Q: My wife and I are trying to conceive. She has decided to "clean up" her habits, avoiding smoking and any alcohol. She feels that this will improve our chances of conceiving, as well as giving our baby the best start in life. She would like me to make lifestyle changes for the same reasons—including no alcohol. But I enjoy a nightly glass of wine. Is this really necessary?
A: Many lifestyle factors can affect fertility, and scientists still do not know all the effects that alcohol may have on male and female fertility. Scientists also don't yet understand all the possible consequences of alcohol on a developing fetus, so for that reason, it may be a good idea for your wife to cut back on alcohol as she tries to conceive.
However, a new study by Dr. Allan Pacey and a team from the universities of Sheffield and Manchester, published June 5, 2014, in the journal Human Reproduction, suggests that you yourself are in the clear. Dr. Pacey and his colleagues tested various factors affecting the morphology (shape) of male sperm, which is a big determinant of male fertility. Because normal-shaped sperm have the best chances of surviving in the female reproductive tract, fertility doctors often test the morphology of sperm in men who are having a hard time conceiving. Of all the samples (1,970 men) studied, researchers found that in terms of consumption, the only substance that affected male sperm morphology was marijuana. Neither cigarette smoking nor alcohol had any effect on sperm samples' morphology, though other metrics of sperm health, like the quality of DNA, were not examined. Another recent study, however, did actually link moderate drinking to healthier sperm.
As always, moderation is key, but one glass of wine per night is unlikely to negatively affect your chances of conceiving. Of course, joining your wife in teetotaling solidarity probably wouldn't hurt on the path to starting a happy and harmonious family.
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