Alcohol and Your Reproductive Health
Long term and short term effects of drinking
Alcohol affects all aspects of our reproductive systems, both directly and indirectly and can risk our reproductive health. The more alcohol you drink and the more you drink alcohol the greater the adverse affects on the reproductive system.
Our Reproductive Systems
Our reproductive systems have three basic components – the brain, the pituitary gland and the ovaries in women and testes in men.
In our brains the hypothalamus produces and releases a hormone into the blood vessels that connect the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland. In response, the pituitary gland produces and releases two more hormones that influence the function of the ovaries and the testes.
In women, the hormones trigger the release of eggs (ovulation) and the production and release of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
In men, the hormones trigger the maturation of sperm and the production and release of the hormone testosterone. These hormones then circulate in the blood back to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to regulate the further production and release of hormones.
The affects of alcohol
Drinking alcohol affects all three basic components in the body’s reproductive system – the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the ovaries and testes – both directly and indirectly.
The adverse effects of alcohol increase in-line with the amount and frequency you drink, so the more you drink alcohol and the more alcohol you drink, the greater the damage.
Affects on men
- Alcohol reduces the amount of testosterone in the blood – and increases the breakdown of testosterone in the liver, which in turn also reduces the amount of testosterone in blood. The testosterone can also be broken down to an oestrogen hormone, which may cause men’s breasts to increase in size.
- Heavy consumption of alcohol can cause male fertility problems.
- Drinking alcohol can also decrease sex drive and performance.
Affects on women
- Drinking heavy or excessive amounts of alcohol affects a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation. This makes it difficult for her to conceive a baby.
However, the negative effects of alcohol on reproduction are readily reversible if you stop or even reduce drinking.
If you are planning a pregnancy, please visit the Parents section of this website for more information and practical tips for parents to be. This website also provides more information and facts about alcohol and the risks of alcohol to your health, including the affect of alcohol on the pancreas, heart and liver.