Heavy drinking linked to reduced chances of getting pregnant

A new study published in Human Reproduction has found that women who want to conceive should not only avoid heavy drinking, but in the second half of the menstrual cycle should even consider giving moderate drinking (so, consuming three to six drinks a week) the flick.

While the study is not able to show that drinking alcohol causes the reduction in the chances of becoming pregnant, only that it is associated with it, the researchers found that drinking more than six drinks a week during any phase of the menstrual cycle was linked with a reduced probability of conception.

It also found that drinking three to six drinks a week during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle was also linked with a reduced probability of conception.

“We found that heavy drinking during any phase of the menstrual cycle was significantly associated with a reduced probability of conception compared to non-drinkers,” says Dr Kira Taylor, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences (Kentucky, USA).

“This is important because some women who are trying to conceive might believe it is ‘safe’ to drink during certain parts of the menstrual cycle.

“During the luteal phase, which is the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle before bleeding would start and when the process of implantation occurs, not only heavy drinking but also moderate drinking was significantly associated with a reduced probability of conception.

“At the time of ovulation, usually around day 14 of the cycle, consuming a lot of alcohol – either heavy or binge drinking – was significantly associated with reduced chances of conception.”

Dr Taylor adds that while this study “only included a few hundred women”, the researchers “believe the results suggest that heavy and even moderate alcohol intake affects the ability to conceive”.

However, she cautions that the “exact percentages and numbers” in the study “should be viewed as rough estimates”.

“This is the first study to examine the effect of alcohol on fecundability during specific phases of the menstrual cycle, using daily data on alcohol and other important factors such as smoking and unprotected intercourse over a period of up to 19 menstrual cycles.

“[However], the results in this study should not be construed to mean that drinking alcohol prevents pregnancy. In other words, alcohol is not birth control.

“Even if a woman drinks alcohol heavily, if she has unprotected intercourse, she can become pregnant,” says Dr Taylor.

For more details and to read the study, visit: academic.oup.com/humrep/advance-article/doi/10.1093/humrep/deab121/6294415

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