Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may damage semen quality in sons

29.06.2010
Mothers who drink alcohol while they are pregnant may be damaging the fertility of their future sons, according to new research to be presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome today (Tuesday 29 June).

Doctors in Denmark found that if mothers had drunk 4.5 or more drinks a week while pregnant, then the sperm concentration of their sons, measured about 20 years later, was a third lower in comparison to men who were not exposed to alcohol while in the womb. A drink was measured as 12 grams of alcohol, which is the equivalent to one 330 ml beer, one small (120 ml) glass of wine or one glass of spirits (40 ml).

Dr Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, senior researcher at the Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital (Denmark) and clinical associate professor at the Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, told a news briefing: "Our study shows that there is an association between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (about four to five drinks a week) during pregnancy and lower sperm concentrations in sons. However, because this is an observational study we cannot say for certain that the alcohol causes the lower sperm concentrations. It is possible that drinking alcohol during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the foetal semen-producing tissue in the testes – and thereby on semen quality in later life – but our study is the first of its kind, and more research within this area is needed before any causal link can be established or safe drinking limits proposed."

Dr Ramlau-Hansen and her colleagues studied 347 sons of 11,980 women with singleton pregnancies who were recruited to the Danish "Healthy habits for two" study between 1984-1987. Around the 36th week of pregnancy the mothers answered a questionnaire on lifestyles and health. The sons were followed up between 2005-2006, when they were aged between 18-21, and semen and blood samples were collected and analysed.

The researchers divided the sons into four groups, ranging from those who were least exposed to alcohol (their mothers had drunk less than one drink a week) – and this was the reference group against which the other groups were measured – to those whose mothers drank 1-1.5 drinks a week, 2-4 drinks a week, or 4.5 or more drinks per week.

They found that sons of mothers drinking 4.5 or more alcoholic drinks a week had average sperm concentrations of 25 million per millilitre, while the sons who were least exposed to alcohol had sperm concentrations of 40 million/ml. After adjusting for various confounding factors, they found the sons in the group most exposed to alcohol had an average sperm concentration that was approximately 32% lower than that in the least exposed group.

The World Health Organization defines a "normal" level of sperm concentration as being approximately 20 million/ml or more. Dr Ramlau-Hansen said: "The reduced sperm concentrations in the most exposed men are rather close to the lower end of the WHO's normal range for fertility. The probability of conception increases with increased sperm concentration up to 40 million/ml and so it is possible that the most exposed men could be less fertile than the least exposed."

She found that semen volume and total sperm count (which also affect a man's fertility) were associated with prenatal alcohol exposure; these were highest in sons whose mothers drank 1-1.5 drinks a week. The researchers could find no association between alcohol exposure and the movement and shape of the sperm or with any reproductive hormones such as testosterone.

Dr Ramlau-Hansen said: "Our finding that sons prenatally exposed to 1-1.5 drinks per week had higher semen volume and total sperm count compared to the least exposed group is not surprising and is quite a common finding when studying alcohol. It could indicate that small amounts of alcohol have a beneficial effect (for example, on the semen-producing tissue in the foetal testes), but, in fact, we believe this result may be biased by the characteristics of the women drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy or by inaccurate reporting of alcohol consumption. Therefore, it is not possible to draw a firm conclusion from this result."

The researchers also investigated whether fathers' alcohol consumption had any effect. "We investigated the association between fathers' total alcohol intake and semen quality in the sons and found that paternal alcohol was not associated with semen volume or sperm concentration. This finding suggests that the observed associations between maternal alcohol consumption and sons' semen quality are not confounded by lifestyle factors that are shared by a couple, such as smoking," said Dr Ramlau-Hansen.

She concluded: "If further research shows that maternal alcohol consumption is a cause of reduced semen concentration in male offspring, then we are a bit closer to an explanation of why semen quality may have decreased during the last decades and why it differs between populations. If exposure to alcohol in foetal life causes poor semen quality in adult life, we would expect that populations with many pregnant women drinking, possibly heavily, in pregnancy would have lower fertility in comparison with populations of where pregnant women do not drink."

Emma Mason | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.eshre.eu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein
24.01.2017 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

nachricht Choreographing the microRNA-target dance
24.01.2017 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>