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Updated on June 28, 2023
7 min read

Does Alcohol Affect Sperm? Male Fertility & Alcohol Facts

Kelly Brown
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
15 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
15 Sources Cited

Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Sperm?

Drinking alcohol affects male fertility and the health of sperm cells. It affects its ability to fertilize an egg cell, which can complicate conception or the attempt to reach pregnancy. 

Alcohol reduces the quality and quantity of sperm, but there are differing opinions on how much alcohol impacts the overall male reproductive health. Depending on the amount and frequency of usage, drinking can also cause impotency.

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How Does Heavy Drinking Affect Sperm?

Heavy drinking has a greater effect on sperm quality and amount than light or “social” drinking. What counts as heavy drinking can vary from person to person. Generally, “heavy drinking” for men is anything beyond two or more drinks per day or fifteen per week. 

One study notes that heavy drinkers experienced zinc deficiency, resulting in lower sperm counts and reduced sperm motility. Zinc in healthy sperm supports the formation of its outer layer and tail. This affects its motility or ability to move.1

How Long Does Alcohol Affect Sperm?

Some damage to sperm caused by too much drinking is irreversible. It depends on the person’s health, environment, amount of alcohol consumed, and for how long.

At least one animal study showed that it takes about 10 weeks of abstaining from alcohol to improve reproductive health. There’s debate about how this translates to humans. However, if you want to improve reproductive health, adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best option.2

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Alcohol's Effects on Testosterone and Hormone Levels

Alcohol affects reproductive hormones in the body, especially testosterone.

Men’s bodies have three glands that play a crucial role in testosterone production. These three are the following:

  • Hypothalamus releases GnRH hormone, which acts on the pituitary gland
  • Anterior pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Testes synthesizes the testosterone released by the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland

Alcohol interferes with all three glands, disrupting testosterone production. Long-term alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing low testosterone and other adverse effects.

Short-Term Effects of Heavy Drinking

Short-term, heavy drinking impairs the release of testosterone. Heavy drinking affects the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, both of which play a role in testosterone production.

One study found that testosterone levels dropped after heavy drinking, affecting sperm concentration. However, moderate alcohol intake did not lead to altered sperm concentration.3

Long-Term Effects of Heavy Drinking

Long-term heavy drinking causes an increased risk of poor testicular function. Men who consume 14 or more drinks per week are more likely to experience:

  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced libido

Chronic alcohol abuse can also damage cells in the testes. This interferes with the release of various hormones that help with sperm maturation.

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Can a Man Drink Alcohol When Trying to Get Their Partner Pregnant?

Moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to have the same long-term effects on male fertility as heavy drinking. However, if a couple faces fertility challenges, it’s best to abstain from drinking alcohol during this time.

In addition to the effects habitual alcohol consumption has on sperm health, drinking any amount of alcohol can affect a man’s sexual performance.

If you intend to have a baby with your partner, it’s best to abstain from drinking and make other lifestyle changes.

How Long Should a Man Stop Drinking When Planning to Have Children?

A European Journal of Preventive Cardiology study recommended abstaining from alcohol for 6 months before trying to get their partner pregnant.10

The findings from this study were controversial and lacked strict data to support the claim.11 However, health professionals still agree it’s better to limit or abstain from alcohol when trying to conceive a child.

Remember that abstaining from alcohol, like similar addictive substances, can lead to withdrawal symptoms. If you’re concerned about your alcohol dependence or want to know how to overcome sobriety, speak to your doctor before you stop drinking.

How to Boost Male Fertility: Helpful Tips

Men can do several things, besides limiting alcohol consumption or abstaining completely, to increase the chances of fertilization to contribute to pregnancy. Listed below are some helpful tips to improve male fertility:

Eating a Mediterranean Diet

How you eat affects your overall health, which includes reproductive health. There is some evidence that a Mediterranean eating style results in better sperm quality.

A Mediterranean diet includes the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It incorporates a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, in its dishes.

Managing Stress

Stress affects your quality of life and affects your physical health. For instance, it’s hard to want to have sex when you can’t relax. Stress can also make sex less satisfying.

High-stress levels can also lead to increased cortisol levels. This leads to weight gain, changes in mood, irritability, and decreased sex hormone and sperm production.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to manage stress. Some of the best ways to reduce stress include:

  • Meditation or prayer
  • Spending time in nature
  • Walking
  • Exercising
  • Spending time with loved ones

Taking D-aspartic Supplements (D-AA)

D-aspartic Supplements (D-AA) is an amino acid men can take as a dietary supplement. D-AA is naturally found in the testicles, semen, and sperm cells.

Evidence reports that D-AA levels are naturally lower in infertile men. Because of this, taking D-AA supplements may help restore higher testosterone levels.4

Getting Regular Exercise

Exercise is good for your overall health and especially your reproductive health. Evidence shows that men who exercise regularly have higher testosterone levels and better semen quality.5

Remember that too much exercise can have the opposite effect and reduce testosterone. For this reason, it’s best to listen to your body to avoid overworking it.

