To protect against congenital heart defects, expectant fathers should avoid alcohol six months before conception

Parental alcohol use linked to increased risk of congenital heart disease.

According to a study published today (October 2, 2019) in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiologya journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Drinking alcohol three months before pregnancy or during the first trimester was associated with an increased risk of congenital heart disease by 44% for fathers and 16% for mothers, compared with no alcohol. Heavy drinking, defined as five or more drinks per session, was linked to a 52% higher likelihood of these birth defects for men and 16% for women.

“Excessive alcohol consumption by expectant parents is a high-risk and dangerous behavior that not only can increase the chances of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also significantly harm their own health,” the author said. of the study, Dr. Jiabi Qin, from Xiangya. School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China.

Dr Qin said the findings suggest that when couples are trying for a baby, men should be alcohol-free for at least six months before fertilization, while women should stop drinking a year before. and avoid it during pregnancy.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, with around 1.35 million babies affected each year. These conditions can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease later in life, even after surgical treatment, and are the leading cause of perinatal death. Alcohol is a known teratogen and has been linked to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). About one in four children with FASD have congenital heart disease, indicating that alcohol may also be involved in these disorders.

Previous studies investigating the link between alcohol and congenital heart disease have focused on expectant mothers, with inconclusive results. This is the first meta-analysis to examine the role of paternal alcohol use.

The researchers compiled the best data published between 1991 and 2019, or 55 studies including 41,747 babies with congenital heart disease and 297,587 without. The analysis showed a nonlinear dose-response relationship between parental alcohol consumption and congenital heart disease.

Dr Qin said: “We observed a gradual increase in the risk of congenital heart disease as parental alcohol consumption increased. The relationship was not statistically significant at lower amounts.

Regarding specific defects, the study found that compared to abstinence, maternal alcohol consumption was correlated with a 20% higher risk of tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four abnormalities in the structure of the heart.

The authors noted that this was an observational study and does not prove a causal effect, nor does it prove that paternal drinking is more harmful to the fetal heart than maternal drinking. The data cannot be used to define a threshold for alcohol consumption that could be considered safe.

Dr Qin said: ‘The underlying mechanisms linking parental alcohol and congenital heart disease are uncertain and warrant further research. Although our analysis has limitations – for example, the type of alcohol was not recorded – it indicates that men and women considering starting a family should give up alcohol.

Reference: “Parental alcohol consumption and risk of congenital heart disease in children: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis” by Senmao Zhang, Lesan Wang, Tubao Yang, Lizhang Chen, Lijuan Zhao, Tingting Wang, Letao Chen, Ziwei Ye, Zan Zheng and Jiabi Qin, October 2, 2019, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1177%2F2047487319874530