According to researchers in Denmark, expectant mothers who consumed more than 4.5 alcoholic drinks a week are more likely to have sons with lower sperm counts than those who drank little or none at all.
The findings were announced at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome this week.
Doctors at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark investigated 347 men aged between 18 and 21 years old whose mothers took part in the “Healthy habits for two” study between 1984 and 1987.
The study showed that the sons of mothers who drank 4.5 or more drinks a week had an average sperm count of 25m per millilitre, compared with 40m per millilitre for those who were least exposed to alcohol in the womb. The World Health Organisation defines a normal sperm count as 20m per millilitre or more.
It is too early to say whether a mother’s alcohol consumption directly harms her son’s future sperm count but Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen who ran the study says “If further research shows that maternal alcohol consumption is a cause of reduced semen concentration in male offspring, then we are a bit closer to an explanation of why semen quality may have decreased during the last decades and why it differs between populations”
The government advises pregnant women to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy, though the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there is no evidence that a couple of units of alcohol once or twice a week will harm an unborn baby. It is however, widely known that exposure to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with ‘foetal alcohol syndrome’, a disorder that can cause growth abnormalities
The fathers’ alcohol consumption had no bearing on their sons’ sperm quality – oh great, so they have no excuse to cut down on their alcohol intake! What do you think? Is this just another reason to make mothers feel guilty or should we totally abstain from alcohol when pregnant?