Are Men Equally to Blame for Fetal Alcohol Disorders?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

We’ve known for years that drinking alcohol during any stage of pregnancy can do serious harm to a baby. From conception to delivery, physicians warn expectant mothers to avoid alcoholic beverages at all costs. With alcohol exposure causing unborn children to suffer from a group of conditions known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), the responsibility has fallen squarely in the laps of mothers – until now.

Thanks to groundbreaking research from South Korea, we now have the first definitive evidence that a father’s pre-conception drinking habits can cause significant fetal abnormalities.

Drunken Sperm?

A number of babies born from mice who were exposed to alcohol suffered abnormal organ and brain development.

Published in the journal Animal Cells and Systems, scientific data shows that, at the time of conception, an embryo can be affected by the compromised semen of men who drink excessively. Researchers studied two groups of male mice; one alcoholic group and one completely sober group. After exposing the alcoholic group to alcohol, both groups of male mice were mated and the resulting fetuses were examined. The findings obliterated the notion that male alcoholism is a non-factor in FASDs, proving that men who consume alcohol can directly affect fetal development.

A number of babies born from mice who were exposed to alcohol suffered abnormal organ and brain development. The babies born to sober mice, on the other hand, were all normal. So, can alcohol consumption affect the genes contained within sperm…the same genes that are responsible for normal fetal development? The authors say their research proves the answer to that question is an astounding “yes.”

What are FASDs?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) can include physical and behavioral problems. There is no agreed way of screening or diagnosing the condition, but effects can include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Failure to thrive
  • Sensitivity to noise, touch and/or light
  • Learning and developmental difficulties
  • Difficulties with social relationships
  • Impulsiveness
  • Major organ damage

Related: Pregnant Heroin Addicts: What’s the Solution?

What Does This Mean for Dads?

Two days after this research was published, criminal lawyer Russell Goldflam summed things up appropriately. During a presentation to the Australian People’s Alcohol Action Coalition, Goldflam said, “Instead of focusing on ‘irresponsible women who drink’ we need to cast our net more broadly and develop policies in the population overall, including men.”


If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, take action and learn about addiction treatment options today. Call our toll-free help line at 1-888-716-9806 and speak to a recovery professional now.

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