Daddies to Be: Put That Beer Down Now

 Also read: Are You Drinking Too Much?

The headline is, “Dads-to-be should stop drinking 6 months before conception for baby’s heart health, study says.” I have to admit, my first reaction to this CNN article, was well, it is about frigging time the father has to give up something! I spent 40 months of my life, not including the years of breast feeding, being the designated driver and watching Larry have too much fun drinking wine, eating sushi and soft cheeses. He didn’t get fat. He didn’t get stretch marks. He didn’t get hemorrhoids and strange areas of hyperpigmentation. His body shape wasn’t forever altered, and yet, the kids all have half his DNA — a few of them, it seems, even more than that.

Where is the fairness in that? Where’s the equity? Yes, I get to feel the baby move and … no wait. That’s actually it. I get to feel the baby move on the inside, and he can only feel her move from the outside. I did love the kicks before they became forceful, but I would’ve also loved having sex and then nine months later have someone put my child in my arms and say, “Congratulations!” Moms, imagine??

Now, fathers are even getting very generous paternity leaves. I’d like to believe they are home changing diapers, rubbing their wife’s feet, and doing 2am feedings, but I suspect paternity leave feels a lot more like vacation than maternity leave did. I don’t mean to hate on dads, I love dads, but facts are the facts. When it comes to creating a family, the guys have had it pretty easy.

This recent study definitely caught my eye, and not just in a “Na, na, na, na, na,” kind of way.

The babies of fathers who drank during the three months before conception were 44% more likely to be born with congenital heart disease. According to the CDC, about 40,000 infants are born with a heart defect, which is about 1% of all newborns. The stats get worse when the dad is a binge drinker, making a congenital heart defect 52% more likely. For moms who drink prior to conception, the risk is 16% higher. So, for example (and the math is very rough here) if your baby normally has a 1% chance of a heart defect, drinking alcohol prior to conceiving will increase the risk to about 1.5% and 1.2% for dads and moms respectively.
The American College of OB/Gyn has long recommended women who are trying to conceive avoid alcohol. The researchers of this study recommend men avoid alcohol for 6 months prior to conception and women avoid it for one year. This, of course, doesn’t jive with the relative risk but let’s not torture the poor dad-to-be for any longer than absolutely necessary. Would someone get that poor guy a cigar and a scotch, already?!
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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.