Health & Science

Researchers Say Would-Be Moms (and Dads) Should Stop Drinking Alcohol 6 Months Or More Before Conception

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Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are the most common form of birth defect in infants. In a recent study, researchers found the amount of alcohol parents consume to be a contributing factor to these heart defects in infants, giving way to new guidelines for prospective parents.

According to the CDC, “CHDs affect nearly 1% of―or about 40,000―births per year in the United States.” This new study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, reviewed a compilation of 55 previous studies of CHDs and found a correlation between alcohol consumption in parents and CHD in their children.

Parents shouldn’t wait until pregnancy to abstain from alcohol.

Chinese researchers examined studies conducted between 1991 and 2019 examining 41,747 cases with CHD and 297,587 without. The researchers state, “Our review indicates that parental alcohol exposures are significantly associated with the risk of CHDs in offspring, which highlights the necessity of improving health awareness to prevent alcohol exposure during preconception and conception periods.”

Not only was alcohol consumption linked to CHDs, but the amount of alcohol consumed was also relevant. “With an increase in parental alcohol consumption, the risk of CHDs in offspring also gradually increased.”

Mom shouldn’t be the only one avoiding alcohol.

The negative effects of drinking weren’t due solely to the mothers imbibing, which may surprise some. Infants whose fathers drank showed a 44 percent higher chance of having congenital heart disease. The increased chance from baseline was 16 percent if mothers drank. The researchers recommend that men should abstain from alcohol at least six months before conceiving, and women should start avoiding alcohol up to one year prior to getting pregnant to prevent their baby from having congenital heart diseases.

Experts say that no alcohol is your best bet to avoid many potential issues.

These findings give more weight to efforts to curb parental alcohol consumption. Other studies have linked alcohol during pregnancy to fetal alcohol syndrome, diabetes and gene disturbances. The American Pregnancy Association states, “There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to consume while pregnant and the more you drink, the more you will increase the risk that your baby will have problems.”

While some say a drink of wine or two during pregnancy is okay, experts at the American Pregnancy Association “regard any amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy as being unsafe.” If you are considering becoming pregnant, it is best to stop drinking now to avoid contributing to your unborn child’s risk of health conditions like CHD. 

If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and feel you may have a problem with alcohol, talk to your doctor or contact one of the following organizations:

  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information (800-729-6686)
  • National Alcohol & Drug HopeLine 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255)

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -