New Study Says Dads-To-Be Should Stop Drinking 6 Months Before Conception

by Leah Groth
Sally Anscombe/Getty

Men who drink alcohol before conception are more likely to have a child born with a congenital heart defect, claims new study

Because life isn’t fair, as women, we are accustomed to being the ones who have to modify our behavior and choices when it comes to preparing for motherhood. Several years ago, researchers found direct links to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and various developmental and health problems, including congenital heart defects.

However, men are usually free to eat and drink whatever the heck they want whenever they want, because there has never been a connection between their habits and the health of their spawn — until now. According to a new study — the first of its kind — dads-to-be who drink alcohol during the three months leading up to conception are increasing their child’s chances of developing a congenital heart defect. Even more surprising, is that daddy’s pre-conception drinking has a much more significant impact than mommy’s when it comes to the defect.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that in comparison to men who didn’t drink during the three months leading up to conception, drinkers were 44 percent more likely to have their children born with congenital heart defects. Binge drinkers fared even worse, as dads-to-be who downed five or more drinks per occasion were 52 percent more likely. To put this in perspective, moms-to-be who hit the bottle either moderately or even binge-drank experienced just a 16 percent increase in chances compared to non-drinkers.

The most common birth defect, congenital heart diseases impact about 1.35 million babies every year. Even after surgical treatment, they can have an impact on a child’s future health, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease later life. They are also the main cause of perinatal death.

This study clearly supports previous research that alcohol does impact DNA in developing sperm. However, at this time researchers only can verify the link, and can’t explain why this is the case.

“Binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and dangerous behavior that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health,” study author Jiabi Qin, of Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China, explained in a statement.

Obviously, most people cannot predict when they are going to conceive. However, if possible, Qin suggests that “men and women planning a family should give up alcohol.” Specifically, men should refrain from boozing for at least six months prior to fertilization, while women should quit a year before. (Sorry, life still isn’t fair, ladies.)

More importantly, these new findings signify that potential fathers need to start taking into account that their health habits and drinking practices can impact the health of their children too.