There are so many jokes floating around about mom wine culture, and it’s no different for fertility. Tracking fertility and hoping to get pregnant are incredibly stressful, and many of us love to enjoy a glass of wine or a margarita to help take the edge off. But when trying to conceive, many women worry about everything that goes into their bodies, leading those who drink alcohol to wonder if it’s okay to drink while trying to conceive.
We all know popping bottles while you’re pregnant is a no-no, but there are a lot of questions around how it impacts fertility. It begs the question: can alcohol negatively impact a person’s ability to conceive?
If you’re confused about what you should be putting in your body during your conception journey, we’re here to help. We’re answering all of the most important questions about drinking while trying to conceive (TTC) a baby.
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Do I Need to Stop Drinking While Trying to Conceive?
Here’s the thing about trying to get pregnant…there’s only so much you can control.
After all, when you’re looking for ways to track ovulation, you’re still going to end up with more of an “ovulation window” rather than a concrete moment in time where you’re guaranteed to get pregnant.
Because of that uncertainty, the easiest answer to whether you should drink while trying to conceive is that it’s best to avoid it.
But that doesn’t mean you should fret if you’ve been drinking or if you would like to continue. Let us explain further because this is a nuanced subject.
The Case for Avoiding Alcohol While TTC
In an article from Jefferson Health, Dr. Mara Thur addresses the fact that while moderation might be key, there’s also no reliable information about “safe alcohol levels” during the conception process.
Since there’s no way to know with absolute certainty that a person is or is not pregnant in the first couple of weeks after ovulation, and since we don’t know what alcohol levels are safe, some experts say it’s best to err on the side of caution and abstain from drinking while TTC.
Here’s their reasoning: the first few weeks of development for a baby are crucial, as vital organs like their brain are beginning to form. Without knowing safe levels of alcohol consumption, some experts worry that alcohol intake, no matter how early it is, could harm the success of these developments.
If someone consumes too much while pregnant (and how much is unclear and varies from person to person), their baby could also suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). While this is normally only seen in cases of long-term excessive drinking while pregnant, that isn’t always the case.
According to the Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership with Duke University, even one instance of binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks at a time) during early pregnancy may cause the negative effects often attributed to FAS, such as mental and physical abnormalities, in some pregnancies. Are you seeing where this sounds like something to take seriously, and yet, is also a bit abstract?
Recent research suggests that there may be a genetic component that makes mothers more susceptible to this outcome, but since we don’t know what genetic markers we have, the safest answer is still to abstain from drinking.
This is why the CDC generally recommends hopeful parents stop drinking while trying to conceive. And yet, many doctors will encourage moderation with alcohol while TTC and not complete abstinence from drinking. Stick with us.
The Case for Continuing Healthy Recreational Alcohol Consumption While TTC
Here’s the thing. Trying to conceive can be stressful, and many families choose not to share that they’re trying. And most of us know from experience what happens if you don’t drink in a social situation where you typically would–everyone will ask if you’re pregnant.
These situations can put undue stress on people who would typically enjoy a glass of wine. In fact, 26 – 41% of people tend to consume alcohol while trying to get pregnant.
So while official recommendations from the CDC say to abstain, some studies suggest it’s appropriate to drink in moderation only. If trying to conceive, doctors often say to stick to one drink per evening, or if you’re at an event where you would generally drink multiple drinks, spread your consumption out over hours, and don’t finish more than 2 drinks in 4-5 hours.
All-day drinking is not recommended.
If you’re tracking ovulation or going through IVF and choose to continue drinking occasionally, you also have the ability to moderate based on where you are in your cycle. You could, for instance, consume alcohol recreationally before ovulation but abstain between ovulation and either your period or a positive pregnancy test.
Can Drinking Cause Infertility?
When a person is in the middle of infertility treatment, it’s not unusual for them to wonder whether certain lifestyle choices might make the situation worse.
During my infertility journey, for example, I continually reflected on what I’d done in the past and could do in the future to increase my chances of getting pregnant.
One of the most common questions fertility specialists hear is: will drinking while trying to conceive make the situation worse?
The answer? It depends on how much alcohol you’re consuming.
During a 2014 study, scientists proved women who consume more than 4 drinks a week could have a higher chance of miscarriage. Drinking more than 10 alcoholic beverages a week can also decrease the likelihood of clinical pregnancy.
What about Men? Is Male Drinking While Trying to Conceive Bad?
Many people wonder if it’s only moms who need to be concerned about their alcohol intake. But drinking while trying to conceive may impact male fertility, as well.
Male drinking while trying to conceive is a common factor in issues with sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology. While occasionally imbibing in a beer or cocktail isn’t likely to cause a problem, men who participate in binge drinking or excessive drinking could struggle with conception.
Another way of looking at this statistic is that anyone who routinely raises their blood alcohol concentration to 0.08% can be considered a binge drinker.
