Planning a pregnancy? Then it’s important to be in the best physical and mental shape to have a healthy, happy baby. So that also means considering how your alcohol intake (for both men and women) can affect your chances of conceiving.
Alcohol and the reproductive system
Our reproductive systems can be impacted by alcohol. In fact the more you drink, the greater the effects become.
Our reproductive system
The reproductive systems have three basic parts – the brain, the pituitary gland and the ovaries in women and the testes in men.
In our brains, the hypothalamus produces and releases a hormone into the blood vessels that connects it to the pituitary gland. In response, the pituitary gland then produces and releases two more hormones that influence the function of the ovaries and the testes.
In women, the hormones trigger the release of eggs (ovulation) and the production and release of the hormones: oestrogen and progesterone.
In men, the hormones trigger the maturation of sperm and the production and release of the hormone, testosterone. These hormones then all circulate in the blood, back to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to regulate the further production and release of hormones.
The effects of alcohol on fertility
Drinking alcohol affects all these three parts of the body’s reproductive system. The adverse effects of alcohol increase with the amount you drink. So the more you drink, the greater the damage – binge drinking being especially harmful.
Effects on men
Alcohol reduces the amount of testosterone in your blood and increases the breakdown of testosterone in your liver. This then reduces the amount of testosterone in your blood. This testosterone can also be broken down to an oestrogen hormone, which may cause men’s breasts to grow.
Heavy consumption of alcohol can cause male fertility problems, as well as decreasing sex drive and performance.
Effects on women
Drinking heavily or excessively affects a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation. This makes it difficult for her to conceive a baby. However, the negative effects of alcohol on reproduction are reversible if you reduce, or even stop drinking. DrinkWise and the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that if you are planning to become pregnant it’s safest not to drink alcohol.
Download our brochures and materials on alcohol and pregnancy under ‘resources’ on this page.