When couples struggle to conceive, much of the onus is placed on the partner trying to get pregnant to make healthy life changes. Historically, little attention paid to the father’s overall health as a contributing factor to the success of the pregnancy. A slew of new evidence is showing this is a major oversight. Sperm matters — as do the health decisions of the man behind the sperm.
New research from Texas A&M found that the father’s lifestyle plays an even more significant role in successful pregnancy — specifically through IVF — than previously thought. The study found that successful found that pregnancies were less likely to be viable the more the father drank.
“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 said in a statement. “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 research team led by Dr. Michael Golding used mouse models to determine the effect of alcohol consumption by the father on the health and viability of IVF embryos. The team used three groups of mice — representing non-drinkers, moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers.
Findings proved that paternal alcohol consumption impeded implantation and led to less favorable IVF outcomes in the mouse models, disabusing the long-held idea that IVF success was primarily based on the mother’s health.
“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 said. “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.”
“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,” lead study author and Ph.D. candidate Alexis Roach said. “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.”
More research is needed to determine if the study results are repeatable in human populations, but Roach says it’s vitally important that their findings be available to the public so that alcohol use can be curtailed until after the pregnancy is established.
“It is important to remember that couples struggling with fertility who have chosen to pursue IVF are under intense emotional and financial pressure, which is associated with a feeling of helplessness,” Golding said.
“Our study demonstrates that drinking alcohol is an unrecognized factor that negatively impacts IVF pregnancy success rates. Therefore, as alcohol use is easily changed, our study identifies a shared action item that can empower the couple to work together toward their goal of becoming pregnant.”
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