Alcohol and Male Fertility

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Alcohol use, especially heavy drinking, can cause problems with fertility in males. Men are at risk for several adverse fertility-related effects, such as reduced sexual desire and sperm count. Excessive drinkers can also experience sexual dysfunction. The more alcohol a man consumes, the greater the risk of it affecting fertility. If you suspect you or your spouse are having issues with fertility and drinking may be a factor, one or both of you may have an alcohol use disorder. 

If you’ve attempted to quit drinking and have not had success, you might benefit from professional help for alcohol dependence. Guardian Recovery offers comprehensive treatment and several options for levels of care, including detox, inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. We can help you address the underlying factors contributing to your alcohol misuse, prevent relapse, and foster a substance-free and fulfilling life.

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Alcohol & Male Infertility

Research has found that excessive drinking significantly contributes to male infertility. Excessive alcohol consumption can directly affect a male’s reproductive system by disrupting hormone balance and reducing sperm production. (1) Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, defined as more than five drinks within two hours for men, and heavy drinking, defined as more than 15 drinks weekly. (2) These patterns of drinking can cause testicular degeneration, manifested by shrinkage and potential loss of fertility. (3)

There are several other ways male fertility can be impacted by alcohol use. Reduced sexual desire can result in fewer sexual activities and challenges in sexual performance. Testosterone, estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (4), and luteinizing hormone (LH) (5) can be adversely affected. It can also result in early or decreased ejaculation.

The more alcohol a man consumes, the more likely compromised sperm quality and count and other fertility problems will occur. As a result, reducing or abstaining from drinking can significantly improve male fertility. Some research has shown significant improvement in sperm after 90 days of alcohol cessation. (6)

How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm?

Heavy alcohol use can severely affect the quality of a man’s sperm. (7) Studies have found that men who drink excessively are at a higher risk of abnormal sperm. This can include the motility, count, shape, and size of the sperm. (8) Some men who use alcohol have a complete lack of sperm in their semen (azoospermia) (9), making pregnancy impossible. In a study of men struggling with alcohol use, only 12% had normal semen. Of those who engaged in heavy alcohol use, none had normal semen. (10)

Alcohol Use Impairs Sperm Production

Heavy alcohol use can have the following adverse effects on sperm production:

  • Damage to the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland.
  • Reduce the amount of FSH and LH.
  • Compromise testosterone production by harming the cells that produce it.
  • Negatively impact testosterone levels because alcohol metabolism reduces the amount of a coenzyme responsible for producing testosterone in the testes.
  • Stimulate estrogen production, leading to increased levels and reduced testosterone. (11)

How Male Hormones Affect Sperm

Sperm production is driven and precisely controlled by brain hormones. The hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) (12), which stimulates the anterior pituitary gland (13) to release FSH and LH. These are released into the bloodstream and act on the testes to encourage sperm and testosterone production. They are often measured during a fertility evaluation to ensure they are correctly balanced. (14)

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How Is Sperm Quality Affected by Alcohol?

In addition to reducing sperm count, alcohol can affect the overall quality of sperm in the following ways:

Reducing Sperm Motility

Alcohol misuse can increase the liquefaction time (for sperm to become watery) of semen after ejaculation. It is the time semen takes to dry up in the female reproductive tract. Moreover, the effect is the slowing of sperm and a reduction in sperm motility, or the ability to move efficiently. (15)

Damaging DNA in Sperm Cells & Reducing Volume

When consumed, alcohol produces toxic chemicals, which can damage DNA structure, thereby sabotaging fertilization. It also inhibits the absorption and usage of nutrients vitamin B12 and zinc, vital components of the building blocks of DNA. (16) Accessory glands that form semen in the body also need these nutrients for DNA protection. (17) If the glands malfunction, semen formation is decreased, and ejaculate volume is also reduced as a result.

Destroying Sperm Cell Structure

Alcohol misuse has the most pronounced effect on the structure of sperm. Men who drink regularly have a significantly higher proportion of sperm with structural anomalies. For example, researchers have noted tail-curling around the sperm cell, head damage, and midpiece elongation. (18) These compromised cells cannot swim or fertilize an egg, which is a common of male infertility among alcoholics.

How Alcohol Affects Sexual Performance

Alcohol’s ability to impair sexual desire and performance can also reduce the likelihood of impregnation. Because it’s a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it can slow bodily functions significantly, ultimately affecting sexual activities (19.)

Common Ways Alcohol Affects Sexual Performance Include:

  • Suppressing nerve-ending sensitivity.
  • Causing dehydration that reduces blood and oxygen flow, which contributes to genital sensation. Dehydration also decreases blood volume and increases hormones linked to erectile dysfunction.
  • Causing damage to the CNS after long-term drinking, which is responsible for prompting signals that produce an erection.
  • Causing permanent damage to penile nerves. 
  • Delaying or preventing orgasm.
  • Diminishing sexual drive and function due to lower testosterone levels.

Alcohol Can Reduce Desirability

One more impact on men’s sexual capabilities is caused by the effects of excessive drinking, which can make them less attractive to a sexual partner. Although this effect is unrelated to fertility, it can be a significant obstacle for a man attempting to have sexual relations with his spouse or significant other. 

There are many reasons a person would reject a lover and find them unappealing due to being drunk. These include stumbling, slurred speech, impulsive behavior, poor decision-making, lack of coordination, vomiting, and diminished hygienic appearance related to intoxication effects, such as red eyes and sweatiness.

Tips to Reduce Alcohol’s Impact on Fertility

  • Do not engage in heavy drinking or binge drinking.
  • Take a semen analysis test periodically to check if your fertility levels have changed.
  • Work to promote a completely alcohol-free lifestyle, especially when attempting to conceive.
  • If you need help curbing your drinking, consider seeking treatment for alcohol misuse.

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Professional Treatment for Alcohol Misuse Is Available

If you believe heavy drinking adversely affects your or your partner’s fertility and have found it challenging to curb your alcohol use, you might struggle with an alcohol use disorder.  

Seeking professional treatment for alcohol addiction could be one of the best decisions you could make to improve your fertility and overall health. At Guardian Recovery, we offer customized recovery programs for individuals seeking to overcome alcohol dependence.

Contact us today to learn more about how alcohol misuse affects male fertility, causes many adverse health complications, and what we can do to help. You can speak to a Treatment Advisor to learn more about our streamlined admissions process, various levels of care, therapeutic treatment plans, and holistic approach to substance misuse recovery. We want to help you begin your recovery journey and experience the healthy, happy life you deserve.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)(7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504800/ (2)https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/onlinemedia/infographics/excessive-alcohol-use.html (3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/medgen/57626 (4)https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspxcontenttypeid=167&contentid=follicle_stimulating_hormone (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539692/ (6)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1472648309002739 (8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7517893/ (9)https://ro.co/spermkit/how-to-increase-male-fertility/alcohol-and-sperm-health (10)https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-3/195.pdf (11)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761906/ (12)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22525-gonadotropin-releasing-hormone (13)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22214-anterior-pituitary (14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279031/ (15)https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-018-0320-7 (16)https://www.frontiersin.org/10.3389/conf.fphar.2010.60.00140/event_abstract (17)https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/reproductive/male/glands.html (18)https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-018-0320-7 (19)https://www.blueheart.io/post/alcohol

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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