Trying to conceive, for many couples, comes down to a science. You start taking prenatal vitamins months ahead of time. Sometimes you schedule a pre-conception OB/GYN visit. You get your finances in order, start eating your leafy greens, and most of the time, stop consuming alcohol in preparation.
At least in my view, most of the bodily preparations fall on the woman who is attempting to get pregnant.
New research suggests, however, that the father’s role is bigger than many may think. According to the study, which was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, there is a significant correlation between a father’s alcohol consumption before conception and congenital heart defects.
Dr. Jiabi Qin, one of the study’s authors, says that heterosexual couples who are trying to have a baby should abstain long before the conception date. Qin says would-be-moms should abstain for a year before they start to actively try, and father’s should stop drinking about six months before.
If you’re reading this and thinking about the fact that your spouse had a few beers at the barbecue last weekend, don’t fret. Dr. Qin also said that the team, “observed a gradually rising risk of congenital heart diseases as parental alcohol consumption increased. The relationship was not statistically significant at the lower quantities.”
At the same time, a father’s binge-drinking habits (defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a sitting) increases their child’s chance of congenital heart defects by a whopping 52%.
To sum it up, it’s okay if your spouse has had a few drinks in the weeks and months leading up to conception, but if they’re regularly consuming larger amounts of alcohol, it would be in your baby’s best interest to abstain.
Studies like this are important, because they offer a more holistic view of the family unit, and how everyone’s actions and health affect the health of the family as a whole. We can choose to look at this as an opportunity to prepare for the large task of parenthood, where we sacrifice ourselves and our desires every single day for the benefit of our little ones.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.