How does alcohol consumption influence fertility treatment?

By (embryologist), (embryologist) and (embryologist).
Last Update: 09/06/2023

Regarding alcohol, women who consume alcohol in excess are at risk of amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), abnormal endometrial development and hyperprolactinemia. All of this is associated with infertility and an increased risk of miscarriages.

However, excessive alcohol consumption also negatively affects male fertility, reducing sperm quality and causing erectile dysfunction, among other effects.

The consequences of alcohol also affect the fetus, where mental retardation, growth retardation and birth defects can occur.

For all these reasons, and despite the fact that there is no established consensus on the safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed, it is advisable to abstain from drinking from the beginning of the search for pregnancy until after childbirth.

Effects of alcohol on fertility

Lifestyle care is very important for the fertility of both men and women. High lifetime alcohol consumption could have negative consequences on reproductive capacity.

Relationship between alcohol and male fertility

Men who drink a lot of alcohol continuously and in large quantities may experience a decrease in sperm quality. High alcohol consumption may cause lower testosterone production, as well as poor sperm maturation. This would explain the negative impact of alcohol on male fertility.

In addition to the adverse effects of alcohol on male fertility discussed above, it can also have other consequences such as the following:

  • Damage at the testicular level, affecting sperm production.
  • Erectile dysfunction, causing problems in maintaining sexual relations and, therefore, conceiving.
  • Increased stress and anxiety.

However, there is no consensus about alcohol consumption in men and its consequences on seminal parameters, but they do confirm a negative effect depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.

Excessive alcohol and female fertility

The situation is similar for women. Drinking a lot of alcohol is also not beneficial for female fertility. Some studies have concluded that women who drink several glasses of alcohol a day have a higher rate of miscarriages.

Other adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption on female fertility are listed below:

In short, moderate and occasional alcohol consumption would not have as much impact on fertility as excessive consumption in both men and women. However, the safest thing for those who are trying to have a baby is to abstain completely from alcohol.

Drinking alcohol during IVF

Alcohol hinders natural pregnancy, but it is also not compatible with pregnancies achieved through assisted reproduction techniques. It is most common for patients to stop drinking alcohol 3-6 months before starting any fertility treatment.

Assisted procreation, as any other medical treatment, requires that you rely on the professionalism of the doctors and staff of the clinic you choose. Obviously, each clinic is different. Get now your Fertility Report, which will select several clinics for you out of the pool of clinics that meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, it will offer you a comparison between the fees and conditions each clinic offers in order for you to make a well informed choice.

The relationship between drinking alcohol and the success of assisted reproduction treatments depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. The effects of consuming large amounts of alcohol during IVF treatment may include:

  • Decrease in oocyte retrieval.
  • Poorer embryonic development.
  • Reduced embryo implantation rate.

In addition, it has been seen that the rate of live IVF newborns in patients who consume alcohol is significantly reduced.

Consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Alcohol consumed during pregnancy crosses the placenta and is capable of reaching the fetus. Therefore, drinking alcohol during gestation can have serious consequences for the health of the fetus and cause the well known Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS.

Some of the most common consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy are the following:

  • Developmental delay.
  • Congenital defects.
  • Delayed growth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Skull malformations.

In addition, pregnant women who drink alcohol have a higher risk of premature delivery and miscarriage. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid alcohol consumption until after pregnancy.

FAQs from users

Does alcohol affect sperm motility?

By Leonor Ortega López B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

The relationship between alcohol and infertility is commonly accepted. It is true that it has been quantified or studied more in women, as they are more susceptible to the effect of alcohol as they have a faster gastrointestinal absorption and a slower metabolisation. It has also been studied that alcohol consumption can alter hormonal regulation, cause ovulation problems and its prohibitive consumption during pregnancy is well known. But what about men?

A study was carried out at the University of Southern Denmark in which more than 1000 men took part and assessed their semen quality and hormone values and how and in what quantity they consumed alcohol. The study concluded that the higher the amount of alcohol consumed, the lower the semen quality, especially the sperm concentration. Alcohol consumption can reduce testosterone production and thus the amount of mature sperm, affecting both quality and motility.

Imagen: Alcohol affects sperm motility

The recommendation is to reduce or avoid alcohol intake at least 3 months before trying to conceive or undergoing Assisted Human Reproduction treatment in order to maximise the quality of the gametes. There are genetic and biological factors that we cannot modify to improve our fertility, but there are others, such as leading a healthy life, that we can and that depend solely on us.

Does alcohol consumption cause teratozoospermia?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, it is possible. Drinking alcohol can cause alterations in sperm quality. Studies have concluded that alcohol causes a reduction in the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate, as well as alterations in sperm formation. Alcohol could therefore be a reversible cause of teratozoospermia.

Suggested for you

If in addition to knowing the effects of alcohol on fertility you are also interested in knowing about other lifestyle habits, we recommend you read this article: Influence of lifestyle on fertility and assisted reproduction.

In any case, if you have been trying to get pregnant for some time without success, it is time to see a fertility specialist for different tests. Here is some detailed information you may find useful: When should you see a fertility specialist?

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

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FAQs from users: 'Does alcohol affect sperm motility?' and 'Does alcohol consumption cause teratozoospermia?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Leonor Ortega López
Leonor Ortega López
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Leonor Ortega López studied Biological Sciences at the University of Valencia (Spain). She then completed a Master's Degree in Human Reproduction taught by the Spanish Fertility Society and the Complutense University of Madrid. More information about Leonor Ortega López
License: 03123-CV
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
 Teresa Rubio Asensio
Teresa Rubio Asensio
BSc, MSc
Master's Degree in Medicine and Reproductive Genetics from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UHM). Teacher of different Clinical Embryology courses at the UHM. Member and writer of scientific contents at ASEBIR and ASPROIN. Embryologist specializing in Assisted Procreation at UR Virgen de la Vega. More information about Teresa Rubio Asensio

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