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Alcohol reduces IVF success

22 October 2009
Appeared in BioNews 531

A study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School, US, has suggested that consumption of alcohol may be detrimental to chances of success in IVF treatment. Consumption of just six units of alcohol a week by both partners reduced the probability of conception by 26 per cent. The study particularly singled out apparent detrimental effects to drinking white wine in women and drinking beer for the male partners. In those women whose partner drank beer daily, a 30 per cent decrease in the chance of having a baby was identified.

The study, presented at the annual conference of the American Society for Assisted Reproduction (ASRM) in Atlanta this week, questioned 574 couples who underwent more than 5,300 cycles of IVF. Of these, half of the women questioned drank less than one alcoholic drink a week. The leader of the study, Dr Brooke Rossi, said of the findings that 'there are many factors why IVF fails and most of these patients have no control over. But how much they drink is something that they can change.'

The President of the UK's Royal College of Physicians, Professor Ian Gilmore, who is also Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, commented on the study: 'Emerging results from this large cohort of couples undergoing IVF underline the pervasive dangers of alcohol in relation to conception and pregnancy. They lend weight to the importance of giving clear and unambiguous advice to women who are pregnant, or hoping to become so, that they should avoid drinking alcohol. If there are difficulties in achieving conception this advice should apply to their partners as well.'

The finding provides further evidence that drinking alcohol may make it harder to conceive for couples even without a specific fertility issue. As Tony Rutherford, President of the British Fertility Society, told the press: 'For any lifestyle factor that affects IVF, it would be unusual for it not to also have an impact on couples trying naturally for a baby.' He added that 'these findings probably reinforce 'good practice' advice to drink no more than one or two drinks a week if you are worried about having a healthy baby. But it may be that if you are trying for a baby with IVF and want to maximise your chances of success, you may want to 'play safe' and not drink at all.' It appears from this study that this advice may apply to both partners.

Alcohol hinders having a baby through IVF, couples warned
The Guardian |  20 October 2009
IVF couples warned over drinking
BBC News Online |  20 October 2009
White wine 'cuts IVF success'
The Daily Telegraph |  20 October 2009
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