Does the Type of Alcohol You’re Drinking Make a Difference?
So, listen, I tend to plant myself firmly on the “But wine is essentially just grapes” side of things – but does that logic actually work?
Realistically, when it comes to raising your blood alcohol levels, alcohol is alcohol. Sure, some is stronger than others, but if whether you’re getting your BAC above .08 with one quad Belgian beer or with 3 glasses of wine, the fact remains that you’re still putting this amount of alcohol into your system.
While researchers conclude that women who drink wine tend to get pregnant more quickly than those who drink beer or spirits, any type of alcohol can be potentially problematic in the circumstances outlined from the studies discussed above.
Whether you’re drinking wine while trying to conceive or taking shots of Patron, alcohol is alcohol at the end of the day. It all comes with the same level of risk.
What About Caffeine? Is Drinking Coffee While Trying to Conceive a No-No?
I’m not a complete monster, so I solemnly swear I’m not about to tell you that drinking coffee while trying to conceive is off-limits. What I will say, however, is that you might want to practice–there’s that word again–moderation.
Research shows women who drink three or more cups of coffee a day are at risk for a higher chance of miscarriage.
To be safe, doctors recommend limiting your coffee and caffeine intake to 200mg a day – also known as 1-2 cups of coffee.
We recommend doing the same during your TTC journey, if for no other reason than so you don’t get pregnant and have to wean your body to lower amounts of caffeine at the same time.
Faking Everyone Out: Hiding Your “Drinking” While TTC
Imagine this scenario for a moment: you’re in the middle of a big corporate event and your teammate is trying to buy you a drink. You might choose to refuse entirely, but if that’s out of character and you’re concerned it’ll be noticed, doing so might make you uncomfortable. There’s a good chance you’re not going to want to discuss your fertility journey and lack of drinking with someone at work yet.
If you don’t feel like explaining your “not drinking while trying to conceive” situation, there are a few tried-and-true techniques you can use to “hide” your drinking (or non-drinking, really) while trying to get pregnant.
Something to remember, though, is that you don’t HAVE to give an excuse about why you’re not drinking. It’s okay to drink a Sprite or Ginger Ale and just roll with it.
But if you don’t want to just say you aren’t drinking, there are other options:
- Order a Clear “Cocktail”: As you slide up to the bar, ask the bartender to make you some type of drink and serve it to you in a cocktail glass. Whether you spend the night nursing club soda and lime or just straight water, no one will know the difference.
- Always Have a Drink in Your Hand: We all know that person who’s sure to notice when your drink has run out. To avoid having them continually trying to grab you drinks, make sure there’s always something in your hand or nearby.
- Aren’t You Getting Over a Cold?: Is there someone in your group who always wants to try what everyone else is drinking? Keep them away from your mocktail or water by claiming to be getting over a cold – no one will want your cooties!
- Find a Champagne Substitute: Are you gearing up for a celebratory occasion that’s sure to include a champagne toast? Be sure to be the one pouring the drinks and spill some ginger ale in your glass instead.
- Just Don’t Drink. I know, we’re giving tons of scenarios for how to pretend you’re drinking when you aren’t. But please know that it’s perfectly okay NOT to drink. Just say you’re sticking with water tonight, and you can let people think what they want. Because let’s be clear–your reproductive choices and experiences are not their business, no matter what they ask.
Please remember, friend, that it’s ALWAYS okay to maintain your sobriety without having to feel like you owe anyone an explanation or trying to fake them out.
Ignore the Mom-Shamers
Have you decided that an occasional glass of wine or cocktail after work is something you want to continue enjoying while TTC? That’s okay, too. If we’ve gotten any clear message across in this article, we desperately hope it’s this: It’s your call.
We’ve cited tons of studies on every side of this argument, but none of them indicate that having a drink here and there will make it impossible for you to conceive. However, you should also prepare yourself for the perfect mommies of the world to come after you.
While there is clear guidance from the CDC about the effects drinking can have when you’re trying to get pregnant, not everyone will feel like they need to avoid alcohol before they get pregnant. It’s crucial that we take the time to appreciate everyone’s opinions and respect the choices they’re making.
If someone is giving you a hard time about drinking while TTC, the best thing you can do is ignore them.
We’re all adults – if you decide to have a drink, there shouldn’t be anyone else standing by trying to make you feel bad about it. All you need to do is make choices that feel right for your family – naysayers be damned!
Drinking While Trying to Conceive is a Personal Choice
Is the question “Do I need to stop drinking while trying to conceive?” still rolling around in your head?
If you’re feeling confused about your choice, the best thing you can do is speak with your doctor.
While most researchers agree drinking while attempting to get pregnant has its drawbacks, your physician might have a different opinion on the topic and can be specific to your experience.
Remember what we said, though – at the end of the day, just go with your gut and make the right decisions about drinking while TTC for your own unique circumstances.
Did you stop drinking while trying to conceive? Why or why not?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.