Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They’re a key part of all sorts of bodily functions, including sleep, weight fluctuations, growth, reproduction and sexual function, libido, mood, menstrual cycle… the list goes on.
Hormones can be impacted by your lifestyle in many different ways, but one of the primary ways that your hormones can be impacted is by your alcohol intake. Alcohol affects the body in many ways (many of which we’re sure you’ll already be aware of). As it’s Alcohol Awareness Week this month, we wanted to focus on how alcohol can affect your hormones and specifically, your fertility. Take a look at our previous blog for a more general discussion of how alcohol can affect your hormones. An estimated one in seven couples in the UK experience fertility problems, and while these problems can be caused by a range of factors, research has shown that both sperm quality and ovulation can be affected by alcohol.
How much is too much?
It’s widely known that drinking while pregnant is bad for the health of both the developing foetus and the mother. However, recent research has suggested firstly, that drinking while trying to conceive will negatively impact your chances of conception, and secondly, that alcohol in general can affect your fertility, whether you’re a man or a woman.
In today’s drinking culture, there is also widespread misunderstanding over what constitutes binge drinking – your body can only process around one unit of alcohol at a time. A few glasses of wine with dinner might not seem too dramatic, but two large glasses of wine contains roughly six units of alcohol. Drinking more than this within a few hours is medically defined as binge drinking. If you are currently trying to conceive, or you’re worried about your fertility, it’s worth taking your alcohol consumption under consideration.
Alcohol and Fertility.
Drinking while trying to conceive can significantly impact your chances of conception – if you’re a woman, it can also be important to monitor at what point of your menstrual cycle you are drinking. A recent study found that when participants drank 3 – 6 alcoholic drinks during the luteal phase of their cycle, they experienced a 44% reduction in their chances of conceiving compared to non-drinkers. Participants who drank more than 6 drinks a week had their chances reduced by 61%.
It’s also important to remember that if you have a positive pregnancy test, you should consider yourself at least four weeks pregnant, so to be on the safe side of any risks to a developing baby, it might be best to avoid alcohol altogether while trying to conceive.
“Trying to conceive a baby is already a complicated and sometimes difficult process. My advice is: don’t make things harder for yourself or your partner by continuing to drink alcohol throughout the process. The occasional small glass might be okay, but moderate and heavy drinkers should consider giving up, or seriously cutting down their intake.”
– Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, The Marion Gluck Clinic.
Does alcohol affect men and women differently?
In short, yes. Men and women are of course biologically different, and alcohol has different effects on men and women when it comes to fertility.
For men, drinking regularly or heavily lowers testosterone levels, as well as inhibiting the function of the testes. This stops sperm from developing properly and reduces the sperm’s ability to reach the egg. Drinking to excess can also affect your libido, and ability to maintain an erection.
As we’ve said, drinking alcohol can significantly affect your menstrual cycle, and with this, your fertility. The UK Chief Medical Offices guidelines suggest that women who are trying to become pregnant stop drinking entirely
How can the Marion Gluck Clinic help?
Unfortunately, we can’t promise a miracle cure. If you’re struggling with your fertility, you should be in regular contact with your GP, and we wish you all the best with your journey. However, if you’re feeling like your alcohol habits are impacting your hormone health, then we’d encourage you to get in touch with us to arrange an appointment with one of our specialists.
Our doctors are experts in hormone balancing treatment, and if you’re struggling with an endocrine disorder, our BHRT treatment can help you back to your healthiest, happiest life.
For more information on how alcohol can affect your hormones or fertility, you can take a look at our blog. If you’d like an in depth consultation of your hormone health, please book a consultation with one of our doctors.