The question of drinking before and during fertility treatment tends to bring out strong opinions. It also comes up a lot with our Ovally customers: “Can I have at least a little Spanish wine during treatment?”. For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on alcohol consumption before and during fertility treatment until conception only, and leave out any research on pregnancy and alcohol. As usual, check with your doctor on their guidance regarding alcohol intake during any fertility treatment. We’re summarizing the findings of high-quality research studies for you, but your doctor may have access to relevant, yet to be published findings.
Similarly to our last post on exercise and fertility, the Danish once again provide us with helpful data: In a study of over 6,000 Danish women trying to conceive naturally, the women documented their alcohol intake over the course of a year. The researchers found that women who consumed 14 or more servings of alcohol a week took longer to conceive compared to women who consumed no alcohol. However, if women consumed fewer servings of alcohol, there seemed to be no effect on their ability to conceive. The study did not distinguish between alcohol servings consumed all at once or over the the course of a week. Similarly, a large-scale nurses’ health study we’ve referenced before showed no negative effects on the ability to ovulate and conceive if women had one serving of alcohol a day.
Unfortunately, the research on fertility treatments and alcohol isn’t as clear as we would like. The larger-scale studies are quite old and use antiquated treatment techniques, though show notable results: One study of about 2,500 couples that underwent IVF treatment between 1993 and 2003 showed that those who consumed 4 drinks or more a week had a 21% lower chance at a live birth and a 48% lower chance at successful fertilization. In contrast, a more recent study of 2,000 participants followed them up to the completion of 6 IVF cycles and revealed no difference in cumulative birth rates between non-drinkers, social drinkers, and daily drinkers, but the small group of daily drinkers was at a higher risk for spontaneous abortion.
The most striking (but also older and smaller) study examining female and male alcohol use before and during fertility treatment found that having as much as one additional drink a day negatively affected egg retrieval rates and sustained pregnancy rates for women; for men, it affected birth rates. This effect was more pronounced the closer the drinking occurred to the fertility treatment.
As you can tell, more research and replication of findings are still needed. Based on the above data, it seems that increasing alcohol intake prior to and during fertility treatment, or having more than one servings of alcohol per day likely has negative effects on fertility. Given how much of an investment fertility treatments are, the safest course of action is likely to avoid alcohol leading up to and during treatment, except for the occasional glass of Spanish wine :).