Is There a Connection between Alcohol, Drugs, and Male Infertility?
Men who are healthy produce millions of sperm every day. Despite a large number of sperm that is produced by a man who is in good health, the number of sperm that is actually able to fertilize an egg is very small.
Even when men produce what seems to be healthy sperm and their partners are fertile, it can take some couples over a year to get pregnant. One reason for this is that the sperm which is produced is often lacking in quality or quantity.
These couples will take longer to conceive and are more likely to have to use ART (artificial reproduction techniques) for pregnancy to happen.
Some men may have suboptimal sperm production due to a history of illness or a reproductive structural abnormality, however, some men will have low quality sperm that is caused by using alcohol or drugs.
Alcohol and Male Infertility
Men who are trying to father a child need to understand the direct connection between the consumption of alcohol and the health of their sperm. Avoiding alcohol is no longer just a concern for women who are trying to get pregnant.
Studies show that men need to be just as vigilant about alcohol as women are. While it can’t be said that all men who drink will have fertility problems, research shows that men who have difficulty conceiving can often trace this difficulty back to alcohol.
The Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Fertility
Alcohol reduces a man’s sperm count as well as lowers sperm quality. The reason for this is that alcohol hinders the body from absorbing zinc in the way it should.
Zinc is found in sperm and is a very important mineral that is needed to form the outer layer and tail of the sperm. Men who have low sperm counts will often have a zinc deficiency.
Sperm cells need to be formed correctly and have strong tails so they can penetrate through the cervical mucus and move on to fertilize the egg.
Several studies show that drinking alcohol can lead to the production of irregular sperm cells and have abnormal tails and heads.
These abnormal sperms are less able to fertilize the egg. If fertilization takes place, this low-quality sperm may create what is called a non-viable embryo and this can lead to miscarriage.
Performance Enhancing and Recreational Drugs and Male Fertility
Performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids can also affect male fertility. Anabolic steroids have been shown to lead to subfertility in males by modifying the concentrations of some important hormones that play a role in normal sperm production.
Studies indicate that the effects of using performance enhancing drugs can be reversed. Hormone levels will return to normal about 8 to 12 months after the drugs are discontinued.
Recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin can drastically impair the production of healthy sperm.
Another reason that performance enhancing and recreational drugs should be avoided is that they often lead to a decrease in sexual desire.
At the same time, these drugs cause an increase in ejaculatory problems and erectile dysfunction. Cocaine users are particularly affected as this drug can cause sperm abnormalities that are linked to birth defects.
If you and your partner are trying to conceive it’s important that you discontinue the use of any drugs that you’re taking that haven’t been prescribed to you by your doctor.
Healthy Sperm for Male Fertility
It’s up to you whether or not you choose to avoid the consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs while you and your partner are trying to get pregnant. Your doctor may bring up these issues if you’re not conceiving after one year.
The healthier your sperm are, the greater your chances of conceiving naturally.
Consider taking some steps to ensure that your sperm is in optimum condition:
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Eat a nutritious and healthy diet. Choose foods that are rich in antioxidants.
- Maintain a normal body weight. Studies show that obesity can have a negative effect on both sperm count and sperm mobility.
- Manage anxiety and stress. Stress can interfere with important hormones that are needed for normal sperm production.
- Exercise and stay in shape.
- Stop smoking. Men who smoke often have low sperm count.
- Avoid household chemicals and toxins.
- Avoid taking any unnecessary medications unless prescribed by your doctor.
Focusing on healthy sperm production is essential if you and your partner want to conceive naturally. This may mean making lifestyle changes that aren’t always easy to make.
If you consume alcohol frequently, start by drinking less. If you’re a drug user and can’t seem to stop using on your own, you may need to talk to your doctor about what you can do to stop using drugs.
Infertility is a problem that affects both men and women. Being aware of the factors that can lead to low quality and low quantity sperm is the first step in getting pregnant as naturally as possible.