Research made by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that estimated seventy-five percent of women trying to conceive do not stop consuming alcoholic beverages. Some of them may take an occasional glass of wine. Others tend to drink alcohol more frequently. Does alcohol impact your fertility? Are you better off quitting drinking when you are trying to get pregnant?
The consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited for pregnant women from the very first day of conception, because of the potential damage to the child. In fact, specialists from the CDC and the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists) recommend abstaining both during the nine months of pregnancy and the period when trying to conceive. Is this a reasonable advice? Most women, as it was noted above, actually ignore such recommendations. It is understandable, especially when you have been trying to get pregnant for years.
When deciding whether you should stop drinking or not, you need to consider consulting your doctor about several aspects. First, whether drinking alcohol while trying to get pregnant may really cause damage to your child. Second, whether alcohol consumption causes lower fertility, and therefore, interferes with your attempts. Third, whether drinking in the first weeks/months of pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage.
Why Drinking Alcohol May Be Dangerous during Pregnancy?
While alcohol consumption while trying to get pregnant is rather an individual choice, it is an absolute “no” when you are already pregnant. To make sure you don’t accidentally drink alcohol when you are pregnant but unaware of that, abstain from alcoholic beverages as soon as you notice that your period is late.
Again, alcoholic consumption is prohibited completely pregnancy including a glass of wine or beer on Fridays or holidays. This is because it brings too many risks to the unborn child.
The potential risks caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy include birth defects (such as facial deformities), low birth weight, preterm delivery, developmental delays or long-term cognitive disabilities, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or in severe cases stillbirth.
There is a study, according to which one alcoholic drink per day does not increase the risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight. This raised some level of confusion regarding the issue. Due to its wide cover in the media, the study attracted attention of many women.
However, it should be noted that this study did not consider the potential cognitive and psychological consequences of the alcohol consumption. The children who were born during the study may have lifelong challenges in the future, despite the healthy weight at birth.
Therefore, make sure you quit drinking, once your pregnancy test is positive.
What Are the Potential Risks Caused by Drinking in Early Pregnancy?
Sometimes, women may be consuming alcohol during early pregnancy, simply because they still don’t know they are pregnant. A pregnancy test shows a positive result at least four weeks after the conception. By this time, the embryo has existed for no less than two weeks. So, what about drinking alcohol in the first month(s) of pregnancy? May it cause danger to the unborn child?
In fact, there is no studies analyzing the consequences of alcohol consumption during the first month since the conception. An existing study that is probably closest to answering the question looks at the association between consuming alcohol prior to and up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
This study involved more than five thousand women, a quarter of whom reported drinking three to seven alcohol-containing beverages per week before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy. The findings of the study showed no association between drinking alcohol up to fifteen weeks of pregnancy and the risks of low birth weight, slow intrauterine growth, preeclampsia, or preterm birth.
It is worth mentioning thought, that the study did not look at early miscarriage rates or cognitive/behavioral issues after the child is born.
Therefore, specialists cannot guarantee that consuming alcohol only in the first month of pregnancy will not affect your pregnancy and your child.
Is There Connection Between Drinking When Trying to Conceive and the Risk of Miscarriage?
Researchers provide various answers to this question making it harder to come to the conclusion. Thus, some studies suggest that drinking does not increase the risk, while others state that alcohol consumption, especially three or more drinks per day, may actually cause miscarriage.
There was a study involving around eighteen thousand women that analyzed their drinking habits and tried to determine their connection with the risk of miscarriage. Based on this research, alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy does not have anything to do with the risk of pregnancy loss in women without a history of miscarriage.
According to another study related to the issue, drinking does not increase the possibility of miscarriage, only if a woman does not exceed two drinks per day before she’s pregnant.
On the other hand, the situation with alcohol in patients using in vitro fertilization treatment is completely different.
One study involved patients from several fertility clinics in California. The women were divided into two groups, where one group drank one or more drinks per day, and another one drank less than one drink per day. The study found that there was a fifty percent increase in miscarriage rates among women from the first group. The risk for early miscarriage tended to be higher, if a woman drank alcohol one week before IVF treatment started.
Besides, when it comes to IVF patients, male consumption of alcohol matters, as well. Thus, there was a double increase in the risk of miscarriage in men who drank just one alcohol drink per day within a week to a month prior to IVF treatment. Moreover, men who drank one week before sperm collection for the treatment had a 38-times increase in miscarriage risk.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Fertility?
It is still unclear whether alcohol consumption can negatively affect your fertility.
There are several research studies related to this question. One of them was conducted in the United States and involved around seven thousand women. The study found that those women who drank two or more alcohol servings per day had a significant increase in their infertility risk, higher than those who drank less than one serving per day.
Another research made in Denmark studied approximately twenty-nine thousand women and found that drinking wine helped women get pregnant faster, compared to those who did not drank at all.
There was also a study of around 1,700 women in Italy that did not find any connection between alcohol and time to conception.
As for IVF patients, the situation changes completely. Based on a study that involved 2908 couples using IVF treatment, the risk of the treatment failure was three times higher in women who drank one alcohol serving a month prior to the treatment, and four times higher in those who drank within a week of treatment.
In addition, men who drank alcohol anywhere from one month to one week before the treatment saw a negative tendency among IVF success rates.
The Bottom Line
It is known for sure that alcohol is absolutely prohibited during pregnancy. At the moment, specialists cannot give a detailed answer whether alcohol consumption, in any amounts, during early pregnancy or before it, leads to negative consequences as well, because of the lack of existing evidence. However, research found a difference between drinking alcohol before you are pregnant and drink when you are already pregnant.
Based on research, and the lack of evidence of the opposite, women without fertility issues can have an occasional drink when trying to get pregnant without any harm to her pregnancy or to the child.
Again, the story is different for patients who are undergoing IVF treatment. In that case, even minimal amount of alcohol within a month of treatment may lead to the failure of the treatment.
So, what to do?
Whatever your situation is, you should always consult your own doctor. Although the CDC and ACOG officially recommend quitting alcohol consumption completely when trying to conceive, your doctor may a different opinion on your case.
Are you trying to decide whether you should abstain from drinking when trying to get pregnant? Specialists suggest three options: to quit alcohol consumption completely, to have less than one drink per week and to have no more than one drink per week.
Another aspect to consider is your future emotional state. What if you experience cycle failure or an early miscarriage after having an alcoholic drink?
If you decide not to abstain from alcohol while trying to conceive, make sure you are able to control portion sized and the alcoholic content of your beverage. In addition, avoid alcohol during your two-week waiting period that starts after ovulation and lasts until your period starts. If you are going through a fertility treatment, avoid alcohol within one month of the treatment cycle.
Finally, as soon as your period is late or your pregnancy test shows positive, make sure you cut out any alcohol from your life. The risk is too high.