8 Facts about Alcohol and Fertility

Reducing alcohol intake for potential mama’s and dad’s can be tricky. I don’t know about you but I find that most social events I go to involve some form of alcoholic beverage, which can make it very difficult to avoid alcohol or avoid attention for NOT drinking. Because there in lies the next question, “OMG you’re not drinking, are you pregnant?” This specific question is especially uncomfortable when you are trying to conceive but have not yet had success.

I’m going to be perfectly honest, I enjoy drinking alcohol! Wine, tequila, white claws, and high noon exactly in that order…not on the same night of course 😉 I have no shame! I am human just like the rest of us. Therefore, reducing alcohol intake for me is a purposeful action and takes some work. This may not be the case for everyone, but for me, it is. For this reason, it can be a huge challenge to be socially happy while trying to reduce your alcohol intake to promote optimal fertility, which led me to ask myself, does reducing or avoiding alcohol entirely really help with fertility? I decided to dive into the evidence and see what the science says.

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Here are the 8 facts about alcohol, fertility, and managing PCOS.

  1. Alcohol intake can affect your quality of sleep, which can ultimately alter your cortisol and melatonin levels making your PCOS worse.
  2. Studies related to alcohol intake and fertility are limited and not always reliable due to the unethical issues with testing this and the retrospective nature of many studies.
  3. Moderate intake of alcohol has not shown negative impacts on semen quality and in some cases, moderate alcohol consumption has shown positive health effects due to the antioxidant content found in red wine. However, excess alcohol intake (>14 servings) has been correlated with decreased fertility.
  4. Excess alcohol intake can increase inflammation in the body. This inflammation can cause worsening gut health and central obesity.
  5. Alcohol intake causes a burden on the liver. If the liver is sluggish due to frequently detoxing alcohol intake, it may not be as efficient at clearing estrogen levels, causing hormonal imbalance.
  6. Many alcoholic beverages are high in sugar due to the simple syrups, sodas, and juices used for mixing. Excess sugar intake can lead to worsening abdominal obesity, which can further deteriorate your insulin resistance. Women with PCOS are also more likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease even without alcohol intake! Drinking alcohol on top of this disease can further worsen your liver function.
  7. Because of the high sugar nature of some mixed drinks, your blood sugar will spike quickly and drop rapidly. This can lead to increased hunger and binge-eating late at night or in the morning.
  8. Limiting or keeping your alcohol intake within the recommended levels is safe. For women, this includes 1 alcoholic beverage daily and for men, 2 drinks or less.

Lime cocktail

What to do with this information?

  • If you like to drink alcohol, drink in moderation! And that includes your partner 😉 If you’re not a drinker, don’t start drinking now.
  • Plan to have your drinks with a meal to avoid low drops in blood sugar.
  • Include high fiber foods in your diet regularly to keep your estrogen levels at normal levels.
  • Avoid cocktails with high amounts of added sugar from juice, soda, or syrups. Utilize diet sodas or flavored water to mix with your alcohol instead.
  • Keep a water bottle or glass of water near you while you drink. This is a good reminder to keep yourself hydrated while you drink.
  • Enjoy a mocktail! A little bit of fresh lime juice with your favorite zero-calorie flavored water and a few sprigs of fresh mint…yes please! Just as refreshing as a regular cocktail.
  • Similar to caffeine, start cutting back on your alcohol intake slowly. Rome wasn’t built in a day! This will improve efficacy for longer term behavior change as well. If you normally drink 2 drinks at night, try to set a time limit on when you can allow yourself a drink or have your favorite zero-calorie flavored water on hand to substitute that other drink.
  • Don’t use alcohol as a social crutch. You are more than capable of having a good time with or without the use of alcohol. Don’t depend on alcohol to make you more social or outgoing. Be yourself!

-EAB