Alcohol & Sperm Health

Top 5 Reasons To Skip Alcohol for Sperm Health

It’s common knowledge that mothers need to avoid alcohol before and during pregnancy. It causes significant developmental defects and low birth weight. However, anyone hardly talks about the alcohol consumption of a potential father.

This notion may be less obvious because the baby is not directly affected by alcohol levels of the father’s blood, but it may matter. Alcohol and sperm health are interlinked, and potential fathers should be mindful of their alcohol intake during preconception periods.

This article explains the effects of alcohol on male reproductive health and sperm parameters.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm Health?

Alcohol and sperm health has been studied extensively. The myriad of research papers provides substantial evidence for detrimental sperm parameters.

#1 Alcohol May Diminish Sperm Production

Increased blood alcohol levels may decrease sperm production, leading to a lower sperm count.

Research suggests that men with excessive alscohol intake may be at higher risk for very low or even no sperm counts (azoopermia) on semen analysis.

#2 Alcohol May Reduce Sperm Motility

Some studies suggest that alcohol may reduce sperm motility, especially those who engage in excessive alcohol drinking.

#3 Alcohol May Damage DNA in Sperm Cells

Alcohol may lead to DNA damage in sperm cells. It can produce toxic chemicals in the body that can affect DNA structure and integrity. Alcohol may also affect your body’s ability to repair damaged DNA, further contributing to unhealthy sperm.

Alcohol also affects your body’a ability to absorb vitamin B12, an important component of DNA synthesis. Deficient or damaged DNA may make fertilization impossible or result in the loss of a pregnancy.

#4 Alcohol May Affect Normal Structure Of Sperm Cells

Men who drink heavily have a higher proportion of sperm with structural abnormalities.

Scientists have observed curling of tail around the sperm cell, elongation of midpiece, or damage to the head of sperm cells. These defective cells cannot swim or achieve fertilization, leading to male infertility.

#5 Alcohol May Decrease Semen Volume

Heavy alcohol use may reduce the performance of accessory glands in the body, leading to decreased semen production and lower ejaculate volume.

Healthy sperm need the nutrients in semen to maintain sperm health. For instance, your sperm cells need zinc for DNA protection, which is present in semen. Excessive alcohol intake may lead to inadequately semen production.

Does Alcohol Impact Male Reproductive Tract?

The influence of alcoholic beverages is not only limited to your semen parameters. It may also extend to your reproductive tract. The ethanol in alcohol may suppresse your immune system and make you prone to infections.

Higher alcohol consumption increases your risk of urethritis, an infection of the urethra. Similarly, if you get an infection of the prostate gland (prostatitis), it may lessens your production of semen.

Alcohol may also increase your risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by increasing the chances you’ll engage in risky sexual behaviout. These infections are capable of impairing sperm formation and transport to the vagina.

Another effect of excessive alcohol use is that it can throw off the hormonal balance of the body. Heavy alcohol consumption can decrease your testosterone levels. Since testosterone is responsible for sperm health and production, it sets a stage for male infertility.

How Long After Quitting Drinking Will Sperm Improve?

The good news is that alcohol and sperm health have a reversible relationship. If you stop drinking to excess, your sperm health will likely improve with time. One study suggests that it takes roughly three months for your sperm production to get back to normal after quitting.

Alcoholics who have a long history of high alcohol intake may develop liver damage. In these cases, male fertility becomes a lot more complicated. Your body has many other issues to deal with; so, it may be harder to regain fertility levels.

How Much Booze Is Too Much For Male Fertility?

There is a grey area regarding the quantity of alcohol you can consume. Not everyone who drinks alcohol faces male infertility.

Alcoholic beverages have a variable concentration of alcohol in them. Beer typically has around 3-5% of liquor, while whiskey or vodka often contains up to 40% alcohol. This difference in percentage makes it challenging to be mindful of alcohol consumption.

Moderate intake is generally safe, but binge-drinking and prolonged alcohol intake daily can be detrimental. Some data suggest that moderate intake for a short duration may even raise your testosterone levels and improve semen quality.

Heavy drinking affects are more noticeable. For instance, heavy drinkers may experience testicle shrinkage and infertility.

So, the take-home points regarding alcohol and sperm are:

  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Do not indulge in binge-drinking.
  • Do not consume more than four drinks per day.
  • Never allow your alcohol consumption to exceed 14 units per week.
  • Always consult your medical practitioner about alcohol consumption—it can affect factors other than reproductive health.
  • Take a semen analysis test occasionally to check if your fertility levels reflect any changes in alcohol use.
  • If you experience low sperm parameters, try significantly decreasing or abstaining from alcohol.

References

  1. Finelli, R., Mottola, F., & Agarwal, A. (2021). Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Male Fertility Potential: A Narrative Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(1), 328. doi:10.3390/ijerph19010328
  2. Jensen, Tina Kold et al. “Alcohol and male reproductive health: a cross-sectional study of 8344 healthy men from Europe and the USA.” Human reproduction (Oxford, England) vol. 29,8 (2014): 1801-9.
  3. Ricci, E et al. “Alcohol intake and semen variables: cross-sectional analysis of a prospective cohort study of men referring to an Italian Fertility Clinic.” Andrology vol. 6,5 (2018): 690-696.
  4. Ricci, Elena et al. “Semen quality and alcohol intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Reproductive biomedicine online vol. 34,1 (2017): 38-47.
  5. La Vignera, Sandro et al. “Does alcohol have any effect on male reproductive function? A review of literature.” Asian journal of andrology vol. 15,2 (2013): 221-5.
  6. Van Heertum, Kristin, and Brooke Rossi. “Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?.” Fertility research and practice vol. 3 10. 10 Jul. 2017
  7. Sermondade, N., Elloumi, H., Berthaut, I., Mathieu, E., Delarouzière, V., Ravel, C., & Mandelbaum, J. (2010). Progressive alcohol-induced sperm alterations leading to spermatogenic arrest, which was reversed after alcohol withdrawal. Reproductive biomedicine online, 20(3), 324–327. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2009.12.003