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A Nip a Day Won't Nip Ability to Have Nippers

Study: Moderate drinkers got pregnant faster than teetotalers

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Moderate drinking does not interfere with a woman's ability to achieve pregnancy, a Danish study indicates.

In fact, nondrinking women took longer to become pregnant than those who had a drink or two a day, says a report in the December issue of the European journal Human Reproduction.

But the small group of women who exceeded the 14-drink-a-week intake that marks the upper boundary of moderate drinking had the longest wait of all, the report says.

The study used data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, which questioned almost 40,000 women between 1997 and 2000 about their alcohol intake before conception and how long it took them to become pregnant.

"Smaller studies have found that moderate drinking can affect fertility," says Mette Juhl, a research fellow with the Danish National Birth Cohort and lead author of the report. "We can say we found the opposite of what the smaller studies found."

That finding does not eliminate the possibility that alcohol intake can affect the ability to become pregnant, says Juhl, who trained as a midwife. "What we can't see in our data is whether there might be a high risk for a longer waiting time at specific days during the menstrual cycle," she says. "It might be during the days of ovulation. Maybe alcohol in those days, at the time of possible conception, might have a negative impact on fertility."

About half the women in the study became pregnant within two months of trying, but 15 percent had to wait more than a year. About 18 percent of the women who reported no alcohol intake had to wait more than a year, compared to 14 percent of those who reported a moderate alcohol intake. Only 1 percent of the women in the study said they had more than 14 drinks a week, and 22 percent needed more than a year to become pregnant.

Those results were adjusted to take account of medical conditions that can affect fertility, such as pelvic disease, age, smoking, and body weight. Older women, smokers, and those who were overweight had the longest waits.

American obstetricians can differ on their views about drinking and fertility. For example, Dr. Robert Welch, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wayne State University and a spokesman for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, says, "In preconceptional counseling, we recommend that they not drink, although an occasional glass of beer or wine will not hurt them."

"We tell them that moderate alcohol consumption -- one to two glasses of wine or beer or one alcoholic beverage a night -- will not affect their chances of pregnancy," says Dr. Bryan Cowan, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Mississippi and another ACOG spokesperson.

Drinking during pregnancy is a completely different story, Welch says. "During pregnancy, we recommend that they not drink, although an occasional glass of wine or beer might not hurt them," he says. Heavy drinking clearly is to be avoided, because "chronic heavy drinkers are known to have an increased miscarriage rate, and alcohol intake can be associated with birth defects."

What To Do

A woman who is trying to achieve pregnancy can ask her gynecologist about personal factors that could affect advice about alcohol intake.

Detailed information about preparing for pregnancy is offered by the Mayo Clinic. To learn what drinking a lot during pregnancy can do, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

SOURCES: Interviews with Mette Juhl, research fellow, Danish National Birth Cohort, Copenhagen, Robert Welch, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, and Bryan Cowan, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Mississippi, Jackson; December 2001 Human Reproduction
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