Alcohol, Sex and Fertility
When it comes to sex, alcohol plays a complicated role. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, perhaps making us more likely to engage in sexual activity, but it also impacts sexual performance and the way our bodies work. Alcohol is also linked to an increase in risky sexual behavior like uprotected sex and multiple partners, resulting in increased risk of sexually transmitted disease or an unplanned pregnancy. And while it can increase the risk of unplanned pregnancy, it can also make it more difficult to conceive when you actually want to grow a family. With all of this in mind, how do we decide if alcohol has a place in our sex life?
Consuming alcohol limits our inhibitions: it slows down the centers in our brain that make decisions, plan for the future, and prevent us from performing actions that may have negative consequences. Many people drink alcohol because they feel like it helps them “loosen up.” Consuming alcohol may make the initiation of or participation in sex easier, but this effect greatly depends on how much alcohol we drink. A couple drinks may loosen us up, but too much alcohol may result in sexual behavior that we wouldn’t have engaged in had we not been drinking. Many people report this as a source of shame around their relationship with alcohol.
While alcohol lowers our inhibitions, it can also lower our sexual performance. Alcohol is a depressant, a substance that suppresses our central nervous system and slows down many functions of the body. In men, alcohol has been shown to impact the ability to obtain and sustain an erection and can make climax difficult. Similarly, women may experience more difficulty becoming physically aroused and achieving orgasm. Studies have shown that when orgasm is achieved under the influence of alcohol, it is less intense and pleasurable.