Wannabe parents better lay off the sauce if they wanna make babies.
And dads, this includes you: A new study has found that both mothers- and fathers-to-be should avoid drinking completely for at least six months before fertilization to protect their future children from congenital heart defects.
The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, says that a baby’s risk of getting congenital heart disease is 44% higher if the father drinks alcohol three months before impregnating his partner. For mom? The risk is 16% higher if she drinks three months before getting pregnant, compared with staying totally sober in the months leading up to pregnancy.
The scientists compiled decades of studies on the matter, which included 41,747 babies with congenital heart disease and 297,587 without. It’s the first meta analysis to examine the role of fathers — previous studies researching the link between alcohol and congenital heart disease have looked at prospective mothers’ roles. But even those had inconclusive results.
Congenital heart diseases are the most common birth defects, affecting about 1% of births per year, or 40,000 babies, in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The defects can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life and are the main cause of stillbirths.
Of course, binge drinking (five or more drinks per session) makes matters worse — with a 52% higher likelihood of these birth defects for men and 16% for women.
And, simply cutting back won’t necessarily improve the odds of having a healthy baby, says study author Dr. Jiabi Qin of Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University in Changsha, China.
“The relationship was not statistically significant at the lower quantities,” Qin says.
Hopeful parents are just going to have to swallow the hard truth: “Although our analysis has limitations … it does indicate that men and women planning a family should give up alcohol,” Qin says.
The findings are a good reminder that men aren’t off the hook when it comes to reproductive health. A 2017 study finds sperm counts in Western countries declined by more than 50% in less than 40 years. Experts say this is due to a host of reasons, from not exercising enough to exercising too much. Factors such as stress, diet and drinking too much can also damage sperm count.
Studies such as that one are “an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count, with the goal of prevention,” Dr. Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author, tells The Post.