If you’re planning on starting a family, then there are a few recommended lifestyle changes to ensure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible. And one of those lifestyle changes is cutting down on alcohol or stopping drinking altogether while you’re trying to conceive.

Alcohol can be passed to your unborn baby, affecting its development, even before you know you’re pregnant, so it’s important that you don’t risk consuming alcohol in excess or at all while you’re trying to get pregnant.

Experts haven’t yet defined a safe level of alcohol for women who are trying to get pregnant nor do they know whether or how babies differ in their sensitivity and reaction to alcohol, but The Chief Medical Officers recommend that the safest approach is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether. It’s been suggested that alcohol affects oestrogen and other reproductive hormones in the body, making monthly cycles longer and anovulatory cycles (menstrual cycles where ovulation doesn’t occur) more common.

An unborn baby will develop faster during its first few weeks than at any other time during the pregnancy and, during these weeks, alcohol can begin having an adverse effect on the baby’s health. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking alcohol while you’re trying to get pregnant could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or a range of physical, behavioural and intellectual disabilities for the baby.

Not only does consuming alcohol have potentially harmful effects on your unborn baby, but it’s also not great news for your fertility either. The effects of alcohol on fertility are greater than you might think – even moderate alcohol consumption may lower fertility. Studies have shown that drinking between one and five drinks a week can reduce a woman’s chances of conceiving, and 10 drinks or more decreases the likelihood of conception even further.

For women on birth control, health professionals will advise you to stop drinking as soon as you decide to stop birth control and try for a baby.

It’s not just women who need to watch their alcohol intake while trying to conceive, either. Men who drink regularly may suffer from alcohol-related fertility issues such as low sperm count and low sperm mobility. This means a man’s ejaculate contains fewer sperm, and a higher percentage of the available sperm are unable to make the journey to fertilise a woman’s egg.

The best thing for you to do, as a couple, is to stop drinking alcohol when you decide to try to get pregnant and, just as with smoking, some health professionals would recommend stopping two to three months before trying to conceive.

In addition to cutting down alcohol consumption, couples trying for a baby can also follow nutritional guideline and live a generally healthy lifestyle to increase the chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy after that.

Do you know how to make sure your body is perfectly primed for pregnancy? Test your knowledge with our quiz to find out, plus get a free downloadable factsheet!


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Mr Andrew Drakeley Andrew Drakeley

Mr Andrew Drakeley is the Clinical Director at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, working principally at the Liverpool Women’s site but with managerial responsibility for Knutsford.

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