Trying to start a family can be complex and stressful. Hopeful mothers often have a lot to prepare and monitor; probably one of the most annoying – not being able to drink. Dads-to-be, on the other hand, are sometimes able to take a break when it comes to particular aspects. But it’s about time that hopeful fathers should bear more responsibility than they do when it comes to making a healthy baby that carries half of their genes.
It is a well-known fact that drinking during pregnancy can cause congenital defects and developmental problems in newborns. In the United States, nearly 1% of newborns each year are diagnosed to have congenital heart defects. That might not sound like a lot, but there’s a lot of people in this country – 1% each year is about 40,000 babies – and the defect is on the rise, according to CNN.
Now, a new study has found a clearer link between a baby’s congenital heart defects and their parents’ alcohol consumption. Turns out, dads-to-be who drank in the three months before conception were 44% more likely to have babies born with congenital heart disease.
If the dads-to-be were binge drinkers – meaning that they would be downing five or more drinks per session – the risk their baby would have a congenital heart defect, was 52% higher compared to sober fathers. The association shown here is 52%, which means more than half.
For mothers, however, the numbers are actually not as high as one might expect. Compared to not drinking, moms-to-be that drank or binge-drank before conception had a 16% increased likelihood in that matter. Huh.
“Binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and dangerous behavior that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health,” stated study author Jiabi Qin at Central South University’s Xiangya School of Public Health in Changsha, China. The study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology was said to only show an association between parental alcohol consumption and birth defects, not a causation.
In order to be safe, because no one can predict when they might conceive, Qin said that men should not consume alcohol for at least six months before fertilization, and women should stop drinking alcohol one year before; while the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists suggests for women to avoid alcoholic beverages completely as they try to conceive.
The new study headed by Qin is the first meta-analysis to examine the role of paternal alcohol drinking before conception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects occur in one out of every 33 babies, and are the leading cause of infant death. A congenital heart defect is the most common type of birth defect, while about 30% of affected babies also have other physical problems or developmental or cognitive disorders.
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