It’s not a secret that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. But often we focus on women’s drinking habits, forgetting that women are only half of the equation when it comes to getting pregnant. The reality is that if you are trying to get pregnant, both men and women may want to reconsider their drinking habits. Even moderate consumption can have significant effects on male fertility and sexual activity.
Alcohol and Sexual Function and Performance
So, is alcohol more than a woman’s issue when it comes to pregnancy? Firstly, alcohol can make it more difficult for a man to even have sex by impeding his libido. Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, and among other things, it limits the brain’s ability to process sexual stimulation.
Drinking alcohol also hinders erections by causing blood vessels to dilate, dehydrating the body, and increasing levels of angiotensin, a hormone associated with erectile dysfunction. Even if you achieve an erection, alcohol can reduce your ability to reach orgasm, as well.
Alcohol and Sperm Quality and Fertility
Beyond sexual function, alcohol can also negatively impact sperm quality. It prevents the body from absorbing zinc, which is an important element in the production of sperm. Lower zinc levels may lead to sperm that are misshapen and have decreased motility – the sperm’s ability to swim. In fact, a study published in 2014 reported that otherwise healthy young men who consumed five or more drinks each week showed 33% lower sperm counts as well as 51% less “normally shaped” sperm than men who drank less.
And the more drinks you add to the equation, the more serious the effects. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can also shrink the testes, resulting in both impotence and infertility. Alcohol, of course, can damage the liver. Liver disease can increase estrogen levels, which impacts male fertility.
Alcohol and Lifestyle
While drinking alcohol will not necessarily prevent you from conceiving, you may want to consider giving up drinking to give your little guys an extra boost during the conception efforts. Drinking regularly, or heavily, does have an affect on male fertility, so reducing consumption can be a good first step in helping increase a couple’s chances of getting pregnant!
Alcohol is of course a single example of how lifestyle factors can affect fertility. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, your doctor may suggest various additional lifestyle changes and possible treatments. To help with this process, you should mention your typical drinking habits and ask if it might be best to reduce or eliminate consumption while trying to conceive. This small sacrifice could make a real difference in your path to parenthood!