Cut out the alcohol

We all know that pregnant women need to lay off the sauce: but it’s also a very good move to cut down on your drinking at least three months before you try to become pregnant in the first place.

What is recommended?

You might be confused as to exactly what the guidelines are about drinking in pregnancy and with good reason; you may see newspaper articles suggesting that a few units a week is fine; friends may tell you they drank with no problems, some say you should drink no alcohol at all.  But the best advice is to avoid alcohol altogether, before conception and during pregnancy. That way, you are giving your baby the best start in life and you won’t be confused about what a ‘unit’ actually is.

Does alcohol really affect my likelihood of conceiving?

A number of studies suggest it does. The researchers haven’t yet established exactly how the drug – because alcohol is a drug – affects your body, but some feel that even ‘light drinking’ of up to five drinks a week can lower your chances.  Obviously, that doesn’t apply to everyone (plenty of babies are conceived after a drunken night out, after all) but it is worth bearing in mind if you want to maximise your fertility potential, particularly if you seem to be having problems conceiving, or have had problems before. There’s also been research showing that drinking over six units a week cuts down the success rate of IVF.

Should I warn my partner too?

Yes. Alcohol lowers testosterone levels and sperm quality and quantity – quite apart from its effects on men’s sexual performance! He probably doesn’t need to cut it out completely but certainly ought to keep well within the recommended limits.

How much should I cut down?

In terms of conceiving, studies show different amounts affecting your fertility. But if you’re planning on getting pregnant, it’s sensible to cut it out completely, in accordance with the NZ recommendations throughout  pregnancy; if you wait till you’ve got a positive test, you’ll already be a couple of weeks into your pregnancy while you’re still drinking. And an egg takes at least three months to mature in your uterus, so cutting out booze at least three months before you stop using contraception will give your baby the best chance possible.

Won’t the odd drink relax me and make me more likely to conceive?

It’s not quite the case that ‘if you just relax you’ll get pregnant’. At least one major study has disputed any links between stress and conception. But whilst the ‘odd drink’ really isn’t the end of the world don’t rely on it either.

And suppose I find I’m pregnant before I’ve done anything to cut down?

If it’s too late – don’t worry. Cut down to the recommended zero levels now, and you should be absolutely fine.