We all know the warnings new moms are given to stay away from alcohol and drugs before and during a pregnancy. Maternal exposure to alcohol in-utero is a risk and cause for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children born with FAS can suffer intellectual and social problems, stunted growth and nervous system abnormalities.
But what about the father? Does a father’s lifestyle choices make any difference when it comes to his unborn baby. Does his drinking have a similar effect when it comes to the developing fetus?
A study published in Animal Cells and Systems says YES. The study was conducted on mice and found that paternal mice who were exposed to alcohol consumption prior to conception presented a potential risk to fetal and postnatal development. In the study, fetus that were sired by male mice had more abnormal organ and/or brain development compared to those in the control group.
You may be thinking, wait…the father’s drinking isn’t going into the developing baby like the mother’s would be. After all, she is carry the child. But, the problem begins before the fetus is even conceived. The research shows that the sperm donated by the father is altered by the alcohol (alcohol-induced epigenetic mutations in sperm DNA (Knezovich & Ramsay 2012).These changes or alterations in the critical genes required for normal development can be transmitted through fertilization, resulting in the problems noted.
What does this mean? If you are considering having a child, both the habits and health of mother and father are important to normal development of the baby. Both parents are responsible for bringing the best to their unborn child.
Source: “Transgenerational effects of paternal alcohol exposure in mouse offspring.” Animal Cells and Systems, Volume 17. Issue 6, 2013