Think wine o’clock is stopping you having a baby? Fertility expert Jani White explains why having a little alcohol may be the best thing for your fertility
I got a phone call one day, from Michael Dooley, a renowned fertility consultant, who, in a rather posh and somewhat indignant voice, demanded ‘Jani White! What on earth is this advice I hear you are giving to your patients? Why in heaven’s name are you suggesting that it is okay to have alcohol – you know how hard we work to get across the message to avoid alcohol when you are trying to conceive!!’ (He really did speak with all those exclamation marks). I laughed, for the level of outrageous indignation was delivered with Michael’s rather splendid Irish humour, and although he was clearly concerned, I could hear the laughter in his voice.
With a corresponding chuckle I threw on my own most equally indignant pseudo-posh accent and replied ‘but Michael, I am not recommending alcohol – I am recommending Champagne! It’s golden! it’s uplifting! it’s effervescent!’ (I too, really do speak with all these exclamation marks).
Bubbles of deliciousness that bring you into a lovely brightened happy lightness – with Champagne you don’t get drunk, you get floaty….
Trying So Hard
Trying to conceive (TTC) can become an all consuming litany of ‘thou shall do this, thou shalt not do that’ – trying everything one knows to be right and good. And when month after month a conception is still not happening, it is easy to fall into a trap of feeling caught in the tyranny of trying – a tyranny of believing that if you can get just one more thing ‘right’ then it will surely happen. This is the tyranny of trying too hard.
All the shoulds and coulds never seem to end in conception. This process of trying too hard then in itself becomes something that engenders a detrimental stress in the journey to conception. For many couples, this can lead to an uncomfortable development of politics within the relationship, and it is not uncommon for the politics to trickle over into the spontaneity and ease of lovemaking.
Trying to conceive can become an all consuming litany of ‘thou shall do this, thou shalt not do that’
Definitely NOT helpful when you are trying to make babies.
The Fertile Fizz
The chemistry of attraction is the chemistry of conception.
This is what I call ‘The Fizz’; the pheromonal buzz that kicks off the cocktail of hormonal cascades that ignites your sexuality which in turn ignites your reproductive system into its peak performance. Getting ‘turned on’ is the very best way to amplify your capacity for conception.
What I call ‘The Fizz’ is the chemistry of attraction, the pheromonal buzz that kicks off the cocktail of hormonal cascades that ignites your sexuality
So when Mr Dooley asked me what on earth I was saying to my patients, I replied by explaining:
‘What I am recommending Michael is that our TTC couples keep a nice chilled bottle of bubbly in the fridge, so that when the stretchy mucous or LH surge appears, (the smiley face on the predictor kit), there is a happy treat awaiting. On that day she can text her lover and say (cue sultry voice) ‘hey baby, come on home early tonight’. Then get out the sexy lingerie, light a few candles, share a bottle of bubbly, and in the joyful glow of that golden effervescence, shag each other senseless for the sheer fun of it.’
There was a very long pause, and our Michael simply said, ‘Ahhh, I think I should quite like to borrow that advice.’
Lightening the intensity
What I hope to help impart to anyone who is TTC is that one of the most important things about baby making, particularly around ovulation, is that it is always best if it is indeed ‘lovemaking’ – a romp – wildly passionate or cosily embracing and anything and everything in between. The important thing is that it is light and fun and has spontaneity and is all about the pursuit of each other’s pleasure.
When sexual congress becomes a sperm delivery procedure, this can lead to many heavy and complicated feelings that can begin to wear down and weight a couple with the aforementioned politics that can begin to impose a real burden into the relationship.
When you are Trying-To-Conceive is alcohol really bad? Not so bad? Or not bad at all?
There is so much conflicting evidence around alcohol and fertility, and the truth is – no one really knows what the definitive answer is.
It is definitively understood that the detrimental effects of overconsumption of alcohol are bad for you, and we categorically state that getting drunk is not ever good. For anyone, anytime. Getting drunk is especially bad if you are trying to make babies.
When sexual congress becomes a sperm delivery procedure, this can wear down a couple
The effects of overconsumption are detrimental to all your organs, not just your liver, though of course this is the organ that will be most affected as this is the processing house that orchestrates and manages the detoxing mechanisms for the body.
Excessive consumption of alcohol will also significantly tax the kidneys and the spleen-pancreas, compromising the immune system, which will affect the quality of the blood, affecting the circulation and the heart.
Alcohol affects all your organs, and this will generate a knock-on effect on the function of your endocrine system. It’s the endocrine glands that control the delicate interplay of the hormonal balances that drive your sexuality and reproductivity. Drinking will have a negative impact on your organs, and it is without question the very best policy to avoid cover-consumption of alcohol if you are trying-to-conceive.
