Author: Dr Jigna Tamagond, Consultant – Fertility Specialist
Fertility issues have been on the rise in the past few decades both in men and women. Infertility in men is as common as in women. Male infertility affects almost 30% of couples trying to conceive. Male fertility and sperm concentration has declined over the last 35 years.
Fertility issues in men are attributed to genetic disorders, injury to the genitals, and lifestyle choices that may lead to impairment in sperm production, quality and quantity.
One such reason known to affect male fertility is Alcohol consumption.
Effect of alcohol on sperm quality
Alcohol, as a recreational substance has been around for ages. It is essential to know its detrimental effects on one’s overall health, especially reproductive health.
Alcohol intake has a dramatic effect on the hormones such as testosterone which plays a major role in the male reproductive process. Low levels of testosterone affect semen parameters such as sperm count, motility, structure, and concentration.
Reproductive hormones such as testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone are vital to produce healthy fertile sperm by the body. Alcohol metabolites hinder this production process of hormones resulting in less or deformed sperm.
1.Lowered sperm count and motility
2.Abnormal sperm morphology
3.Causes breaks in the DNA, leading to DNA fragmentation
4.Less semen volume
5.Alterations in semen quality
Effects of alcohol on male fertility
Alcohol can impact fertility in men in various ways. Mentioned below are a few consequences:
1.Reduced levels of testosterone
2.Causes shrinkage in the size of the testes.
3.Sperm production is lowered or absent due to hormonal imbalance.
4Alcohol is associated with erectile dysfunction. Alcohol interacts with the signals between the brain and the penis, leading to ED (temporarily).
5.Dehydration due to alcohol has an effect on the amount of semen that you ejaculate.
6.Alcoholic beverages are high in sugar content. Excess sugar leads to obesity. Low sperm count and motility are connected to being overweight.
7.Excessive alcohol intake can cause a reduction in testosterone production. This leads to a range of additional complications of impotence, gynecomastia, and inability to get an erection in men.
Effect of alcohol intake on the unborn child
Research has shown that alcohol exposure pre-conception causes genetic modifications in the sperm that lead to significant problems in the unborn child. Poor fetal development, birth defects, low birth weight, behavioral issues, and impaired cognitive skills are a few complications the baby might suffer from. In rare cases, it might even lead to hereditary alcoholism.
Treating Alcohol-related Infertility
If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant and have been having difficulties to conceive, think twice before you have that drink.
Consult with an andrologist or male fertility specialist to understand the impact alcohol has on sperm quality and fertility. The treatment process depends on the issue and the level of damage that has been done by alcohol intake.
There is good news though, sometimes if a person ceases or cuts down on drinking, the side effects of alcohol on male fertility can be reversed as the sperm development cycle is about 74 days. The absence of alcohol in the body gives a chance for the reproductive system to recover from the adverse effects of alcohol and produce healthy and fertile sperm showing improvement in male fertility.
In spite of the fact that the negative effects of alcohol on sperm and male fertility can be averted by stopping alcohol consumption, it is essential to remember the severe after effects alcohol has on the personal and social lives.