Maternal exposure to alcohol in-utero is a known risk and cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS children suffer significant problems such as retarded intellect, stunted growth and nervous system abnormalities, social problems and isolation. Until now fathers have not had a causal link to such disabilities. Ground breaking new research has been revealed which shows Dads may have more accountability. A male's lifestyle, such as the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs, as well as exposure to certain industrial chemicals, has been shown to affect characteristics of sperm cells in ways that harm the fetus.
Published in Animal Cells and Systems, researchers studied male mice exposed to varying concentrations of alcohol and one control group exposed only to saline. After exposure the mice were mated and resulting fetuses examined. The findings revealed previously unknown and riveting evidence that paternal alcohol consumption can directly affect fetal development.
Alcohol consumed by the male can lead to a variety of problems in the reproductive system. Unlike females, whose eggs are all made during pre-birth development, males continuously make sperm throughout their lives. Some studies have shown that alcohol consumed by the male can enter the testicles through the bloodstream. The drug then seems to mutate some characteristics of the sperm. After exposure, they can end up with deformed heads or tails, hindering their mobility. Alcohol could also be transported to the ova via the semen and expose the embryo to levels of this toxicant. In addition, alcohol-affected semen could alter embryo maturation.
A number of mice fetuses sired by males exposed to alcohol suffered abnormal organ development and or brain development. Those in the saline group were normal. So, can developmental abnormalities be predetermined at fertilization? This research proves so. The authors believe alcohol consumption affects genes in sperm which are responsible for normal fetal development.
These mutations can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, or illness in the resulting baby. When children with fathers who are heavy drinkers and non-alcoholic mothers are compared with those with FAS, the children of the drinking fathers are not grossly malformed, but they do have certain intellectual and functional deficits, and they are also more likely to be hyperactive.
Until now fathers' lifestyle choices have not seen any repercussion on their unborn children. This ground-breaking research provides the first definitive evidence that fathers' drinking habits pre-conception can cause significant fetal abnormalities.
Another study showed that a father rat that is exposed to alcohol, and then had a drug free period with enough time to restore normal hormonal status, still produced male and female offspring suffering abnormal development. This information shows that alcohol, even alcohol use after a limited time, could have some residual effect on the success of the future father. In his report, "The Effects of Paternal Exposure to Alcohol on Offspring Development," Dr. Theodore J. Cicero says that "it seems clear that paternal pregestational alcohol administration can produce adverse effects in the offspring." Alcohol also seemed to affect the male user's sexual performance, on top of causing problems with fertility, viability of offspring, and maturation of the fetus and newborn.
Dr. Cicero sums it all up when he suggests the possibility of three factors which could be affected by male alcohol consumption. First, alcohol could affect characteristics of the sperm - perhaps mutating genetic material. Second, sperm may be "chosen" in such a way that only a few are intact following exposure to alcohol. Third, alcohol could alter the chemical composition of the semen, which may influence the activity of ejaculated sperm. In any of these ways, the sperm is harmed by alcohol, which in turn, causes a negative impact to the development of the fetus.
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