Binge drinking is bad for sperm
This is no myth, as a recent study in Denmark has shown. The evidence in this study drew a clear correlation between the overconsumption of alcohol with decreased sperm parameters:
Men who drank around five units a week had reduced sperm counts and impaired sperm quality. This alcohol damage was even more pronounced in men who drank more than 25 units a week.
However, the study also shows that there is a small window whereby the sperm are seemingly not affected by alcohol:
‘It seems that drinking between one and five units per week is the magic number for healthy sperm, as – interestingly – abstinence was also linked to poorer sperm quality.’
drinking between one and five units per week is the magic number for healthy sperm
So guys, the take-home story is that getting drunk will decimate your swimmers. Binge drinking is the worst thing you can do, so don’t think that if you are dry all week and then have just one blow out this will balance things out. Be assured that with ‘just one blow out’ it will take your body significant time to replenish the millions and millions of sperm that will expire in the flush of getting drunk.
In addition, the detoxing-power your systems will now need to focus towards the clean up from the binge will take energy and power away from sperm production. The sperm you will produce in the wake of alcohol consumption will not be as healthy. Toxins, not only alcohol, but any kind of drug – A, B or C class, caffeine, nicotine, as well as preservatives and additives – will affect the development of the sperm.
Healthy strong swimmers do not only rely on good nutrition to be as well formed and motile as possible, they also rely on an absence of toxins in the body. It is not an outrageous analogy to respect that getting drunk is in fact a kind of sperm genocide.
Does alcohol affect female fertility?
Here, the jury is truly out. No-one knows, and at this stage all we can definitively reiterate is the message that getting drunk will without question be harmful to your general health, affecting all your body systems, undermining your immune system and generating a knock-on effect to your fertility.
In fact, in a review of the evidence looking at the impact of lifestyle factors on reproductive performance published in the journal Human Reproduction, researchers concluded the following detrimental effects of over-use of alcohol:
‘The mechanisms by which alcohol could impair conception are unclear but may include an alcohol-induced rise in estrogen, which reduces FSH secretion suppressing folliculogenisis [development of the follicle] and ovulation. It may also have a direct effect on the maturation of the ovum, ovulation, blastocyst development and implantation.’
The better we take care of our internal environment, the better we generate the right conditions for the everyday-miraculous conception processes to happen. A nutrient-rich toxin-free approach to what we input is perhaps the most important way we can enhance our fertility. That, coupled with quality, rest and a stress free approach to fun lovemaking is the best recipe for conception.
Yet, the Nurses Health Study was begun in 1976 and has collected over 80 million pieces of data about women’s health since its inception. Its findings, in respect of the effects of alcohol on consumption, show that ‘drinking a daily glass of wine, beer or spirits did not seem to hinder getting pregnant.’
drinking a daily glass of wine, beer or spirits did not seem to hinder getting pregnant
In their book, The Fertility Diet, Jorge Chavarro and Walter C.Willet explain that although it is a given that ‘alcohol will not promote fertility’, the evidence from the NHStudy shows that ‘there is no evidence that an alcoholic drink taken now and then will inhibit fertility.’
Fizz it up
By no means do I wish to impart that alcohol is good for fertility. Getting drunk is bad.
Overconsumption will have a detrimental affect on fertility. The overall consensus, in the face of the wide range of inconclusive studies and lack of consistent evidence, is that no more than five units a week seems to be the appropriate recommendation for both men and women.
no more than five units a week seems to be the appropriate recommendation for both men and women
It is however my wish to help TTC couples to realise that trying too hard is fundamentally detrimental, and that being 100 per cent good 100 per cent of the time is not only unrealistic, but also potentially invests an unnecessary stress into a relationship that ideally should have an uncomplicated spontaneous flow of hot and horny desire between two people who fancy each other.
I do wish to impart that having fabulous sex is the very best way to get pregnant, and that by adding in a little of the gentle lubrication of mood enhancing relaxation that a mild intoxicant at a moderate level can bring is not such a bad thing.
The key message is a very moderate quantity of very good quality – nourish not only your body, but also your hearts and minds with the joyful ease of relaxed lovemaking.
The most important ingredient to lovemaking is the love. Focusing love into the sensual, sexual connection with our lover is the sure-fire way to enhance our fertile capacities. Adding a little glow to the recipe is a fine way to take the edge out of the tensions that can surround the emphasis of trying-to-conceive. Trying to conceive should be fun.
Jani White has been working within the Fertility and Pregnancy world for more than 20 years and without question, when asked what she does for a living will always reply ‘Hormones!’ Her specialist Central London practice is where her heart lies, and when she is not off lecturing internationally she can be found tramping on her beloved Heath, dogs gambolling alongside as she plans her next book. Watch out for the very soon to be published, (no prizes for guessing) The Fertile Fizz, first in a four book series.