The Effects of Paternal Alcohol Use Prior to Conception

April 22, 2023
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Very recent original research has found initial evidence that the paternal use of alcohol prior to conception produces physical defects and abnormalities that resemble those caused by maternal drinking during pregnancy.1 

What kinds of abnormalities were found to be associated with paternal drinking prior to conception?  The study found alcohol-related fetal abnormalities of the brain and face. 

But the researchers also found another impact.  They found paternal alcohol use before conception also increases the impact of maternal drinking on development of the fetus. 

Interestingly, rather than merely examining drinking as an all-or-nothing variable, the investigators found that the effects of pre-conception paternal drinking were correlated with alcohol dose.

A simplified overview and discussion2 of this research is available.

The authors discuss the relative lack of research in this area, stating that,

…due to the misconception that sperm do not transmit information beyond the genetic code, the influence of paternal drinking on the development of alcohol-related birth defects has not been rigorously examined.

One might wonder if this area of research holds relevance for public health promotion  The researchers state that,

In 1981, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory warning that alcohol use by women during pregnancy could cause birth defects.


…our studies are the first to demonstrate that male drinking is a plausible yet completely unexamined factor in the development of alcohol related craniofacial abnormalities and growth deficiencies.

They go on to state that…

Our study demonstrates the critical need to target both parents in prepregnancy alcohol messaging and to expand epidemiological studies to measure the contributions of paternal alcohol use on children’s health.


1Thomas, K. N., Srikanth, N., Bhadsavle, S. S., Thomas, K. R., Zimmel, K. N., Basel, A., Roach, A. N., Mehta, N. A., Bedi, Y. S., & Golding, M. C. (2023). Preconception paternal ethanol exposures induce alcohol-related craniofacial growth deficiencies in fetal offspring. The Journal of clinical investigation, e167624. Advance online publication.

2Knight, R.  Father’s Alcohol Consumption Before Conception Linked To Brain and Facial Defects In Offspring.  Texas A&M Today.  April 12, 2023.   

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