Article Summary: Fathers’ Role in Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies

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We received a reader question about the effect of fathers’ alcohol use on child outcomes. Luckily, there was a review article published in 2016 on this very topic (included in our Top 20 FASD Articles of 2016). The CanFASD Prevention Network Action Team blog Girls, Women, Alcohol, and Pregnancy also highlighted the article in their post Alcohol and FASD: It’s not just about women.

Father’s Role in Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies: Systematic Review of Human Studies

Authors: Nyanda McBride and Sophia Johnson                                                                 Journal: American Journal of Preventative Medicine

The authors review three research areas in terms of fathers’ alcohol use as it relates to alcohol-exposed pregnancies and FASD:

  1. Men’s role in the social facilitation of maternal alcohol use during preconception and pregnancy:
  • Pregnant women who drink heavily were more likely to have a partner who is a heavy drinker (U.S study).
  • More than 75% of women who drank during pregnancy usually drank with their partner and 40% of drinking occasions were initiated by their male partner (Australian study).
  • Women who drank during pregnancy were more likely to have a live-in male partner who consumed alcohol (Ukraine and U.S studies).
  • If male partners were actively supportive of involvement with preconception health, then women were nearly 20% more likely to actively follow the preconception healthcare protocol provided at the clinic, including reducing alcohol consumption (Hungarian study).

Authors’ take home message: Decisions about alcohol use during preconception and pregnancy are not the sole responsibility of women but occur within the context of the home and the broader social environment, and thus require more complex policy to assist in reducing alcohol-exposed pregnancies and increasing the potential for healthy fetal and infant outcomes.

CanFASD produced a two-page information sheet with some suggestions for how men can make a difference in preventing maternal alcohol use:

Access the info sheet here:

This post on the CanFASD Girls, Women, Alcohol, and Pregnancy blog also discusses the shared responsibility of FASD prevention and has several resources for how partners can support women during pregnancy.

2. Paternal alcohol consumption on sperm and fetal outcomes:

  • Drinking by men in the period prior to undergoing conception procedures such as in vitro fertilization was highly associated with failure to achieve a live birth and spontaneous miscarriage (U.S study).
  • There is evidence that alcohol has a direct effect on sperm volume, but less evidence regarding sperm density count, progressive motility, and morphology.

Authors’ take home message: Policies recommending biological fathers to reduce or abstain from alcohol during the preconception phase, particularly during the period of sperm development prior to conception, have value.

3. Paternal alcohol consumption on fetal and infant health outcomes:

  • It is important to note that the findings from the following studies have not yet been replicated, so the authors considered them as theoretical at this point.
  • The authors highlighted seven studies that looked at paternal alcohol consumption during the preconception period and it’s relationship with the following outcomes:
    • Spontaneous abortion was associated with both low (1 to 6 drinks per week) and moderate (14 drinks per week) levels of paternal drinking during the preconception period.
    • There was no association between paternal preconception consumption of alcohol and intellectual disability outcomes in children.
    • Not achieving a live birth, low birth weight, low gestational age were associated with moderate paternal preconception alcohol use. Another study showed no association between paternal alcohol use and low birth weight.
    • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia was associated with high paternal alcohol use during the preconception period.
    • Ventricle malformation was associated with daily paternal alcohol use during the preconception period.

Authors’ final take home message: Fathers’ preconception alcohol consumption is an important focus for healthcare and future policy dealing with reproductive, prenatal, fetal, and infant health.  



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