Traditionally pregnant women are encouraged to quit drinking during pregnancy to reduce the risk of alcohol-related birth defects. However, a recent study in JAMA Paediatrics has found a link between the father’s drinking habits had an increased risk of birth defects.
The study titled Association of Preconception Paternal Alcohol Consumption With Increased Fetal Birth Defect Risk found that “Paternal alcohol exposure biologically increases the risk of genetic and epigenetic sperm abnormalities.”
Researchers looked at 529 090 couples expecting babies.
“Overall, 609 total birth defects were reported, including congenital heart disease, limb anomalies, clefts, digestive tract anomalies, gastroschisis, and neural tube defects,” says Health Line. Adding that “babies had a 35 per cent greater chance of having a birth defect if their father regularly drank once a week or more in the 6 months leading up to conception”.
South Africa has some of the heaviest drinkers in the world according to The World Health Organisation (WHO). While a majority of South Africans abstain from consuming liquor, those who do do so heavily.
“Among those who consume alcohol, nearly one in two men (48.1%) and two in five women (41.2%) engage in heavy episodic drinking. South African adults aged 15 years and older consume an average of 9.5 litres each year,” the WHO says.
Traditionally, fertility has been viewed as the sole responsibility of women, however, is increasing research that shows that the health of sperm has a role to play in the health of the fetus. Heavy drinking was to have a negative effect on the quality of sperm in young Danish men.