Planning a pregnancy? Then it’s important to be in your best physical condition to increase the likelihood of conceiving and having a healthy baby. That includes considering how alcohol can affect your chance of conceiving. Our reproductive systems can be impacted by alcohol and the effects can increase with the amount you drink.
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 excessive amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation. This may make it difficult to conceive a healthy baby. If you are planning a pregnancy, pregnant and/or breastfeeding, you should avoid alcohol.
Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is a term used to describe a range of conditions that result from brain damage caused by alcohol exposure before birth. Other effects of alcohol exposure during pregnancy can include miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth rate.
It’s safest not to drink while pregnant – education resources
DrinkWise has produced brochures and posters for general consumer information and medical centers/GP waiting rooms, advising women that it is safest not to drink while pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding. The resources provide information about the effects of alcohol on the body and recommend consumers to talk to their doctors or obstetricians if they would like more information on the risks and effects of consuming alcohol while pregnant. The resources can be downloaded and printed below.DrinkWise alcohol & pregnancy printable
DrinkWise alcohol & pregnancy poster