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  • When many people think of alcohol and fertility, it’s related to women drinking during pregnancy. We know there are risks involved with drinking while pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. But what are the effects of alcohol on male fertility?

    Does Alcohol Affect Male Fertility?

    Alcohol can affect male fertility in many ways. It can lower testosterone levels and alter the quality and quantity of sperm a male produces. Heavy drinking changes the way that the male reproductive system communicates and operates. 

    The male reproductive system is made up of the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes (testicles). These three parts of the body form the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis.

    The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that produces hormones necessary for reproduction. 

    Interference With Hormone Production

    One sex hormone, called the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), travels to the anterior pituitary gland, just below the hypothalamus. The GnRH activates the production of the luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). 

    The LH is what causes Leydig cells in the testes to make testosterone, which stimulates sperm production. The FSH helps the sperm mature.

    To have fertile sperm, a man needs to have healthy testicles and a properly functioning reproductive system. Abusing alcohol interferes with hormone production and causes health problems that can lead to infertility. 

    Drinking too much can even cause infertility in otherwise healthy men.

    How Alcohol Affects Male Fertility

    Some studies of men with alcohol addiction found that they release fewer gonadotropins, which are essential to the process of reproduction. This deficiency leads to lower sex hormone levels. 

    As a result, their bodies make less testosterone, and their sperm isn’t as healthy.

    Other research has found increased gonadotropins and estradiol (a form of estrogen) with low levels of testosterone. While some estradiol is necessary for male reproduction, too much estrogen can reduce testosterone levels. 

    Alcohol also affects male fertility and testosterone levels by:

    • causing early ejaculation or fewer ejaculations
    • altering how sperm moves (possibly causing azoospermia, or immobile sperm)
    • changing the shape or size of sperm
    • increasing prolactin, which can decrease sex drive or cause erectile dysfunction
    • shrinking the testicles, which can cause impotence (inability to get an erection or ejaculate) or infertility

    Regular heavy alcohol intake can make you less likely to have sex because you don’t feel like it. It lowers your libido (desire to have sex). Not having sex doesn’t make you less fertile, but it makes you less likely to reproduce.

    Moderate Drinking & Male Fertility

    Most research supports that male fertility and testosterone levels can be profoundly affected by long-term heavy alcohol use. There isn’t a lot of evidence that drinking moderately causes problems with male fertility. But there is some.

    A 2014 study by the BMJ found that men who regularly drank five drinks per week had fewer healthy sperm than those who drank less. The study suggests that regular drinking, even in moderate amounts, can affect male fertility.

    Problems With In-Vitro Success

    Moderate alcohol consumption can also make in-vitro fertilization (IVF) less effective. 

    During IVF, a man’s sperm is used to fertilize the woman’s egg in a lab. Research shows a lower IVF success rate when the man drinks in the month before treatment. The chance of success is even lower if he drinks the week of sperm collection.

    Alcohol Abuse & Male Fertility

    In the BMJ study, men who drank a high amount of alcohol experienced a more profound effect on their sexual function and fertility than those who drank moderately. 

    Alcohol abuse and addiction are likely to affect your hormone levels, testosterone production, and the quality of your sperm. The more you drink, the worse the problem can get.

    If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, contact us today to learn about our treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    BMJ Journals - Habitual alcohol consumption associated with reduced semen quality and changes in reproductive hormones...
    National Center for Biotechnology Information - Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?
    National Center for Biotechnology Information - The role of estradiol in male reproductive function
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction
    US National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Prolactin Levels

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 17, 2022
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