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Why drinking and IVF don’t mix

For some people, reaching adulthood, getting married and starting a family is the usual progression. Where natural conception proves difficult, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is sometimes an option. But having the will, money and a partner who shares your IVF dream can all mean nothing if you are dependent on alcohol.

Drinking before and during IVF treatment can scupper your chances of ever being a parent. Christine explains:

“I was a fool to carrying on drinking in the months prior to IVF treatment. I am and always will be furious at myself for not cutting out the booze, just for those months. If I had found the mental strength to abstain from drinking any alcohol at all, I would probably be a proud mum now.”

Losing everything, because of alcohol

The possibility of becoming a mother wasn’t the only price Christine* paid for regularly drinking white wine before and during IVF treatment:

“My husband divorced me a year after IVF. He simply couldn’t forgive me for blowing our chances. Through being unable to resist a drink every now and again while all the IVF stuff was happening, I ended up losing everything. We sold the family home and I moved into a flat on my own. I developed depression symptoms and had to take some time out of work.

Those were dark years, and, as I have already said, I still feel upset about it all. I will never get over it. I am disgusted at myself for not finding the mental strength to stop drinking altogether. If I had done that, my life might be so different now.”

Caught in a trap

For many couples, going through IVF treatment (sometimes several times) can be enormously stressful. It’s not surprising, then, that some people turn to alcohol to help them to deal with this stress.

“I found myself in a trap,” explains Alicia*. “The more the pressure increased as my partner and I continued on our IVF journey, the more my craving for alcohol rose. I know that for some lucky couples, IVF treatment proves successful and the dream of finally having a much longed-for child finally comes true, but for others, it just ends in disappointment and heartbreak. I know I can look back and say: if only I hadn’t drunk alcohol in the run up to IVF treatment and post transfer, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”

How alcohol can affect the IVF process

The British Fertility Society’s advice is to stop drinking alcohol three months before IVF and, of course, not to drink at all during pregnancy:

“Your baby’s liver is small, delicate and slow-forming. The alcohol you consume will cross the placenta into your baby’s body. This can affect the development of your baby and cause foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There’s also the possibility of restricted growth, facial irregularities, behavioural problems and susceptibility to other illnesses later in life. Likewise, there’s an increased risk of stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, physical disability, psychiatric problems and poor academic achievement.”*

*Source: Your IVF

A success story

“My wife and I became proud parents of a gorgeous baby girl after IVF treatment proved successful” says Neil*. “Prior to all that, we realised we would have to seriously change our lifestyle and diet, if we were going to make it: no smoking, no drinking, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and keeping stress levels down as much as possible.

“One thing couples should seriously consider is this: the age factor is a huge reason why many people fail to conceive through IVF. So, although giving up drinking altogether for the duration of treatment can seem nigh on impossible for lots of younger folk, at least managing your drinking is something under your control.”

*All names have been changed.

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