COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The conversation about reproductive health and birth defects has always focused on the mother and her health choices. One doctor is challenging that idea and taking a closer look at the impact certain male activities play.
Associate Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, Dr. Michael Golding, described his interest in a new approach, saying "we’re seeing these placental defects in fetal alcohol spectrum disordered children, but we’re never turning our attention to the male.”
Dr. Golding's research program focused on understanding how male drinking prior to conception contributes to the development of alcohol-induced birth defects and disease.
“It really became clear to me that we’re focusing exclusively on women but we’re ignoring the drinking habits of men, and in point of fact men engage more in risky patterns of alcohol consumption which is called binge drinking and just in a volume-to-volume comparison men drink more,” Dr. Golding remarked.
Couples struggling with fertility are increasingly using assisted reproductive technologies (ART), like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to have children.
The CDC estimates that about 2% of all babies born in the United States are conceived using these technologies, meaning approximately one in 50 babies are conceived using ART.
The results of the research revealed that the more a male drinks before providing sperm for an IVF pregnancy, the less likely the pregnancy is to be successful.
“The important thing coming out of my research program is this idea that we’ve been focused on females for so long looking for an understanding of how these birth defects or how these health problems are arising and we’ve completely ignored the male component of this equation," explained Dr. Golding. "So because of that, there’s been a stigma, I think that’s been developed towards women saying, 'Okay these birth defects are your fault. It's your fault that you drink. It's your fault that you smoke. But now we’re starting to see that there's an impact or a memory of the male lifestyle choices also coming through and influencing fetal development so that’s something that we broadly need to recognize.”