Women who drink during pregnancy may be reducing their chances of someday becoming grandparents.
Danish researchers examined the sperm counts of 347 young men whose mothers participated in the “Healthy Habits for Two” study while they were pregnant in the mid-1980s. At the time, the women completed a questionnaire about their lifestyle habits, including their consumption of beer, wine and spirits.
Linking the data on alcohol exposure in utero with sperm counts as adults, the researchers found that sons of mothers who consumed at least 4.5 alcoholic drinks per week during pregnancy had sperm concentration of 25 million per milliliter. That was 32% lower than the 40 million/mL measured among sons whose mothers had fewer than one drink per week while they were pregnant. (One “drink” was defined as 12 grams of alcohol – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce beer or a small glass of wine.)
The World Health Organization said last year that it considers sperm concentration of about 15 million/ML to be normal, so everyone who participated in the Danish study would seem to be fine. But Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, one of the researchers, pointed out that the lower one’s sperm count, the lower the odds of conception.
Ramlau-Hansen, a senior researcher at the Aarhus University Hospital’s department of occupational medicine, discussed her study Tuesday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, which is underway in Rome. She said the link is merely an association, not proof that alcohol is to blame for the reduced sperm counts observed in the study, but the finding warrants further study.
-- Karen Kaplan
Photo: This is a dangerous habit for pregnant women who want to have grandchildren someday. Credit: Christina House / For The Times