Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Operation Big Belly: Booze and IVF

When I come home from a long, hard day, I like nothing more than to slip the shoes off my weary feet, sink deep into my soft green sofa, having taken a brief detour past the fridge, and take long, slow sips of chilled, clear, golden Chardonnay. Oh, dear Lord, just the mere thought of it makes me feel happy, relaxed and a little bit goose bumpy.

Perhaps you aren't a fan of a white wine; although I am struggling to imagine why not. Maybe you prefer a beautifully chilled, ice cold beer on a hazy summer afternoon or, just possibly, you would rather have a wonderfully spicy, warming mulled wine on a frosty winter's eve. Whatever your tipple, or even if you don't partake at all, wouldn't it be lovely to know that having a drink or two won't affect the outcome of your IVF cycle? Well, I really think it would, wouldn't it?

So, here we go again, Operation Big Belly takes the second step on our research journey, and I am really looking forward to this one; Big Belly does booze.

Just a quick reminder that the ground rules, along with Big Belly does food, can be found here.

If you read my blog post about the impact of diet on IVF success and were dismayed by the lack of funds pouring into that particular research area, you are are going to be even more disappointed now. After a pretty extensive search I managed to dig up two - really, honestly, only two - research articles that examine the effect of alcohol consumption on IVF cycle success rates. However, there is some good news: one of the studies was large and included 2,545 couples who underwent a total of 4,729 cycles; that's a pretty healthy data set.

One interesting fact to think about before we get going is that, according to a survey conducted in 2012, 73% of women drink alcohol prior to commencing an IVF cycle and almost 49% drank during their cycle. So, it seems there are a lot of us out there who like drinking and would like to keep on doing so and, given how stressful IVF can be, that is hardly surprising.

Of the two studies I found that did examine the impact of alcohol on IVF cycle success rates, the older, and smaller, study looked at the effect of both male and female alcohol intake on cycle outcomes. The authors reported that women who had just one drink a day, even before the start of the cycle, had lower numbers of eggs collected, an increased risk of not achieving pregnancy and a higher chance of miscarriage. Oh dear, not brilliant news. And, it doesn't get better for the men-folk either. It seems that having just one drink a day significantly reduced the chances of a pregnancy resulting in a live birth. But, let's not get too down-beat; it was just a small study, the results may not be reliable and we still have our big-study trump card left to play.

Between 1994 and 2003, more than 2,500 couples in the Boston area were enrolled in a study and went through 4,729 IVF cycles. The research aim was to establish whether drinking alcohol at the start of an IVF cycle made any difference to the outcome. Unfortunately for anyone who, like me, loves a glass of vino, the researches found that women regularly drinking white wine were 16% less likely to achieve a live birth than women who had less than 4 drinks per week.  In addition, drinking more than 4 alcoholic beverages a week was associated with lower numbers of eggs retrieved and a increased risk of embryo implantation failure.

As for the men: drinking wine did seem to negatively impact sperm morphology and concentration but alcohol intake didn't reduce the chance of a live birth. So, there was some good news. But, hang on, what about when both men and women are drinkers? 

Well, let's see, ah yes, for couples in which both partners drank the chances of a live birth were 21% lower compared with couples who drank fewer than four drinks per week. Oh. That's not what I was hoping to hear.

Hmmm.....even though only two studies yields a very limited amount of data, I guess it is fair to say that having a couple of drinks a week might do me no harm but, if I want to play it safe, it is probably best to cut out the hard stuff completely. At least until a baby (I'm just going for one here) is safely home in my arms.

Right, enough of the wine, where's the coffee pot? Oh, hang on, what about caffiene and IVF? Well, you'll just have to wait until Big Belly's next mission to find out.


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  2. Great post. I found the same info when trawling for info. And decided, like you, that playing it safe with zero makes most sense, esp. since there's no known benefit to drinking wine while on stims. Caffeine, however, is not so easy to part with. Really enjoying your posts - you have some of the smartest IVF commentary out here on the interweb.

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