Does drinking alcohol affect ovulation?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away?” Well, that may not be entirely true in regards to fertility. Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact a woman’s ability to conceive. But what about moderate drinking? Can it still affect ovulation? Let’s take a closer look.

How does alcohol affect the body?

Before we dive into how alcohol affects ovulation specifically, let’s first understand how it affects the body as a whole. When we drink alcohol, our liver processes it and breaks it down into acetaldehyde, which is then converted into carbon dioxide and water and eliminated from our bodies through urine or sweat. However, when we drink too much alcohol, our liver cannot keep up with this process and toxic levels of acetaldehyde build up in our system (not ideal).

Excessive drinking has numerous negative effects on your health including but not limited to high blood pressure (uh oh) , heart disease (yikes!), cancer (double yikes!) , gastrointestinal problems and even cognitive impairment (think difficulty remembering where you parked your car after happy hour).

But what about moderate drinking? Moderate drinkers consume one alcoholic beverage per day for women (two for men) according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (cheers!) . While moderate use of certain types of alcohol such as red wine might produce some benefits like reducing inflammation caused by chronic diseases (sounds interesting) , all forms of regular heavy or binge drinking increase your risk for medical conditions affecting every aspect of your bodily functions- including reproduction.

So if excessive drinking can cause these severe problems with numerous effects on human health worldwide (see charts below)

Health Consequences
Liver Cirrhosis

…it would make sense that it could interfere with the reproductive system too, right?

Does alcohol affect ovulation?

The short answer is yes. Excessive drinking can disrupt your body’s natural ovulation cycle, and infertility has been known to result from chronic drinking behaviours (uh-oh again).

Alcohol affects hormone secretion and regulation in some ways that reduce ovarian function. The hypothalamus a section of the brain responsible for regulating hormone production among other functions, regulates menstrual cycles through the process of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) as well as luteinizing hormone (LH). When alcohol negatively impacts this process, it can lead to changes in one’s menstrual cycle – so when you’re trying to conceive – these changes hinder implantation and successful spermatogenesis due to disruptions in hormonal balance (let’s get scientific!).

A study conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine concluded that women who drank four or more drinks per week had significantly reduced rates of conception than those who abstained ^(1) Additionally another research confirms hypothesis made by earlier existing studies – “increased consumption reduced fertility rate”^2.

Overall established point would be: you could still have trouble conceiving even if you are only a moderate drinker!

How much is too much?

So what exactly counts as excessive drinking? It may come as a surprise but there isn’t a universal definition; however according to ‘NHS choices’ website ‘moderate’ amounts include up to two standard alcoholic drinks per day on average for women ^(3).

However standard components consist of 12 oz beer (.355 liters), 5oz glass wine (150 ml), or 1 mixed cocktail containing hard liquor between (.6oz- 1.5 oz), depending on where bought’ (heads up before taking new year’s resolutions).

But keep in mind: everyone metabolizes alcohol differently based on various factors (height, weight, metabolism and overall physical health). So what might be considered ‘moderate’ for one person could be deemed excessive or vice versa.

Can alcohol affect male fertility too?

So far we’ve been talking about how alcohol affects ovulation in women. But what about men? Does it impact their fertility as well? The short answer is yes.

Alcohol can cause changes to the quality of sperm including reducing motility – meaning that they’re not moving correctly – and concentration.

A comprehensive review conducted on this topic revealed both acute and chronic alcohol consumption exhibit lower testosterone levels, compromising healthy development of reproductive system inducing infertility ^4. Heavy drinking over an extended period often leads to impotence (inability to maintain sufficient penile erections) which makes it difficult to achieve conception even though sperm counts are expectedly high^(2).

## Conclusion

While moderate drinking may have some potential benefits when enjoyed with good company and with precautions taken into consideration – let’s not overlook its notable negative effects on our bodies particularly within areas regarding hormones secretions/attributes decreasing chances of successful fertilization processes especially while trying for a baby (hopefully without complications!)

Ultimately- Pregnancy involves creating another life putting enough stresses /conditions you don’t need additional uncertainties ^(5) – Instead consider indulging in some happy mocktail concocting instead!Regardless however keep it simple: moderation is key!


[1] Barton et al. “Prospective Study of Alcohol Consumption And Ovulatory Dysfunction In Pre-Menopausal Women”. Epidemiology 17.1 (2006): pp20-28

[2] Harvard Health Publishing.”How Much Alcohol Is Too-Much!”.2022..

[3] NHS Choices. “Alcohol Units”. 2020.

[4] Kuchakulla, Malini et al. “Impact of Chronic Alcoholism on Male Fertility Hormone Secretion and Testis Histology” Journal of clinical medicine research vol. 8,11 (2016):814-820.

[5] Everett C., Mathiowetz V.”Pregnancy Effects On Hand Function: The Role Of Prior Medical/Physical Conditions”. American journal of occupational therapy : official publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association vol. 64 no9(2010): pp599-606.

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