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Trying To Get Pregnant? Step Away From The Wine

Alcohol consumption can hinder your attempts to fall pregnant. Photo: Hero ImagesDespite alcohol being blamed for playing a large role in many "surprise" pregnancies, the social lubricant may actually be making it tougher for women to get pregnant.
A recent study explored the extent to which alcohol consumption affects female fertility. The research, based on Danish women, is one of the first large scale studies to explore how alcohol consumption impacts women's chances of getting pregnant. Over 6,000 women aged 21 to 45, who were actively trying to conceive, monitored and logged their alcohol intake for 12 months (or until they fell pregnant).
The research discovered that women who drank more than 14 servings of alcohol in a week - that's the equivalent to just over two bottles of wine over the course of seven days - found their chance of getting pregnant fell by about 18 percent.
These results are particularly pertinent for the Australian population, where research has found that 7.5 per cent of Australian women drink more than 43 glasses of wine over a 4-week period.
The issue of alcohol consumption and fertility needs more publicity says Professor Michael Permezel, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
"Alcohol has a number of hormonal effects on both males and females particularly in relation to the levels of oestrogen and testosterone," he says.
"Heavier alcohol consumption has serious health effects that will impair fertility in both sexes."
The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines do not specifically address people who are attempting to conceive, but Professor Permezel says the recent research can be used as a guide.
"A woman taking more than 14 standard drinks per week will very likely have a reduction in fertility," he says.
Melbourne mother Tracy believes cutting out alcohol completely while trying to fall pregnant helped with conception.
"I think it helped massively," she says. "We now have an 8 month old daughter. We will never know 100 per cent, but my belief is it did."
While the Danish study found that lower amounts of alcohol consumption (e.g. fewer than 14 servings a week) didn't seem to have an effect on fertility, experts agree that avoiding alcohol in pregnancy is a wise decision.
"Any woman struggling to avoid alcohol in pregnancy should seek professional advice through her general practitioner or at her antenatal clinic," says Professor Permezel.
"Her doctors need to be aware of her alcohol consumption." 
And for those women who have inadvertently consumed alcohol in very early pregnancy, before they realised they had conceived, there is a very low risk of harm to their foetus and should not be alarmed, says Professor Permezel.
Trying to conceive?

  • While the focus of many studies is on women's alcohol consumption and fertility, Professor Permezel says it's also important to acknowledge the impact of alcohol on men's fertility.

    "Men are very much affected as well as women in terms of reduced fertility with moderate or heavy alcohol consumption," he says.
  • Look at both partners completing a pre-conception checklist or undertake a preconception consultation with your GP or reproductive health specialist.
  • Age plays a role in conception, but there are lots of modifiable lifestyle factors that impact on fertility such as: alcohol, smoking, nutrition and obesity.
  • You don't have to be trying to conceive for six months before you seek help – ask for advice at any time if you are concerned about fertility issues

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