Study question: Does male alcohol consumption affect fecundability?
Summary answer: In data pooled across Danish and North American preconception cohort studies, we found little evidence of an association between male alcohol consumption and reduced fecundability.
What is known already: Experimental and clinical studies have shown that alcohol affects male reproductive physiology, mainly by altering male reproductive hormones and spermatogenesis. However, few epidemiologic studies have examined the association between alcohol consumption and male fertility.
Study design, size, duration: Data were collected from two ongoing prospective preconception cohort studies: the Danish 'SnartForaeldre' (SF) study (662 couples) and the North American 'Pregnancy Study Online' (PRESTO) (2017 couples). Participants included in the current analysis were enrolled from August 2011 through June 2019 (SF) and from June 2013 through June 2019 (PRESTO).
Participants/materials, setting, methods: Eligible men were aged ≥18 years in SF and ≥21 years in PRESTO, in a stable relationship with a female partner and not using contraception or receiving fertility treatment. In both cohorts, alcohol consumption/serving size was self-reported as number of beers (330 mL/12 oz.), glasses of white or red wine (120 mL/4 oz. each), dessert wine (50 mL/2 oz.) and spirits (20 mL/1.5 oz.). Overall alcohol consumption was categorized as none, 1-5, 6-13 and ≥14 standard servings per week. Total menstrual cycles at risk were calculated using data from female partners' follow-up questionnaires, which were completed every 8 weeks until self-reported pregnancy or 12 menstrual cycles, whichever came first. Analyses were restricted to couples that had been trying to conceive for ≤6 cycles at study entry. Proportional probability regression models were used to compute fecundability ratios (FRs) and 95% confidence interval (CIs). We adjusted for male and female age, female partner's alcohol consumption, intercourse frequency, previous history of fathering a child, race/ethnicity, education, BMI, smoking and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and caffeine.
Main results and the role of chance: The cumulative proportion of couples who conceived during 12 cycles of follow-up were 1727 (64.5%). The median (interquartile range) of total male alcohol consumption was 4.5 (2.0-7.8) and 4.1 (1.0-8.6) standard servings per week in the SF and PRESTO cohorts, respectively. In pooled analyses, adjusted FRs for male alcohol consumption of 1-5, 6-13 and ≥14 standard servings per week compared with no alcohol consumption were 1.02 (95% CI: 0.90-1.17), 1.10 (95% CI: 0.96-1.27) and 0.98 (95% CI: 0.81-1.18), respectively. For SF, adjusted FRs of 1-5, 6-13 and ≥14 standard servings per week compared with no alcohol consumption were 0.97 (95% CI: 0.73-1.28), 0.81 (95% CI: 0.60-1.10) and 0.82 (95% CI: 0.51-1.30), respectively. For PRESTO, adjusted FRs of 1-5, 6-13 and ≥14 standard servings per week compared with no alcohol consumption were 1.02 (95% CI: 0.88-1.18), 1.20 (95% CI: 1.03-1.40) and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.84-1.26), respectively.
Limitations, reasons for caution: Male alcohol consumption was ascertained at baseline only, and we did not distinguish between regular and binge drinking. In addition, we had insufficient numbers to study the effects of specific types of alcoholic beverages. As always, residual confounding by unmeasured factors, such as dietary factors and mental health, cannot be ruled out. Comorbidities thought to play a role in the reproductive setting (i.e. cancer, metabolic syndrome) were not considered in this study; however, the prevalence of cancer and diabetes was low in this age group. Findings for the highest categories of alcohol consumption (6-13 and ≥14 servings/week) were not consistent across the two cohorts.
Wider implications of the findings: Despite little evidence of an association between male alcohol consumption and reduced fecundability in the pooled analysis, data from the Danish cohort might indicate a weak association between reduced fecundability and consumption of six or more servings per week.
Study funding/competing interest(s): This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01-HD060680, R01-HD086742, R21-HD050264, R21-HD072326, R03-HD090315), the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Oticon Fonden, Politimester J.P.N. Colind og hustru Asmine Colinds mindelegat and Erna og Peter Houtveds studielegat. PRESTO receives in-kind donations from FertilityFriend.com, Kindara.com, Swiss Precision Diagnostics and Sandstone Diagnostics for the collection of data pertaining to fertility. Dr Wise serves as a consultant on uterine leiomyomata for AbbVie.com. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.
Keywords: alcohol; fecundability; infertility; male fertility; time to pregnancy.
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