Paternal Alcohol Consumption Linked With Fetal Anomalies

Paternal alcohol consumption can cause genetic and epigenetic sperm abnormalities. This study used a national database collected during a preconception health examination that was offered in all 31 provinces in China 2010–2012 (N=529,090). The team evaluated the association between paternal alcohol consumption prior to conception and the risk of birth defects, controlling for confounders, including maternal alcohol consumption and paternal smoking.

  • Paternal alcohol consumption was reported by 31% of couples and 3.3% reported maternal consumption.
  • Couples that reported paternal alcohol consumption had a 35% increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect (odds ratio, 1.35).

Comments: This study suggests that paternal alcohol use prior to conception increases the risk of birth defects; the authors recommend further study to elucidate the highest risk consumption patterns. Parenting is often a strong motivation to make behavioral changes; these findings may provide young men a reason to evaluate their alcohol consumption and seek treatment if needed.

Sharon Levy, MD

Reference: Zhou Q, Song L, Chen J, et al. Association of preconception paternal alcohol consumption with increased fetal birth defect risk. JAMA Pediatr. 2021;175(7):742–743.

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