Image by Getty / Futurism

The effects of boozing can be detected in sperm for more than a month after cessation and can lead to some pretty serious birth defects, Texas A&M University scientists have found in — at least in mice, though the research could be suggestive of risks for men who drink as well.

In a press release about the new research, Dr. Michael Golding said that alcohol's potential birth defect-inducing effects seem to be able to occur even while the diminutive daddies are withdrawing from drinking.

"When someone is consuming alcohol on a regular basis and then stops, their body goes through withdrawal, where it has to learn how to operate without the chemical present," Golding said. "What we discovered is that a father’s sperm are still negatively impacted by drinking even during the withdrawal process, meaning it takes much longer than we previously thought for the sperm to return to normal."

As the TAMU press release explains, drinking causes oxidative stress — when free radicals and antioxidants go haywire, basically — which leads to the body overproducing chemicals that create issues on a cellular level. As the new research suggests, the same effect occurs during alcohol withdrawal as well, and if conception occurs within that time frame, the offspring conceived could be born with defects in its brain or face.

This new finding, which was gleaned from mice studies and detailed in a new paper in the journal Andrology, builds on Golding's prior research into fetal alcohol syndrome as a result of fathers' alcohol consumption.

In a previous study published in April 2023 by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the TAMU team reported that birth defects from alcohol in sperm can include brain and facial problem in infants — which is a huge deal, given that the onus for fetal alcohol syndrome and other lifestyle-based birth defects has historically been placed solely on mothers.

"For years, there’s really been no consideration of male alcohol use whatsoever," the professor said in the school's press release. "Within the last five to eight years, we’ve started to notice that there are certain conditions where there’s a very strong paternal influence when it comes to alcohol exposure and fetal development."

As the school press release about the previous study indicates, the diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome has heretofore only considered whether the mother drank during pregnancy. This is problematic, the TAMU research and a few other landmark studies have found, not only because paternal alcohol consumption can contribute, but also because men on average drink more and are more likely to binge drink than women.

On a more meta scale, Golding seems to suggest that he hopes these breakthroughs in prenatal research will shift the focus onto both parents.

"Research examining fetal health is overwhelmingly focused on maternal health," the professor said. "I’m not saying that this is not appropriate; I’m just saying it’s not the complete picture and we need some balance."

More on sperm studies: Cell Phone Use Linked to Low Sperm Count in Landmark Study

Share This Article