Q. My husband and I are big wine drinkers. We enjoy wine with our meals regularly. If we are planning to conceive, is this dangerous? Obviously I would not be having wine while pregnant, but what are the implications for both of us beforehand? Can it reduce the chances?
A. I understand your dilemma, being a wine lover myself. There are health risks (and also some benefits) of consuming alcohol on a regular basis. I guess it all depends on exactly how much you consume and what kind of physical shape you are in. If you drink a lot, you may want to start cutting down the wine consumption to a glass a day for both of you. Too much alcohol may depress optimum egg and sperm production.
If you are keeping track of your ovulation schedule, try to avoid drinking until you know whether or not you are pregnant. Once you do become pregnant, it will probably be easy to give up wine and alcoholic beverages– the horror-mones of pregnancy usually enforce that with morning sickness that lasts all day, or by completely changing your appetite and taste palate.
Q. I just found out that I am pregnant. About two days before ovulation, my husband and I attended a wedding during which he drank quite a bit. I am worried about how this may have affected his sperm. Are we now at an increased risk for something being wrong with our baby or a miscarriage? Thanks.
A. I know that excessive alcohol consumption can depress sperm production, but I'm not sure about affecting the quality of sperm.
If it's any consolation, it takes a pretty strong and spunky sperm to make the long trek to the egg and then to break through the outer barrier. Also, many couples (my husband and I included) have become pregnant after a few too many drinks and had perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies.
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Q. I conceived in mid-December and attended many gatherings during the holidays in which I consumed alcohol on a regular basis. I found out I was pregnant on New Year’s. I have not had any alcohol since. Will this affect my unborn baby? Some have recommended an abortion.
A. I think an abortion would be a little drastic in your case. Almost every one of my girlfriends who has borne a child had at least one (if not several) episodes of alcohol consumption during early pregnancy-, mostly because they had no idea they were pregnant. It also seems that lots of people become pregnant while on vacation, which lends itself to the more-than-occasional cocktail.
If you are mentally flogging yourself for an incidental cocktail or two, try to let it go. After all, what's done is done.
Q. I found out that I am pregnant not too long ago. I did a lot of drinking before I figured out I was pregnant. Is that something I should be worried about with the baby?
A. It happens. There's not much you can do now. What's done is done. See the other consumed alcohol question for more details.
I'm sure you already know it's wise to abstain from the use of alcohol (and drugs) during pregnancy to help produce the healthiest baby possible. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, do see a doctor immediately.
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Q. I am six months pregnant. Once in a while, like at our New Year’s celebration, I drank about 3 oz. of watered-down Irish cream. Another time I sipped approximately 3 oz. of beer. Is that okay?
A. Although doctors usually won't condone any alcohol consumption during pregnancy, I think small, occasional doses are fine. It's alcoholic mothers or binge drinkers who have real problems with fetal birth defects due to alcohol poisoning. A doctor wouldn't want to say okay to one drink, because sometimes that's all it takes for an alcoholic to justify just one more, and one more, etc.
During the end of my second pregnancy I would occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner. If I went out to dinner or if I was feeling really uncomfortable, I felt I deserved it.
Q. I'm worried that I may be pregnant because I had unprotected sex. At the time my partner and I were VERY intoxicated. With so much alcohol consumed, is it more likely that I won't be pregnant?
A. If you consume large amounts of alcohol right before and/or during your regular ovulation period (usually 12 to 14 days after the first day of a period), your fertility chances do decrease. But, if you have already ovulated and then had the sex and alcohol, the alcohol would have no effect on your chances for conceiving. The egg is free-floating and not connected to your blood supply. This placental blood transfer only happens after fertilization and egg implantation (about two weeks after conception). Same story for the sperm – what's previously been stored in the testes (for a few days) will not be affected by the alcohol consumed at the time of ejaculation.
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Q. Can consuming alcohol cause cramping if you are pregnant?
A. It's possible, but not all that common. In fact, usually just the opposite is true. Several OB/GYNs I know will prescribe a glass of wine just after an amniocentesis to prevent or relax uterine cramping. Other than the occasional glass of wine, I don't recommend consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Excessive drinking has been linked to low birth weight, brain damage and birth defects.
Q. I am used to having a few drinks in the evening before we eat supper. This has been my routine for a while now. My husband and I would like to have another child. I have been reading that consuming alcohol may affect the hormones that assist with fertility. After one month of trying, I am not pregnant. I am 38 and overweight. I am willing to quit drinking to get pregnant. How long does it take for the hormones to get back to normal? I've quit for a month now.
A. It's true that alcohol consumption can depress ovum and sperm production, making conception less likely. If you (and your husband) quit drinking for a month or more, you should have the effects of the alcohol out of your system.
Don't be discouraged about not becoming pregnant right away. There's only one small window of opportunity each month and several conditions need to be met in order for conception to occur. Sometimes it seems that planned pregnancies can take forever, but one month is really nothing in the scheme of things. It took me over a year of "trying" to conceive with one of my planned pregnancies.