While the investigation into how alcohol effects fertility is on-going, there is general concensus that moderate to heavy intake of alcohol can negatively effect fertility and delay conception.
Heavy drinking includes not only how much alcohol is consumed over a time period, but also how much is consumed at a time. More than 2 drinks per day or binge drinking more than 5 drinks at a time is considered to be heavy drinking.
For women, heavy drinking can cause increased incidence of heavy or irregular periods, can cause disruption in the hormones so the endometrial lining (where the embryo implants) is abnormal, or could prevent ovulation from occurring. Many studies show that heavy drinking increases the time it takes to become pregnant.
For men, studies show that heavy drinking of alcohol can reduce the quality, quantity, and motility (swimming ability) of sperm, lower testosterone levels and reduce libido.
For women and men it appears that light drinking (less than 5 drinks per week) doesn’t effect your fertility or ability to become pregnant. As a precaution, experts recommend light to no drinking of alcohol for all persons trying to conceive to maximize your chance of success in the shortest period of time.
Recreational Drug Use
Recreational drugs include marijuana, LSD, cocaine, speed, opiates, and heroin, among others. In women the risk of infertility is slightly increased as these drugs interfere with the hormones causing ovulation and regulating the menstrual cycle. If ovulation (release of an egg) is delayed or prevented, then pregnancy can’t result. If you or your partner smoke marijuana or use illicit drugs, it is recommended to stop during treatment and pregnancy to improve your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
In men, the effect of recreational drug use has been studied more completely. Marijuana and heroin use negatively alter sperm production so sperm quantity, quality, motility (swimming ability), and number of normally shaped sperm are lower. Marijuana use also interferes with testosterone production resulting in lower testosterone hormone levels and reduced libido. Cocaine use can also increase erectile dysfunction.
Anabolic steroids taken to increase muscle strength and growth have a devastating effect on male fertitliy. The steroids can cause the testes to shrink and sperm production to decrease dramatically. The good news is that once stopped, sperm production and testes size can rebound in about 4 months.
Prescription Drug Use
Many prescription drugs (blood pressure, hormone replacement, anti-depressives, among others) can have a negative effect on a man’s hormone and sperm production. When a semen analysis is performed, you’ll be asked a series of questions which include which medications and supplements you take. If the analysis is abnormal, we’ll discuss with you whether any of the medications may be contributing to the results. Oftentimes, medications can be changed to one that doesn’t affect sperm or hormone production. Also, short term use of opiates (pain medication) for a broken bone or following surgery will not negatively effect your fertility.
For women, we ask which medications or supplements you take regularly and occasionally. If any would interfere with your fertility treatment or impact a pregnancy, we’ll inform you immediately. Oftentimes a medication safer for fertility/pregnancy can be substituted for one that is less safe.
If you are concerned about any medications or supplements you or your partner are taking, please let our team know and we can provide additional information.
Occupation/Exposure to Toxic Substances/Temperatures
Certain occupations involve exposure to chemicals or temperatures that can negatively effect fertility for men and women. Exposure to pesticides, radioactive materials, industrial solvents, mercury, benzene, and heavy metals have a negative impact on sperm production and egg quality. Occupations at increased risk include bakers, drivers, welders, radiotherapists, agricultural workers, wood workers, and airport/military flight line workers. If you have a concern about the influence of your occupation/exposure to chemicals, please let our team know and we can address your concerns.
Exercise for some can be a great stress reliever and help to increase the “feel good” endorphins. Exercising also means you’re more likely to practice a healthy lifestyle that will improve your chances of success. The American Heart Association recommends everyone get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 30 minutes each day, 5 days/week. Working out “excessively”, more than an hour per day of strenuous exercise, can negatively effect hormone production in women and men.
During some fertility treatments you may be asked to alter the type and frequency of your work-outs for your safety. Some fertility medications may put a woman at a slightly increased risk for ovarian torsion (twisting). If necessary, we’ll inform you how to modify your exercise regimen so you can safely keep active.