Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive-image

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive

If you’re trying to conceive, or thinking about trying soon, it’s a good idea to get clued up about how alcohol can impact fertility and your chances of conception. Read on to find out how drinking can impact female and male fertility. Quick facts: Any form of alcohol consumption may impact your ability to get and stay pregnant When trying to conceive it’s recommended to completely abstain from alcohol Alcohol can disrupt normal hormone functioning and cause subsequent imbalances in reproductive hormone levels Alcohol can also affect male fertility and sperm quality The relationship between alcohol and hormones If you’re trying to conceive, or beginning to think about starting a family, chances are you’ve probably recommended to stop, or at least cut down, drinking alcohol…  Not exactly the news most of us want to hear, but unfortunately alcohol consumption can affect our fertility (in both women and men) and therefore, our chances of conceiving. Although all alcohol can affect fertility, new research has indicated that in those assigned-female-at-birth, both the timing of alcohol consumption, in relation to where we are at in our menstrual cycles, and the quantity we drink can determine how bad it’s negative effects are.  But do we need to cut the vino out all together? Or is there space to find a happy medium? Let’s take a look at exactly how alcohol and fertility are linked and what the effects of drinking are at different stages of the menstrual cycle and conception. Can you drink while trying to get pregnant? Any form of alcohol consumption may impact our ability to get, and stay, pregnant.  Less is known about alcohol’s effects on fertility and chances of conception than about its harmful effect on pregnancy, but overall the NHS currently recommends that alcohol should be avoided by women who are actively trying to conceive. This is to keep any possible risks to a baby that might be conceived to a minimum, as we may not know that we’re pregnant until a few, or more, weeks into a pregnancy.  If we’re drinking and do become pregnant, we may risk unintentionally exposing the baby to alcohol. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol for a developing foetus, the safest approach is to avoid it.  Additionally, as we mentioned before, alcohol will also affect our ability to get pregnant in the first place—so if we’re trying to conceive, it’s also best to reduce our drinking to a minimum. Does alcohol affect fertility? In short yes—any form of alcohol consumption has been found to affect both female and male fertility. Some studies suggest that even low to moderate alcohol consumption, which is classed as two drinks or less per day, can be associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.  However, there have been some recent studies that suggest in women, timing of alcohol consumption can play a part in determining its negative effects on our ability to conceive. Let’s take a look at female fertility and alcohol a little more closely… Female fertility and alcohol A recently published study by the University of Louisville was the first of its kind to investigate alcohol consumption’s effects on fertility during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Whilst researchers observed a significant association between heavy drinking and a reduced likelihood of conceiving at all points during the menstrual cycle, light to moderate drinking varied significantly.  The study found that when participants drank in moderation, around 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week, during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation), it resulted in a 44% reduction in the chance of conceiving compared to non-drinkers.  However, during the follicular phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation) and during ovulation, only heavy drinking was associated with a reduced chance of conceiving. Light and moderate drinking during these phases did not impact the participants chances of conceiving compared to non-drinkers. So what does this mean for the average person? Basically, if we’re in the first two weeks of our cycle and we’re trying to conceive—it might be safe to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. However, everyone’s cycle is different and we will all ovulate at different times—literally no cycle is exactly the same. If we’re trying to conceive and in the last two weeks of our cycle, it’s probably best to steer clear of the booze all together. Why does alcohol affect fertility? Although the exact cause isn’t known, it’s been suggested that alcohol disrupts hormone levels, which in turn, can have knock-on-implications for our fertility.  Studies have shown that alcohol intake is associated with an increase in levels of oestrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and  Luteinising Hormone (LH), in addition to a decreasing our progesterone levels. In those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting just one of these sex hormones can disrupt the menstrual cycle and our ability to ovulate, thus reducing our chances of conceiving.  High oestrogen levels can also lower the chance of implantation—which is when a fertilised egg or developing embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. If implantation fails, no pregnancy will occur.  Aside from its effect on our hormone levels, alcohol also negatively impacts our general health—which can lead to knock-on impacts for our fertility, making it harder to get, and stay pregnant, in addition to raising the risk for foetal conditions and other birth complications. Male fertility and alcohol Despite most conversations centering on female responsibility when it comes to fertility—it’s important to remember that male fertility is also affected by alcohol consumption.  Similarly to those assigned female-at-birth, alcohol also disrupts the normal balance of hormones in men—including reducing testosterone levels, which again becomes more pronounced with heavy drinking over a longer period. Does alcohol affect sperm? A study of 1221 men in Denmark found that sperm quality decreased in men who reported drinking more than 5 units (around 3 small beers) of alcohol a week. This decrease in sperm quality became even more pronounced in men who reported drinking […]

