Stay off alcohol for year before trying to conceive, says expert
Professor Cecily Begley believes that although we have long known the health effects of alcohol in pregnancy, more must be done to research potential paternal effects on the unborn.
Trinity College Dublin's chair of nursing and midwifery advises both men and women to refrain from drinking for up to a year while trying to conceive.
Although research has not yet provided a concrete link that a father who drinks could produce birth defects in his offspring, the potential risk has now been mooted and, Prof Begley feels, should not be ignored.
"It's not that long ago when women were told 'it's OK to drink' during pregnancy, but now we're learning not to drink at all because we're beginning to see the effects on pregnancies," Prof Begley said.
"But it is possible this (foetal alcohol syndrome) could be passed on with genes too and the US study is welcome, therefore. We need to look at this issue in Ireland given our relationship with alcohol, especially among young people, who binge drink and have unplanned pregnancies.
"Various problems could be passed on potentially to the foetus.
"The best advice is to stay away from alcohol when trying to conceive and that is a message to fathers and mothers, in particular to youngsters who binge drink.
"The research in the US shows alcohol could actually have an effect on the man's sperm, carrying a problem with it to the unborn.
"Perhaps it would be best to abstain from alcohol for a year, then get pregnant. Even if there is never any definitive proof that alcohol could cause an effect with regards to the father, it is better to stay away from drink during a pregnancy in any case.
"We need to look at the interaction around drink and pregnancies. A woman may still be in a relationship or have family or friends around her who drink.
"And it's not just the drinking: we have an obesity crisis in Ireland affecting our young people, who are getting heavier and heavier.
"The effects are causing a huge problem, not only for pregnancies but for labour, the birth itself and for the babies.
"I already advise couples to steer away from alcohol, control weight, take a big increase of fruit, and for men more fruit can improve sperm motility."