Drinking moderately does not seem to affect a woman’s fertility, a study suggests.
Approximately one in eight women in Britain experience difficulties conceiving a baby in the first year of trying to get pregnant.
Consuming low to moderate amounts of alcohol may not affect a woman’s ability to conceive, the study suggests.
But the authors cautioned that women should steer clear of alcohol “during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out”, to ensure they do not accidentally drink while pregnant.
The study examined 6,000 Danish women who were trying to get pregnant, and monitored their drinking habits.
It found those who were drinking up to 14 “servings” of alcohol – equivalent to about two bottles of wine – a week had no difference in conception rates within 12 months compared with women drinking no alcohol.
But those who drank more than this amount had an 18% less chance of getting pregnant, according to the study, which has been published in The BMJ.
The authors wrote: “Our study showed that consumption of 14 or more servings of alcohol a week was slightly associated with reduced fecundability, but consumption of lower amounts seemed to have no discernible effect on fertility.
“Nonetheless, because the fetus may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol during the first few weeks after conception, it would seem prudent for women who are actively trying to become pregnant to abstain from alcohol during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out.”
In an accompanying editorial, Annie Britton, a reader in epidemiology at University College London, wrote: “Infertility can be a devastating experience for couples, with high levels of psychological strain and even risk of suicide.
“This can result in millions of women going through a heartbreaking, all-consuming process, who will inevitably look for lifestyle modifications, including their alcohol consumption, to improve their chances of having a baby.”
She added: “Given that it can take many months to become pregnant, a woman may choose not to abstain from drinking for the duration.
“If alcohol is consumed moderately, it seems that this may not affect fertility. However, it would be wise to avoid binge-drinking, both for the potential disruption to menstrual cycles and also for the potential harm to a baby during early pregnancy.
“If a couple are experiencing difficulty in conceiving, it makes sense for both partners to cut down on their alcohol intake.
“However, as with many things in life, moderation is key and avoiding guilt can only be a good thing during what can be a very stressful time.”
Health guidelines state that women should not drink during pregnancy to avoid harm to a fetus.