Fathers-to-be should avoid alcohol 6 months before conception, study shows

In a new study, researchers found aspiring parents should both avoid drinking alcohol prior to conception to protect against congenital heart defects.

They say binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and dangerous behavior that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health.

The research was conducted by a team from Central South University in China.

Congenital heart diseases are the most common birth defects, with approximately 1.35 million babies affected every year.

These conditions can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease later life, even after surgical treatment, and are the main cause of perinatal death.

Alcohol is a known teratogen and has been connected with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Around one in four children with FASD have congenital heart disease, indicating that alcohol might also be implicated in these disorders.

Previous studies investigating the link between alcohol and congenital heart disease have focused on prospective mothers, with inconclusive results.

This is the first review to examine the role of paternal alcohol drinking.

The team compiled the best data published between 1991 and 2019, which amounted to 55 studies including 41,747 babies with congenital heart disease and 297,587 without.

The analysis showed a strong link between parental alcohol drinking and congenital heart diseases.

Drinking alcohol three months before pregnancy or during the first trimester was linked to a 44% raised risk of congenital heart disease for fathers and 16% for mothers, compared to not drinking.

Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks per sitting, was related to a 52% higher likelihood of these birth defects for men and 16% for women.

The team says when couples are trying for a baby, men should not consume alcohol for at least six months before fertilization while women should stop alcohol one year before and avoid it while pregnant.

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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