Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Fertility and Time to Conception
Patients frequently call to ask if there is any harm to enjoying an occasional drink with family and friends. As with most things, there is happiness in moderation.
A number of large, multi-center studies indicate that alcohol may have a threshold effect on fertility. That is, while light drinking (fewer than five drinks per week) probably does not exert a harmful effect, heavy drinking does adversely impact fertility and the fetus. Harmful drinking patterns can consist of either heavy routine drinking (two or more drinks per day), or binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time). Heavy consumption in these two categories has been associated with increased rates of menstrual abnormality, miscarriage, and harmful effects on the fetus (including fetal alcohol syndrome).
The correlation between alcohol and time to conception, or waiting time to pregnancy, appears controversial. A large European multi-center study of over 4,000 couples demonstrated that women consuming eight or more drinks per week experienced a longer delay to conception compared with non-drinkers. A smaller, prospective study also showed a longer delay to pregnancy, even with light consumption of five or fewer drinks per week. Thus, patients should feel free to enjoy an occasional drink during the holidays; but we encourage couples to limit themselves to fewer than five glasses of wine or champagne in a week, and to avoid hard liquors with higher alcohol content.