Men: Trying to Conceive? Go Ahead and Have a Drink; Watch the Caffeine; But No Smoking, Please

October 20 , 2014
by: ASRM Office of Public Affairs
Orginally published in ASRM Press Release

Honolulu, Hawaii- Researchers presenting at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine have identified interesting and somewhat surprising effects that alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use can have on male fertility and sexual function.

A group from the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York found that infertile men who smoke tobacco are more likely to experience sexual or erectile dysfunction, but those who drink alcohol are less likely to report sexual or erectile problems.

Between 2003 and 2011, men being seen at the infertility clinic completed 753 surveys on their drinking and smoking habits and their sexual health and satisfaction.  Their average age was 35; 16% of them used tobacco and 73% used alcohol.  

By objective and subjective standards, smokers were worse off than their non-smoking counterparts.  Based on their scores on the International Index of Erectile Dysfunction, 8.4% of smokers had moderate to severe erectile dysfunction. Smokers were more likely to be unsatisfied with sex and had much less confidence than non-smokers in their ability to get and keep an erection and complete sexual intercourse.  

Drinkers reported better sexual function than teetotalers.  Men who did not consume alcohol were more likely to report deficiencies in their erections and ability to complete intercourse. However, there was no difference in sexual satisfaction reported by drinkers and non-drinkers. 

O-264  Levey et al, “Substance Use Among Infertile Men Correlates with Sexual Dysfunction” 

In a study done at Sao Paulo Federal University in Brazil, researchers examined the detrimental effects tobacco use can have on male fertility and showed that smoking is more damaging to sperm than having a varicocele (a varicose vein in the scrotum).  In a cross-sectional study, the researchers compared semen and sperm functional analyses of infertility patients in four categories: non-smokers (controls), smokers, non-smokers with varicocele, and smokers with varicocele.  They found that men with a varicocele- non-smokers and smokers alike- had poorer sperm motility, morphology and function, poorer acrosome activity and mitochondrial activity, and greater semen oxidative stress levels than the non-smoking controls.  In addition, they found that smokers who did not have a varicocele had poorer sperm and semen values than non-smoking men with a varicocele.  

P-166 Antoniassi et al, “Harmful Effects of Smoking to Male Fertility” 

While much research has been done on the effects of caffeine and alcohol consumption on sperm parameters, Boston researchers analyzing data from the Environment and Reproductive Health Study have found interesting connections between male partners’ beverage consumption and clinical pregnancy rates after IVF.  High male caffeine consumption appears to reduce couples’ chances of achieving a clinical pregnancy while male alcohol consumption appears to enhance their chances.

Men who underwent IVF at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2007 and 2013 provided information on their pre-treatment diet, including alcohol and caffeine, which was analyzed, adjusting for male and female age and BMI, infertility diagnosis, male smoking, male nutrient intake, and female caffeine and alcohol intake.   Couples with male partners whose caffeine intake was in the study’s highest range (more than 265 milligrams a day- or about three  eight ounce cups of coffee) were only half as likely to have a clinical pregnancy as couples where the male consumed less than 88 mgs of caffeine a day.  For couples whose male partner consumed alcohol, the chances of clinical pregnancy increased with consumption levels.   

O-19 Karmon et al, “Male Caffeine and Alcohol Intake in Relation to In Vitro Fertilization Outcome Among Fertility Patients" 

ASRM President Rebecca Z. Sokol, MD, MPH notes, “The human organism is complex and substances we inhale and imbibe have systemic effects beyond the stimulation the user is seeking.  These studies provide new information that can help men make healthy choices for themselves, their partners, and their future children.”


The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, founded in 1944, is an organization of more than 7,000 physicians, researchers, nurses, technicians and other professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and expertise in reproductive biology.  Affiliated societies include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, the Society of Reproductive Surgeons and the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists. 

The following links have been gleaned from current news to help keep you informed on reproductive medicine's impact on our world. Note:  Some newspapers and periodicals require free registration to access their online articles. The links on this page may expire within a week of posting; however, most news web sites keep online archives with articles offered either free or available for purchase. WARNING! THE ASRM HAS NOT REVIEWED THE CONTENTS OF THE EXTERNAL WEB SITES LISTED ON THIS PAGE, NOR CAN WE ENDORSE THEM OR THE VIEWS EXPRESSED WITHIN.  


Eleanor Nicoll
Phone: 240-274-2209

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