According to 2002 data from the Department of Health and Human Services, 55 percent of adult Americans consume alcohol. (See reference 1) Regardless of your age or gender, drinking beer may lead to various problems, including an increase in liver issues and damage to the brain. But for women trying to get pregnant, drinking alcoholic beverages like beer presents a host of additional dangers.
As an alcoholic beverage, beer contains calories without providing the hefty boost of high-nutrient content essential to promoting good health for a woman trying to get pregnant. On average, a regular 12-ounce beer contains approximately 144 calories, while a light beer contains 108 calories. (See reference 1, table 16) In general, one 12-ounce can of beer contains approximately the same alcohol content as a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce glass of vodka. (see reference 1, discussion section, paragraph 2) Although beer may provide certain nutrients, such as niacin, magnesium, potassium and folate, other drinks, such as milk and fruit juice, provide multiple beneficial nutrients without the potentially harmful alcohol content of beer.
Drinking beer or any other alcoholic beverage when trying to get pregnant could lead to fertility issues that could affect your ability to conceive. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol consumption may interrupt menstrual cycles and reproduction function in sexually mature women. (See reference 2, paragraph 2) Menstrual problems may vary in severity from irregular length to complete lack of ovulation, depending upon factors such as how much alcohol you consume. (See reference 2, alcohol and the female reproductive system, approximately halfway down the page) Since conception requires that sperm fertilize a ripe egg within 12 to 24 hours of ovulation, these alcohol-related issues could have a significant impact on your ability to conceive. (see reference 5, key facts of ovulation)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who are pregnant or may get pregnant should avoid consuming all types of alcoholic drinks, including beer. (See reference 3, is it okay to drink when pregnant?) The March of Dimes notes that drinking alcohol before or during pregnancy could lead to serious, long-term health problems for your baby, including fetal alcohol syndrome, heart defects, problems with brain development and low birthweight. (see reference 4, “stop drinking alcohol”)
As soon as you decide that you’d like to try to get pregnant, you should stop drinking all forms of alcohol, including beer, for your own health and that of the unborn baby that you may conceive. Before you start trying to get pregnant, arrange an appointment with your obstetrician or gynecologist to verify the state of your health, especially if you have a history of excessive beer drinking. If you think you may have problems avoiding the temptation to drink during the often lengthy process of trying to get pregnant, consider getting professional help in identifying and overcoming any potential drinking problems before attempting to get pregnant.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can keep drinking beer up until the day that you get pregnant. Most women don’t know they’re pregnant until they’ve missed one or two menstrual periods, which is typically 30 to 60 days into gestation. During these early days of pregnancy, your unborn baby undergoes essential physical development that may be permanently affected by the alcohol that you consume in the form of beer.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol’s Effects on Female Reproductive Function
- Department of Health and Human Services: 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans-Chapter 9
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol-Frequently Asked Questions
- March of Dimes: 10 Steps to Getting Healthy Before Pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association: Understanding Ovulation