“Three small glasses of wine could reduce a woman’s chance to conceive.”
Until fairly recent alcohol was believed not to have any significant effects on a woman’s fertility. This was partially supported by the fact that when looking at literature, different countries endorse different opinions. For example Italians believe that alcohol has no negative effects on their ability to fall pregnant.
Other large European studies determined no relationship between alcohol intake and fertility in men or women either. A Danish study even showed that women consuming moderate amounts of alcohol conceived more quickly than those who did not drink at all.
With this said, there is definitively plenty of scientific evidence suggesting links between alcohol and gynecological/other disorders that can very well contribute to infertility. Excessive alcohol consumption can alter estrogen and progesterone levels, cause irregular menstruation, contribute to endometriosis, abnormalities in the ovaries, and can lead to early menopause.
Some studies showed 5-10 drinks per week being linked to lower fertility in women. Others have found that less than 5 drinks per week can delay conception in women. Overall, alcohol consumption in men does not seem to affect fertility in couples at all. Comparing all the literature available one can find very opposing study outcomes and conclusions. None of these studies today, though, justify a complete restriction of alcohol intake.
It is interesting to note that the view of Chinese medicine (TCM) on the issue of alcohol consumption and fertility is a little more complex than the more generic approach of current western scientific investigation. As some of the differences in the above mentioned studies could suggest, there might be cultural or constitutional differences in how individuals react to alcohol. For example, TCM suggests that those patients suffering from “internal Heat” or “Damp-Heat” should stay clear of alcohol as it exacerbates those conditions of Heat. Others who are “colder” or suffer from “Qi-vacuity” might benefit from small amounts of alcohol with food.
Applying this view on a recent study suggesting that three small glasses of wine could reduce a woman’s chance to conceive [with IVF] by two thirds could very well explain this study’s outcome. The most common reason for a woman to experience problems with fertility, according to TCM, is “Kidney Yin vacuity Heat”. Most women undergoing IVF treatment, especially 35 years and older, will suffer from this constitutional Heat-pattern as the core issue of their infertility. Even small amounts of alcohol would aggravate their condition and therefore significantly reduce their chances to conceive. Others, especially those suffering from immune related infertility would be classified under “Damp-Heat” or “Heat-Toxin” conditions. Again, alcohol consumption would greatly reduce their chances to conceive because of their constitutional Heat pattern. Most likely these two groups will constitute the majority of patients found in IVF-clinics.
For a skilled TCM-doctor this study outcome is no surprise and might even inspire some more specific research.