 4.5 or more alcoholic drinks a week had sons with an average sperm concentrations of 25 million per millilitre. Pregnant women who did not drink had sperm concentrations of 40 million/ml. After adjusting for various confounding factors, researchers found the sons in the group most exposed to alcohol had an average sperm concentration that was approximately 32% lower than that in the least exposed group. Alcohol and fertility can be connected before a man is born – and drinking affects getting pregnant for future generations.
Marijuana use affects male fertility
Young men who use cannabis may be putting their fertility at risk, because marijuana affects the size and shape of sperm. In the world’s largest study to investigate how common lifestyle factors influence male sperm, a research team found that sperm size and shape was worse in samples ejaculated in the summer months, but was better in men who had abstained from sexual activity for more than six days.
Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes was not found to affect male fertility
Although this study from the University of Sheffield failed to find any association between sperm morphology and other common lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption, it remains possible that they could correlate with other aspects of sperm that were not measured, such as the quality of the DNA contained in the sperm head. So, if your hope is to get pregnant, it’s probably best to drink lightly or moderately. The connection between alcohol and fertility is not fully known yet, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Whether or not you drink alcohol or use cannabis, read 5 Foods to Increase Sperm Count, Production, and Motility. Staying as healthy as possible not only increases your chances of getting pregnant, it makes you feel strong and well.
7 Facts About Stress and Infertility
While I was researching how drinking alcohol affects getting pregnant, I found a webinar by Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron of Fertility Centers of Illinois and Beth Heller (M.S., R.Y.T.) of Pulling Down the Moon. I was too late to attend the webinar, but I found a summary and link to the original article. They offer valuable information, so don’t skip this if you’re trying to get pregnant.
While stress doesn’t cause infertility, it can significantly impact the ability to conceive during fertility treatments if the stress is high and long-standing. But, the good news is that if you learn how to decrease stress during infertility treatments, your chances of getting pregnant will increase (but don’t drink alcohol, because it isn’t known exactly how alcohol and fertility are related).
“Many couples don’t realize how much stress impacts health and fertility potential,” explains Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron. “Stress is one of the fastest variables to change in the body, and taking proactive action through yoga, psychotherapy, meditation and potentially acupunture is not only beneficial, but enjoyable.”
1. Stress does not cause infertility. But the opposite is true — infertility can cause stress. A study in Human Reproduction, found that 30 percent of women seeking infertility treatment have depression and anxiety.
2. High levels of stress can double the risk of infertility. A recent scientific study found that women whose enzyme alpha-amylase levels, a stress-related substance, were in the highest third had more than double the risk of infertility. The tricky thing for me is that a glass of wine (the alcoholic kind!) helps me cope with stress. Which is worse: alcohol and fertility, or stress and infertility? If drinking a glass of wine helps me unwind and relax when I’m trying to get pregnant via fertility treatments, maybe it’s better than being stressed out and decreasing my chances of conceiving!
3.Stress affects the reproductive potential of the male and female body. Stress can lengthen the amount of time required to become pregnant, negatively impact semen quality, decrease the success of fertility treatment, and cause depression and anxiety. If you’re stressed about your fertility and getting pregnant (and a little bit of alcohol doesn’t help), read 4 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Getting Pregnant.
4. Reducing stress is good for the body and mind. Taking positive action to reduce stress through mindfulness-based activities has been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease anxiety, lower depression, enhance a positive mindset, calm the mind, improve sleep, and help overall wellbeing.
5. Consistent stress-reducing activities can aid in pregnancy. A study from Fertility and Sterility found that women who underwent a 10-week stress management program while undergoing IVF treatment had a 52 percent pregnancy rate, compared to a 20 percent pregnancy rate in the control group. I’m not sure what the couples were told in terms of alcohol and fertility in this study, but I suspect they were encouraged not to drink while getting pregnant.
6. Yoga can reduce stress and boost pregnancy. Yoga has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression as well as decrease inflammatory response to stress events. During a six-week Yoga for Fertility class at Pulling Down the Moon, participants learned yoga poses specific to reproductive function, breathing and medication instruction and group discussion. They experienced significantly decreased anxiety as measured by the State-Trait inventory. This could affect their fertility and attempts to get pregnant. Yoga for fertility is particularly important if you want to get pregnant without taking fertility drugs.
7. Psychological treatment can improve emotions and lower stress. Receiving support, whether in a group or individual setting with a psychologist, has been shown to be important and effective stress management. Treatment can improve mood, decrease anxiety and depression, and positively impact pregnancy rates during fertility treatment. Mindfulness training programs also give helpful tools for relaxation and increased peace of mind, which can ease the stress of fertility treatment and prove a valuable life skill.
If you have any thoughts on alcohol and fertility, drinking while trying to get pregnant, or stress and infertility, please comment below! I can’t offer medical advice, but sometimes writing brings you clarity and insight.