Every woman knows that she should avoid alcohol when she becomes pregnant. The negative effects of alcohol on a developing baby are well-researched and widely published. However, many women don’t realize the negative effects that alcohol can have on their in vitro fertilization (IVF). Women who cannot conceive naturally might opt for an IVF so that they can have a child with their partner. The procedure is extremely expensive, so failed attempts are wastes of tens of thousands of dollars. For that reason alone, women should do everything they can to make the fertilization as successful as possible.

A recent study explored the effects of alcohol on IVF. Many women did not drink during the actual IVF cycle and process, but the study showed that women and men alike should avoid alcohol before the process is even initiated. When either member of the couple drank alcohol before the IVF cycle, they had a 48% higher risk for a failed fertilization. Even if the fertilization was successful, they still had a 21% lower chance of giving birth to a live and healthy baby. For many, it’s a surprising statistic, but it’s enough to get them to refrain from alcohol completely until they have successfully conceived.

The study suggests that people are unaware of the negative effects of drinking before an IVF cycle because they are so adamantly told not to drink once they become pregnant. Also, men often feel exempt from the restrictions placed on pregnant women and those trying to conceive, neither members of the couple realize that his behavior also has an effect.

So, how much is too much? Experts say that more than four drinks per week could offset the effects of the fertility treatment, and, since four drinks is assuming that each alcoholic beverage is approximately 8-ounces, you should adjust that number if you’re using an extra large wine glass or other larger drinking vessels.

If you’re undergoing an IVF procedure, you’re probably not at all hesitant to refrain from drinking for a while. The process is extremely expensive, so the payoff for not drinking is a no-brainer. If you’ve been drinking and your IVF procedure is coming up, talk with your doctor about your risks for a failed fertilization. If you’ve gone overboard, you might want to hold off until you can fertilize in the next cycle, which might be more effective if you don’t drink.

Source: Brooke V Rossi et al: Effect of Alcohol Consumption on In Vitro Fertilization. Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 117 Issue 1 pp. 136-142 January 2011