Is it safe to drink when you are trying to conceive?

A doctor joins our mums to help you understand the effects of alcohol on conception

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You may have heard that if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s best not to drink. We find out why – and hear what other MFMers say about drinking and trying to conceive (TTC).

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What are the official guidelines on drinking when you’re trying to conceive?

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that:

  • you avoid alcohol from 3 months before you hope to conceive, until 12 weeks into your pregnancy

Current medical guidelines also state that if you do drink:

  • you should not consume more than 1-2 units, once or twice a week

How could alcohol be damaging if you are trying to get pregnant?

“The current advice is based on good medical evidence about the effects that alcohol has on fertility and the unborn child,” explains Dr Abigail Brun, a GP.

It is known that alcohol can have a damaging effect on male fertility, Dr Brun says. However, its impact on a woman’s ability to conceive are not fully known. “The effects of alcohol on the a woman’s fertility are unclear, but we think it may interfere with her menstrual cycle and possibly affect egg production,” she says.

“What we do know for sure is that couples who drink more (and regularly) are much more likely to struggle to conceive than those who drink nothing, or only drink occasionally.”

How to boost your fertility

How alcohol impacts male fertility

Dr Brun explains that alcohol affects a man’s sperm. “It can reduce the sperm count (if a man drinks heavily) and cause the sperm to have a higher chance of having defective or missing genetic information – the important bit needed to make a baby,” she says.

“Alcohol is found in the semen itself shortly after a man has been drinking. It may also affect the way the egg is fertilised and then implants (sticks) onto the walls of the womb, which is needed for it to grow.”

Could your baby be affected if you conceive after you’ve been drinking?

One MFMer shares on our boards: “My daughter was one of the ‘conceived in blind drunkness’ babies” lisamumtocarys

It seems that conceiving after having a drink or two happens to quite a few of us.

Another MFMer says: “When I did conceive it was as a result of me getting drunk on a night out without my husband and then us having sex without a baby being on the agenda. We are now TTC #2 and so far no luck (3 cycles) – perhaps I should go out for the evening and have a few glasses of wine again?!” Sharon

Dr Brun says that we should be more focused on avoiding alcohol once we are pregnant than at the time of conception.“There is evidence that animals given high levels of alcohol at time of conception and in early pregnancy are more likely to have miscarriages and to chromosomal abnormalities (big defects).

“It’s not completely clear what the effects are in humans but we think more damage is done by a mother who drinks regularly and heavily during her pregnancy, especially early on, rather than at conception itself,” she says.

The latest guidelines on drinking and pregnancy explained

So how much can you drink when you are trying to get pregnant?

Dr Brun advises avoiding alcohol in order to have the best chance of conception. “The odd small glass on a special occasion is probably ok, but don’t make a habit of it,” she says.

What about your partner?

Partners of women trying to get pregnant can still consume alcohol, but should not binge drink, says Dr Brun. “I often see people who are struggling to conceive and at that point I’d advice both sides to abstain,” she says.

Top tips for conception

What MFMers say about alcohol and trying to conceive

“I love wine but am not drinking because then maybe I have a better chance of getting pregnant” Breah

“I am 18 on 1st August and my baby is due on 10th. I have never once thought about drinking. If I wanted to do that I wouldn’t have got pregnant.” Halley

“Deciding to start a family is exciting… make sure you eat a good balanced diet and go easy on the alcohol or even cut it out completely. Try to stay relaxed about it all, getting stressed can delay conception.” Zoe

Tell me more about how long it takes to conceive

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Tell me about the latest research on alcohol and pregnancy

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