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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — For men looking to have a child with their partner through in vitro fertilization (IVF), scientists say alcohol may be the worst thing you can consume during this process. A team at Texas A&M University finds that drinking reduces the success rate of IVF treatments, leading to more financial and emotional stress for the couples looking to conceive.

The road to getting pregnant can be a tough one for many hopeful couples that struggle with fertility. As such, more and more people are turning to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like IVF. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the United States, close to two percent of all babies born are conceived using ART, which translates to one in 50 babies in 2021, according to their data. Dr. Michael Golding, who runs the lab that conducted this new study, believes that these statistics are telling a bigger story.

“We say to the woman, ‘you need to be careful of what you eat. You need to stop smoking. You need to be doing all these different things to improve fertility,’” Golding says in a university release. “We don’t say anything to the man, and that’s a mistake, because what we’re seeing here is that the couple’s odds of success with their IVF procedure are increasing simply by addressing both parents’ health habits.”

The more men drink, the worse the odds of conception are

To do the work, Golding and the team used a mouse model to determine the effects of a potential father’s drinking habits on IVF success. They included a control group of sober mice to act as males who don’t drink. As for the drinking mice, one group simulated men who drink regularly but within legal limits and the final group simulated men who drink chronically and exceed the legal limit by one-and-a-half times. Results show that the more a man drinks before giving sperm for IVF, the less likely the procedure works.

“Seeing the negative effects in both the legal limit group and the group drinking at one and a half times the legal limit revealed that as alcohol dose increases, things get worse,” Golding explains. “That really surprised me. I didn’t think that it would be that cut and dry. That really emphasized that even very modest levels of exposure were breaking through and having an impact on conception, implantation, and overall IVF pregnancy success rates.”

Study first author Alexis Roach, a PhD candidate that helps Golding conduct research, says that their work goes against the current narrative that only seems to focus on the mother’s part role in IVF.

“The most important aspect of this research is that it makes it clear that everybody plays a role in achieving successful pregnancy outcomes, even though the general assumption is that it’s just women,” Roach says. “The most important thing to take away from this is that if you’re a male considering having a family, abstain from alcohol until your wife gets pregnant.”

Golding’s lab is now researching fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which occur when a baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb. He hopes to provide a more in-depth understanding of fetal development by including the role that the father plays and thinks that the next overall step involves getting these findings out to couples considering IVF to start their family.

The findings appear in the journal Molecular Human Production.

About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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