Healthline: How the Drinking Habits of Fathers May Contribute to Birth Defects in Newborns

Written by Julia Ries on April 19, 2021 (

A recent study suggests the lifestyle habits of fathers may contribute to the chances of birth defects in newborns.

  • According to an observational study in 529,090 couples, there was a 35 percent increase in the chance of birth defects in newborns if the father regularly drank alcohol in the 6 months leading to conception.
  • The types of birth defects tracked in the study included congenital heart disease, limb anomalies, clefts, digestive tract anomalies, gastroschisis, and neural tube defects.
  • Experts note several limitations to the study, including the fact that it did not track the amount of alcohol consumed before conception.

New evidence suggests a link between paternal alcohol consumption before conception and the chances of fetal birth defects.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics on April 19, found that paternal drinking is associated with an increased risk of sperm abnormalities, which could lead to defects like congenital heart disease, limb anomalies, clefts, and digestive tract anomalies.

The association between alcohol consumption and birth defects has been most closely studied in mothers, but researchers have recently started taking a closer look at how paternal drinking affects babies.

The study adds to a growing pile of evidence that paternal alcohol consumption can potentially negatively affect the health of the baby.

It’s unclear why paternal drinking may lead to birth defects, but early evidence suggests alcohol changes the shape, size, and motility of sperm and could also alter the DNA that’s passed down to children.

Overall, the chances of birth defects remain low, regardless of alcohol consumption.

“This study raises questions that maybe both partners should be equally responsible in terms of when they are planning to create the new life,” said Dr. Lubna Pal, a Yale Medicine reproductive endocrinologist and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services at Yale School of Medicine.

Click here to read the full article.

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