How Alcohol Affects the Female Reproductive System

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When trying to conceive, women are advised to abstain from alcohol. An estimated 24% of developed countries’ couples take over 12 months to get pregnant. This can be attributed to the fact that alcohol consumption is part of modern life. And this has affected fertility significantly.

It’s estimated that about 18% of the American women between the age of 18 and 44 years binge drink three times every month. That means they drink more than four drinks on a single occasion. Having more than a single drink every day while pregnant has been associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, low birth weight, and preterm birth. But, though alcohol can influence both female and male reproductive systems, as well as, the fetus, people do not understand its effect on fertility well.

When couples have a hard time trying to get pregnant and have a drinking problem, they may seek help from addiction treatment centers These facilities have professionals with knowledge of the problems caused by alcoholism including its effect on the female reproductive system. As such, they can provide information, advice, support, and treatment that couples need to overcome alcoholism and conceive with ease.

Alcohol and Fertility

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink when you want to conceive may be a sensible recommendation. However, the association between alcohol intake before conception and the time individuals take to get pregnant is yet to be documented.

Up to now, there are contradictory findings from studies that have investigated how alcohol consumption affects the female reproductive system. Some of these findings link decreased fertility with low or moderate drinking while others do not show any correlation. Some studies have reported a slight fertility increase.

One study involved 6,120 female participants between the age of 21 and 45 years in stable relationships and trying to conceive. None of these underwent fertility treatments. They took alcohol in standard servings of 1 to 3, 4 to 7, 8 to 13, and 14 and above units every week. Information about specific alcohol types, whether red or white wine, spirits, dessert wine, or beer was also collated.

The participants were required to complete questionnaires two times per month for a year. The questions of these questionnaires were about pregnancy status, menstrual cycles, alcohol use, smoking, and intercourse frequency. Of all the involved participants, 3,120 became pregnant during the time of the study.

The Effects of Alcohol on Conception

The findings of this study showed that the women that consumed 14 units and above every week had 37 pregnancies within 307 cycles. Women that did not drink alcohol had 1,381 pregnancies within 8,054 cycles. This is equivalent to an 18% decrease in the chances of these women conceiving.

The researchers, therefore, concluded that drinking less than 14 units of alcohol every week seems to not have a discernible impact on fertility. Essentially, researchers did not observe an appreciable fecundability difference by wine and beer consumption level. The ability to conceive didn’t have measurable differences after accounting for different alcohol types.

Therefore, though there was a significant difference between the number of units for the 14 and above group, the other categories did not have differences. The authors concluded that the results didn’t support an alcohol consumption effect at moderate levels.

However, the researchers recommend avoiding binge drinking to prevent potential menstrual cycles’ disruption and the potential to hurt the unborn baby. Therefore, if you have a drinking problem and struggling to conceive, consider seeking help from an alcohol addiction rehab. That’s because reducing alcohol consumption makes sense for a couple that is struggling to conceive.

Effects of Alcohol on Reproductive Functions

Research has shown that drinking mild to moderate amounts of alcohol can affect female reproductive functions negatively. The human body has many hormones responsible for regulating the reproductive system. Females have the estrogens which are synthesized in the ovaries.

These hormones perform functions like breast development, body hair distribution, menstrual cycle regulation, maintenance of pregnancy and secondary sexual characteristics development.

Chronic drinking interferes with these functions. For instance, excessive alcohol consumption can impair the proper functioning of the ovaries. This can lead to sexual dysfunction, hormonal deficiencies, and infertility. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to female reproductive system issues like menstruation cessation, irregular menstrual cycle, early menopause, menstruation without ovulation, and spontaneous abortion’s risk.

If you are having these issues while struggling with alcoholism, seek help from a drug rehabilitation center first. Remember that some of these reproductive system problems can be found in women that are not alcoholics. However, the majority of women struggling to conceive are social drinkers with these problems.

So, Can Alcohol Cause Infertility in a Woman?

Currently, no research has shown how exactly alcohol lowers women’s fertility. However, it’s known that excessive consumption of alcohol increases the time taken to conceive. Women that drink more than 7 standard units per week or more than 3 drinks per session are likely to have irregular or heavy periods.

Heavy drinking also reduces the chances of maintaining pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby. That’s why it’s advisable to seek help from a drug rehab facility or alcohol treatment center before conceiving if you have a drinking problem.

Drinking more than 6 drinks per occasion can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or small birth weight. The fact that alcohol can affect ovulation is the reason why a woman that is a heavy drinker may have a difficult time trying to conceive. Nevertheless, most women increase their chances of conceiving and having healthy babies when they quit drinking alcohol.

The Bottom Line

Long-term and heavy consumption of alcohol can affect the female reproductive system. However, it’s yet to be known how exactly alcohol affects the female reproductive system. When planning to conceive, women are advised to abstain from alcohol. That’s because alcohol can affect the hormones that play a crucial role in female fertility.

To increase their chances to conceive, many women with a drinking problem are seeking help in addiction treatment centers. These facilities have professionals that know the health problems caused by alcoholism and how to solve them. They provide detoxification, counseling, and therapy that help individuals solve the reproductive health problems caused by alcohol.

Thanks to Phyllis Baker

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