How Alcohol Affects your Hormones-image

How Alcohol Affects your Hormones

When our reproductive hormone levels are affected, it can cause menstrual cycle disruptions that can result in fertility issues. In this article, we’ll take a look at alcohol’s effects on the main female reproductive hormones. Quick facts: How alcohol and hormones interact According to recent data, women and those assigned-female-at-birth are, on average, drinking more alcohol than ever before. Whilst many people are aware of the immediate health consequences of drinking—including the caloric impact and the dreaded hangover, there’s still very limited awareness of the effects that alcohol can have on female hormonal health.  Hormones act as chemical messengers, which control and coordinate various bodily processes. Each of our hormones relies on a complex system of interactions, often with other hormones, to maintain their levels and carry out their intended functions.  Drinking alcohol, as well as other lifestyle factors like smoking, can affect our hormones, both directly and indirectly. Which hormones are affected by alcohol? Hormones affected by alcohol include: Our hormones are sensitive. They rely on a complex set of interactions, both with one another and other bodily processes in order to stay in balance and perform their functions properly.  Alcohol consumption is known to affect our levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone significantly—three very important hormones in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and overall health. It can also affect our levels of Anti-müllerian Hormone (AMH), gonadotropins like Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and Lutenising hormone (LH), thyroid hormones and prolactin.  Let’s take a look at each of them in turn. Oestrogen and alcohol Oestrogen is probably the hormone you know best—it plays an important role in many elements of our health, including the regulation of the menstrual cycle, maintaining bone density and skin health. Acute consumption of alcohol has been shown to increase oestrogen levels. Increased oestrogen levels over a prolonged period can be associated with breast cancer development in those assigned-female-at-birth. The United Kingdom Million Women Study revealed that every additional drink per day contributed to 11 breast cancers per 1,000 women up to age 75. Progesterone and alcohol Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), are involved in egg maturation and ovulation, two key elements of the menstrual cycle and female fertility. A surge in your levels of LH triggers the egg to be ovulated, however, there is some evidence that alcohol consumption may affect both the levels of LH in general and the ability of the egg to respond to LH. Excessive alcohol consumption may even affect how the cells within the fallopian tubes function. Testosterone and alcohol Testosterone is typically associated with male sexual development and fertility, but it also plays an important role in female sexual development and fertility, including regulating female libido.  There is some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may increase testosterone levels, causing an imbalance in androgen levels. High testosterone levels can lead to symptoms like acne, excessive facial and body hair growth (hirsutism), irregular periods, mood changes and loss of libido. Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and alcohol AMH is produced by the granulosa cells within your ovarian follicles and is used as an indicator of ovarian reserve (your egg count). The relationship between alcohol consumption and AMH is slightly contentious. Some studies have found no change in AMH levels in people who consumed alcohol but more recent studies have shown those who engage in “binge drinking” had lower levels of AMH.  Binge drinking is defined by the Centres for disease control (CDC) as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above”. Basically, consuming 4 or more drinks in the space of 2 hours.  Because of AMH’s close ties to your ovarian reserve, lowered AMH levels can indicate a low ovarian reserve. Gonadotropins and alcohol There are two types of gonadotropin hormones in the body—Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Both FSH and LH are involved in egg maturation and ovulation, two key elements of the menstrual cycle and female fertility.  A surge in LH levels at the midpoint of the menstrual cycle is what triggers ovulation—that month’s mature egg being released into the Fallopian tube.  There is some evidence that suggests alcohol consumption may increase LH levels in general and also impair the ability of our eggs to respond to LH. Excessive alcohol consumption may also affect how the cells within the Fallopian tubes function. Thyroid hormones and alcohol Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that plays an important role in the regulation of many different bodily functions such as your heart rate, body temperature and growth development.  Alcohol consumption has been shown to alter the levels of the thyroid hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) with heavy use showing decreased levels of T3 and T4. Low levels of thyroid hormones are known as hypothyroidism and can cause a huge number of symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, fertility issues and irregular ovulation, depression and more. Prolactin and alcohol Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with increased prolactin levels. Consistently high levels of prolactin in your body is called hyperprolactinemia and is significantly associated with infertility through interference with other hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Alcohol and trying to conceive When trying to conceive, cutting down on your drinking is often one of the first things on your preconception to-do list. The dangerous effects of alcohol on the developing foetus can range from physical to mental and generally disrupt their development in the womb (see foetal alcohol syndrome).  It is also known that alcohol consumption affects the success of IVF treatment, with one study showing people who had at least four drinks per week were 16% less likely to have a live birth than those who had less than four drinks. Additionally, a 21% lower live birth rate was found for couples in which both drank more than four drinks per week. Other effects of alcohol on the body As well as impacting our hormones, alcohol has other broad-reaching effects on the body and the […]