(CNN)Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has long been linked to congenital defects and developmental problems in newborns. Now a new study has found a link between a baby's congenital heart defects and their prospective parents' drinking before conception.
Dads-to-be should stop drinking 6 months before conception for baby's heart health, study says
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Compared to non-drinkers, fathers who drank during the three months before conception were 44% more likely to have babies born with congenital heart disease.
Congenital heart defects affect nearly 1% of all newborns each year in the United States. That's about 40,000 babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the defect is on the rise.
If the prospective dads were binge drinkers, which was defined as downing five or more drinks per session, there was a 52% higher likelihood their baby would have a congenital heart defect.
Previous research has shown that alcohol exposure changes the DNA in developing sperm and changes sperm activity, although the underlying mechanisms are not yet understood.