Does Alcohol Kill Sperm? And Other Fertility Facts
When it comes to alcohol and fertility, the focus is quite often on the woman.
We know about the harmful effects of drinking while pregnant, but what about drinking before pregnancy? And how does drinking affect male fertility? Is it a big deal? Should you even worry about it?
Yes, you should.
Read on to learn how alcohol affects sperm and male and female fertility.
How much alcohol does it take to affect sperm and male fertility?
Social alcohol use is common around the world, but heavy drinking has lots of bad health effects. In the United States, a 2015 survey found nearly 27 percent of those 18 or older reported binge drinking in the past month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in approximately 35 percent of cases of infertility, male and female factors were identified.
Studies show heavy, consistent drinking or binge drinking — five or more drinks in men in a two-hour timeframe — have negative effects on sperm.
More than 14 mixed drinks in a week can lower testosterone levels and affect sperm count.
The CDC defines excessive drinking as follows:
|Binge drinking||Heavy drinking||Underage drinking||Pregnant drinking|
|Males||5 or more drinks on one occasion (within 2 to 3 hours)||15 or more drinks per week||any alcohol used under age 21||n/a|
|Females||4 or more drinks on one occasion (within 2 to 3 hours)||8 or more drinks per week||any alcohol used under age 21||any alcohol|
In men, heavy drinking affects fertility by:
- lowering testosterone levels, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone, and raising estrogen levels, which reduce sperm production
- shrinking the testes, which can cause impotence or infertility
- changing gonadotropinTrusted Source release which impacts sperm production
- causing early ejaculation or decreased ejaculation
- changing the shape, size, and movement of healthy sperm
Combining drugs like marijuana or opioids with alcohol also lowers fertility. In addition, a liver disease caused by excessive drinking can change sperm quality.
Moreover, recent animal and human studies show exposure to alcohol during early development and later in life leads to changes in the DNA. This, in turn, may lead to alcohol use disorder and other inherited health problems. More research, however, is needed to confirm this connection.
The good news is that the effects are reversible. One study showed it took three months for the return of healthy sperm production once alcohol consumption stops.
How alcohol affects female fertility
Alcohol can lower the chances of becoming pregnant.
According to a recent study, regular heavy drinking can reduce female fertility by:
- interrupting the menstrual cycle and ovulation causing changes to ovarian function, known as amenorrhea and anovulation, respectively
- changing hormone levels of testosterone, estradiol and luteinizing hormone
- causing hyperprolactinemia or high prolactin in the blood
Studies also confirm alcohol exposure during pregnancy is harmful. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are one example of a side effect.
How to boost male fertility
A healthy lifestyle is a crucial part of boosting fertility. Excessive drinking, stress, anxiety, being overweight, and smoking can all hurt your health and fertility.
A new study found those who consumed a healthy Mediterranean diet had higher sperm quality. This was especially true for those eating more fruits, vegetables, seafood, and healthy grains.
When to see a doctor
Lifestyle, medications, and hormonal or genetic conditions can all play a role in infertility. Typically, a male hormone analysis and semen analysis can help identify underlying issues.
You can also try home test kits. However, these kits will only tell you, sperm count. They don’t tell you about other possible reasons for infertility such as quality or movement of sperm.
It’s best to speak to your doctor if you have concerns and are considering testing your sperm.
Whether you’ve been trying for a while or you’re just starting to plan for a family, there’s no time like the present to make some healthy lifestyle changes.
You can make a healthy start by:
- managing your weight
- following a healthy diet
- getting into a regular exercise routine
- practicing self-care
- quitting smoking and excessive drinking
- managing any chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, or other conditions
Schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about any specific fertility concerns. Always talk to your pharmacist and doctor before you consider any over-the-counter vitamins or supplements.
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