Article image

Drinking alcohol has a significant negative impact on a father's sperm

Recent research from Texas A&M University has brought to light startling revelations about the impact of a father’s alcohol consumption on sperm and fetal development. The findings of Dr. Michael Golding’s lab, part of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, have reshaped our understanding of how long it takes for the negative effects of alcohol to dissipate from a father’s sperm.

Studying alcohol’s impact on sperm

The team discovered that the recovery process for sperm affected by alcohol is significantly longer than previously thought.

Dr. Golding explained, “When someone is consuming alcohol on a regular basis and then stops, their body goes through withdrawal. We discovered that a father’s sperm are still negatively impacted by drinking even during the withdrawal process, meaning it takes much longer than we previously thought for the sperm to return to normal.”

This extended duration of impairment has profound implications, particularly considering the risks associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS can lead to various developmental issues, including abnormal facial features, low birth weight, attention and hyperactivity problems, and poor coordination.

Reassessing paternal influence

Historically, the focus for FAS diagnosis has been solely on maternal alcohol consumption. Dr. Golding noted, “For years, there’s really been no consideration of male alcohol use whatsoever.” His research aims to fill this gap, revealing a significant paternal influence in alcohol exposure and fetal development.

Dr. Golding’s team uncovered that the withdrawal phase from alcohol causes oxidative stress in the liver, similar to the stress experienced during active drinking. This alcohol-induced stress sends signals throughout the male body, including the sperm and reproductive system.

“The reproductive system interprets that signal and says, ‘Oh, we are living in an environment that has a really strong oxidative stressor in it. I need to program the offspring to be able to adapt to that kind of environment.’ But the adaptations to the sperm aren’t beneficial — they lead to problems like FAS,” Golding elaborated.

Implications for expecting couples

Golding’s research is essential in shifting the conversation about responsibility for alcohol-related birth defects. He emphasizes that the psychological trauma and societal blame have traditionally been directed at mothers.

However, his findings suggest that fathers’ sperm also play a crucial role in preventing birth defects, particularly when alcohol is involved.

Dr. Golding advises couples planning to conceive to consider these findings seriously. Given that sperm generation takes around 60 days and the withdrawal process adds at least a month, he recommends that fathers abstain from alcohol for at least three months before conception.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to get a hard answer, but… my estimate would be to wait at least three months,” Golding advises.

In summary, the work of Dr. Golding and his team is a significant step in understanding and preventing alcohol-related birth defects caused by the fathers’ sperm. It broadens the scope of responsibility to include fathers, and also provides vital information for couples planning to conceive, potentially leading to healthier pregnancy outcomes and child development.

The full study was published in the journal Andrology.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and —–

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day