Taking Vitamin C

Vitamin C provides antioxidants that counteract the harmful effects of toxins the body is exposed to daily.  There is also evidence that taking a daily vitamin C supplement increased sperm motility by more than 90 percent and sperm count by 100 percent.6

Taking Vitamin D

Like vitamin C, vitamin D is vital to a healthy body. Low levels of vitamin D put men at risk for lower testosterone levels. It can also cause insufficient sperm motility.

Taking Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a medicinal herb that supports reproductive health. 

One study showed that combining strength training and fenugreek supplements increased strength, fat loss, and increased testosterone levels.7

Eating Zinc-rich Food

Zinc is an essential mineral that supports reproductive health. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough zinc is to get it through natural food. Foods high in zinc include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs

When Should You See a Doctor About Male Fertility Concerns

Not every couple can get pregnant on their first try. Most doctors recommend that men and women seek a fertility evaluation if they haven’t conceived after 12 months of trying.

Some couples seek an evaluation earlier if they believe they are at risk for fertility problems and/or if the woman is 35 or older.

Many couples also choose to evaluate the male’s fertility before the female’s because the evaluation process is simpler. It’s recommended that male fertility be evaluated before the woman undergoes expensive fertility treatments.8

Commonly Asked Questions: Male Fertility and Alcohol

Does Alcohol Improve Sperm Quality?

No, drinking alcohol does not improve sperm quality.

Instead, medical tests show that alcohol intake has a detrimental effect on semen volume and shape. This affects the ability of sperm to successfully fertilize healthy egg cells.8

Can Alcohol Prevent Pregnancies?

Although alcohol can affect male fertility, drinking isn’t guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. It should not be used as a form of birth control. It’s important not to misunderstand this fact and think alcohol prevents pregnancy.

Alcohol contributes to risky sexual behavior. This includes engaging in unprotected sex.

It’s also important for women to avoid alcohol when trying to conceive. This is especially true during the second half of their menstrual cycle. One study showed that even moderate drinking during this time reduces the chance of conceiving.9

Can I Drink Alcohol Before a Sperm Test?

There are differing opinions on how alcohol affects sperm in the short term. In general, men should avoid the following before a sperm test:

  • Intercourse (2 to 5 days)
  • Masturbation (2 to 5 days)
  • Alcohol
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Testosterone supplements
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates/opioids

You should not avoid ejaculation for more than two weeks before your test, which can affect sperm activity.

If you’re concerned about male fertility or have questions about reduced semen quality due to excessive alcohol consumption, speak to your doctor.

Summary

Whether you plan to have a child or not, limiting alcohol consumption can lead to a healthier body.

Alcohol is not the only thing that affects sperm production and the ability to participate actively in making a baby. Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption is just one of several things a man can do to increase the chance of successful fertilization.

Updated on June 28, 2023
15 sources cited
Updated on June 28, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Allouche-Fitoussi, D, and Haim Breitbart. “The Role of Zinc in Male Fertility.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2020.  

  2. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. “Natural Recovery by the Liver and Other Organs after Chronic Alcohol Use” arcr.niaaa.nih.gov, 2021.

  3. Duca et al. “Substance Abuse and Male Hypogonadism.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2019.

  4. D’Aniello et al. “Occurrence of D-Aspartic Acid in Human Seminal Plasma and Spermatozoa: Possible Role in Reproduction.” Fertility and Sterility, 2005.

  5. Vaamonde et al. “Physically Active Men Show Better Semen Parameters and Hormone Values than Sedentary Men.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2012.

  6. Akmal et al. “Improvement in Human Semen Quality after Oral Supplementation of Vitamin C.” Journal of Medicinal Food, 2006.

  7. Wilborn et al. “Effects of a Purported Aromatase and 5 α-Reductase Inhibitor on Hormone Profiles in College-Age Men.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2010.

  8. Cleveland Clinic: Consult QD. “Why Men Should Be Evaluated Sooner in Infertility Cases.” consultqd.clevelandclinic.org, 2018.

  9. Science Daily. “Drinking Alcohol Is Linked to Reduced Chances of Pregnancy: Study Suggests Women Should Avoid Alcohol in Second Half of Menstrual Cycle.” sciencedaily.com, 2021.

  10. LaMotte, S. “Dads-To-Be Should Stop Drinking 6 Months before Conception for Baby’s Heart Health, Study Says.” CNN, 2019.

  11. Mole, B. “Researchers Completely Made up Claim about Men’s Drinking before Conception.” ARS Technica, 2019.

  12. Mayo Clinic. “Healthy Sperm: Improving Your Fertility.” mayoclinic.org, 2022.

  13. Finelli et al. “Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Male Fertility Potential: A Narrative Review.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021.

  14. Ricci et al. “Semen Quality and Alcohol Intake: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 2017.

  15. Sinclair et al. “Testosterone in men with advanced liver disease: Abnormalities and implications” Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2014.

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