The effects of alcohol consumption on reproductive health
Regarding the effects of alcohol on reproductive health, numerous studies demonstrate its teratogen properties (alcohol generates fetal birth defects) and its contribution to low fertility.
The processes by which alcohol may affect conception include an increase in estrogen, which will reduce FSH secretion, suppressing thus folliculogenesis (follicle formation) and ovulation. Also, alcohol can have an effect on oocyte maturation, on ovulation, blastocyst development and implantation.
Moderate alcohol consumption (7-8 units per week) was associated with reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Even low levels of alcohol consumption (one unit per week) were also associated with reduced conception capacity.
Studies show therefore the adverse effects of alcohol consumption on the outcome of pregnancies and highlights that the most vulnerable period of pregnancy for the unborn baby is included in the first weeks after conception. It remains, however, uncertain what dose of alcohol may be safe for consumption before conception and during pregnancy.
Hakim RB, Gray RH and H Zacchur, the authors of the study “Alcohol and Caffeine”, collected monthly information on alcohol and caffeine in a group of 124 healthy women. The scientists found out that the highest conception rate (27%) was recorded among women who drank alcohol and consumed less than a coffee a day.
Similar results were obtained in a Dutch study that involved 430 couples who were trying to get their first pregnancy (Jensen, 1998). Women who drank 1-5 units of alcohol per week recorded a 0.61 probability of fertility and women who drank more than 10 units of alcohol per week showed a probability of 0.34, compared with women who did not drink alcohol.
Another Swedish study investigated a group of 7393 women over a period of 18 years (1969-1987). It was found again that a high consumption of alcohol involves a higher risk of getting in a position to request a medical examination for infertility.
Effects of alcohol on the population that is performing in vitro fertilization treatment
A study of 221 couples who were being treated within IVF cycles, at 6 different clinics in California, pursued alcohol consumption on both partners, one year before procedure as well as during treatment. Under these conditions, alcohol consumption by women during the year before treatment was associated with a decrease of 13% in the number of retrieved oocytes. An increased risk of spontaneous abortion was associated with alcohol consumption by women, one week before the procedure. In men, compared with those who had not consumed alcohol one month before IVF procedure, the consumption of one unit of alcohol a day increases the risk of miscarriage, from 2.28 to 8.32. Also, in men, a unit consumption of beer per day decreased the likelihood of giving rise to a live fetus from 5.49 times to 45 times. These effects were dependent on the dose, and were significantly higher as the consumption period was closer to the procedure.
Other experiments have shown the harmful effects of alcohol on implantation, delay of the blastocyst formation, absence of decidual reaction, and resynchronization of the implantation process.
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