Are you concerned that alcohol could impact your fertility? For many of us, alcohol is part of our life in some way – whether it’s enjoying a cold beer after work on a Friday or celebrating good news with a glass of champagne. Whilst a weekly drink or two is not going to have a huge impact on your health, drinking too much alcohol could be bad for both you and your swimmers.
What counts as too much alcohol?
So what actually is ‘too much’ alcohol? Well, it sort of depends who you ask – and where you live. In England, the NHS recommends that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units (24-32g) of alcohol per day and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day. Both men and women should stay below 14 units/week (112g/week). A unit is 8 grams of pure alcohol according to the NHS (or around half a pint)
In the USA, NIH recommends not to exceed more than 4 units/day (56g/day) and 14 units/week (196g/week) – so that would work out around a bottle of wine and a couple of small beers.. In Denmark, the national recommendation is that women should consume no more than 7 units (84g) per week and men no more than 14 (168g). In Denmark 1 unit of alcohol = 12g pure alcohol.
At ExSeed Health, we use the guidelines that a unit is equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol since it is the standard used in most studies. We recommend that no more than five units (60g) per sitting and a total of no more than 14 units (168g) per week – is deemed low risk for men. For men who drink regularly, this is a good guideline to know when to ease off the bottle, both for better sperm and better overall health.
The research into how alcohol affects fertility
So, does alcohol impact your fertility? Whilst the majority of studies indicate that boozing is not great for your swimmers, the jury (aka the medical community) is still out on exactly how much you should drink whilst trying to conceive and how much alcohol a man can drink without it having an impact on his sperm quality and fertility. Most of the studies show that maintaining a moderate consumption of no more than 2 drinks per day is safe.
However, some clinical studies show that infertile patients who drink daily have poor semen quality and hormone imbalances – which were worse compared with patients who do not drink daily.
In a Danish study from 2014 with 1,221 male participants, it was found that consumption of more than 5 units in a typical week was associated negatively with sperm concentration, total sperm count, and percentage of sperm cells with standard shape (morphology). This link was most pronounced for men with a typical intake of more than 25 units/week – around 9-12 pints of beer.
One thing is for sure; chronic, excessive alcohol consumption (i.e. more than 5 units a day) is not a good idea – this is known as binge drinking and will have far reaching effects on your health – and potentially fertility.
The wider effect of drinking
Alcohol can not only have a direct impact on your sperm quality, but it often goes hand in hand with other unhealthy habits. Late nights and hangovers can disrupt your sleep pattern, which has been shown to reduce fertility. You’re also more likely to pick up a packet of cigarettes or take recreational drugs when you’ve been drinking. Your eating habits can also be affected when drinking heavily (think late night kebabs, or next morning fry up) and this too can decrease your fertility.
How to reduce your alcohol consumption
We get that it’s hard to avoid booze when temptation seems to be everywhere – but it’s definitely possible to enjoy a social life whilst cutting down on alcohol. We are not going to tell you to give up alcohol completely! However, keeping alcohol consumption on a moderate level – max 14 units per week – will help protect your sperm.
Our 5 tips to help your alcohol consumption
- Avoid triggers – If you really feel like you need to get back, become away of the people or situations that trigger your cravings and learn how to manage them.
- Eat food and drink water – This will help to keep you at a good level and stop you from getting drunk. It’s hard to be mindful once you’re already pissed – so slow yourself down with soft drinks and snacks.
- Count your drinks – Look into the concept of mindful drinking. Become aware and keep track on how many units you drink to make sure that you don’t go above the recommended unit/week limit
- Get rid of alcohol at home – Keep alcohol for times you’re out and about and socialising – and when you’re at home indulge in some healthy sperm boosting smoothies instead.
- Try alcohol free drinks – You’ll be surprised how great the selection of alcohol free beers is nowadays, some taste just like the originals! Here’s our list of the top ten best fertility friendly beers.