Excessive alcohol use linked to fertility problems
Reported August 20, 2008
Fertility problems in adult women may be linked to heavily drinking in the teens and early 20s, American researchers said.
A study of two groups of Australian twins found women who were alcoholics had children later in life but there was no effect among men.
The researchers said women should consider the impact their drinking may have on their fertility and women who are already having problems conceiving should not drink at all.
British experts said the results should be viewed with caution because the study did not distinguish between cause and effect and the findings may be due to alcoholic women having more relationship problems which delays them having children.
But Dr Gillian Lockwood Medical Director of Midland Fertility Services, added that it is biologically plausible that alcohol could affect fertility because many of the hormones involved in reproduction rely on cholesterol and that is made in the liver.
She said other research had found that even small amounts of alcohol, just one or two drinks a week, delayed conception.
Dr Lockwood said: “It is a very real cause for concern, especially as women are drinking more. We advise women to cut right down on their drinking and preferably stop.”
Steve Hillier, Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “As always, the results of any study involving retrospective sociodemographic analysis like this need to be treated cautiously. However, if nothing else they are valuable in alerting us to the potentially deleterious impact of alcohol abuse on the female reproductive system.”
Mary Waldron, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, said: “Young women who drink alcohol may want to consider the longer-term consequences for later childbearing.
“If drinking continues or increases to levels of problem use, their ability and/or opportunity to have children may be impaired.
Co-author Sharon Wilsnack, professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences said: “For women who are already experiencing fertility problems or other reproductive difficulties the study’s findings should warn them not to use alcohol to cope with stress caused by the reproductive problems, because alcohol would likely make the reproductive problems worse as well as carrying risks of possible alcohol abuse or dependence.”
The study only looked at women who were dependent on alcohol compared to the others and did not find a limit where drinking began to have an affect on fertility.
There is also the possibility that the pain and distress caused by fertility problems meant those women with impaired fertility were more likely to drink more, the study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research said.